We’ve hit the half way point in a particularly enthralling NBA season. Time to celebrate the annual NBA All Star weekend! Or, as many affectionately call it, the black Superbowl. It’s being held in Phoenix this year. I’m not sure what their club-scene is like, but they’ll need to make room for about 10,000 groupies , entourages and a bunch of frightened white people. If this sounds racist, I’m only reflecting the common media portrayal of this event. Truth be told, All Star weekend is not about the basketball, it’s about the spectacle.
Finally, the NBA is actually beginning to understand this. So this year, instead of focusing on a skills competition , which is one step away from watching players do the Beep Test, the NBA allowed a game known as H-O-R-S-E to be played. Actually, it was a game of G-E-I-C-O. But they have to make money somehow alright? I mean , how else would they pay for the outdoor parking lot provided for this event? Yeah, it was played outside, perhaps in an attempt to reflect the casual playground nature of the sport. Or maybe, for some reason, they’re afraid this game can’t sustain the attention of a stadium crowd. Next year it will be inside. I’m sure of it.
The contestants were O.J Mayo, Joe Johnson and Kevin Durant. Durant has been in ridiculously fine form recently. He scored 46 in the rookie and sophomore game, breaking the scoring record and also the unspoken rule that ummm… everyone should get a shot. So be it, he’s only 20 and shoots the lights out to perhaps historic proportions. He also looks incredibly fragile. If you stood him by Lebron I’m not sure what would happen, but it would be comedic.
But Durant started out cold and it was surprising to see these guys awkwardly missing shots. Sure, they were taken sitting down, over the backboard and from the scorers table, but I have a problem seeing heroes in compromising positions (i.e. the Breakers warmdown lunges). What players do in the privacy of practice should remain their dirty little secret. This wasn’t the Bird vs. Jordan McDonald’s ad – it was your little brother vs. you at the local school. Dignity was being robbed and they were looking a little sheepish out there. H-O-R-S-E was starting to look like a big M-I-S-T-A-K-E.
Of course, I’m an idiot. Eventually the shots started falling, and Mayo and Johnson could not stem the tide. The competitive spirit was awakened and it looked like the players actually started to care a little bit. Confidence grew and Durant came back from G-E-I-C , to win it all. All-in-all a successful first attempt at what should be annual event. H-O-R-S-E is perfect for All Star Weekend on three fronts:
- There is no fear of injury
- It requires creativity
- It requires little effort, allowing players to plan which club they’ll visit in between shots.
Another sign that the NBA is understanding the essential celebratory, rather than competitive, nature of All Star Weekend, is the Dunk Contest. Much has been made regarding how this event has become more and more theatrical, and this week the administrators came to play, finally allowing Dwight Howard (the freakish 7 footer) to raise the rim to 12 feet. His reasoning? 5-9 Nate Robinson looks heaps cooler when he dunks because he has further to travel. I’m not sure if it came off as well as he hoped. The NBA also allowed Dwight to enter a phone booth and emerge as superman, complete with cape. Robinson wore an all-green Knicks uniform and used a green ball. Why? He’s Kryptonite.[youtube:http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=MnJG56Z_pGE%5D
It was exciting, theatrical and a little bit silly. Guess who wants in on that action? Lebron James. He just put his hand up for next years Texas dunk contest.