Last night was the opening night of the NBA’s All-Star Weekend. The highlights of the opening night are two of the weekends more interesting events: the Celebrity Game and Rookie Challenge. The Celebrity Game occurred first and featured a combination of new and old faces. Last year’s … questionable MVP Michael Rappaport returned to attempt futilely to defend his crown (although the video of his training with Jon Barry in preparation to do so was relatively amusing). Teen pop-star Justin Bieber started for the west team and Rob Kardashian (another figure best known among girls ages 10-18) played briefly in front of his brother-in-law, the Los Angeles Lakers’ Lamar Odom. Former NBA Stars Chris Mullen, Mitch Richmond, Scottie Pippen, Rick Fox, Jalen Rose, Magic Johnson, and Bill Walton all appeared either as players and coaches. The game itself was amusing, with the former stars demonstrating that even in old-age and retirement they are still far superior to the rest of humanity in both basketball skill and general athleticism. The game was what it promised to be, a silly pick up game filled with a variety of comedic bits, both scripted and unscripted, that entertained fans for a little while and included a few comical basketball moments. The diminutive Justin Bieber’s ball-handling skills were actually impressive and when he made arguably the most-awkward looking 3-pointer ever made on National TV the females in attendance at the game went wild. The highlight of the game arguably may have come when the 6’8” Scottie Pippen blocked the 5’5” Bieber and then dribbled away with the ball. It was hilarious, and while some people may have wanted for Scottie to pick on someone his own size, Bieber should just consider himself lucky that former two-time MVP Terrell Owens was not playing in this game. One can only imagine what he would have done with the pop-star playing against him in a nationally televised pick-up game (on second thought, one probably CAN’T imagine what TO would have done). With fans voting for the MVP Bieber predictably won the trophy, and while he was arguably both a highlight (the young Canadian’s presence was divisive if nothing else) the trophy probably should have gone to either Pippen or Jalen Rose. Hardly the biggest travesty in sports history.
What was supposed to serve as the true sporting event of the evening, the Rookie Challenge, felt oddly like an extended opening act for the Dunk Contest. And I loved it! Seeing Blake Griffin, DeMarcus Cousins, John Wall, James Harden, and the shockingly ACL-less (a fact mentioned frequently throughout the evening) DeJuan Blair put on a display in athleticism was interesting, exciting, and thoroughly enjoyable. While nobody was going to win any points for defense in this game, the players put on acrobatic displays and Griffin displayed the amazing physical gifts that have made him an ESPN-wunderkind this past year. The game was actually close late, but all anyone will remember were the series of jaw dropping, high flying scores made throughout the evening. One play involving a bounce-off-the-ground-alley-opp pass from Wall to Griffin that ended in a reverse-two-handed slam will live forever in youtube highlight reels and the memories of those lucky enough to see it in person. (for those who weren’t lucky enough, http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=nOxq-G-DYNY&feature=related and you’re welcome).
Hopefully tonight’s dunk contest and continuation of the All-Star festivities will keep up with what was a very successful All Star Friday Night. The only other thing left to say is that, after this years Pro Bowl, even the first night of the NBA All Star Weekend re-affirms what I would have to imagine is the common opinion that the NBA’s all-star festivities are by far the best among the four major sports.