Didn’t care much about the NBA All-Star game on Sunday for a couple of reasons.
The first stemmed from a kind of generational snobbery. What can any of these modern guys do that Michael Jordan, Dominique Wilkins, Larry Bird and Magic Johnson haven’t already done better? A slam-dunk contest? Hand me the remote. Fancy play? Oh, come on. There’s no revolutionary flush, no no-look pass, no groundbreaking bit of showmanship that we haven’t already seen in the annual midseason exhibition.
The second was exactly that last part. It is an exhibition, a faux game that often lacks focus and intensity and robs the NBA endeavor of its most valuable asset: real competition. If you’re going to produce a two-hour commercial for the league, mixed in with selling Sprite and Kia Optimas, shouldn’t it demonstrate the best aspect of the NBA, the best reason for watching?
Well, I didn’t watch the first half, and, as the second half unfolded, really didn’t pay much mind, as the West built a huge lead. Then … things changed.
Due in large part to the effort and skill of LeBron James, who hit nine consecutive shots over one stretch, the East climbed back into the contest, going on an impressive run. It was quite compelling, with so much big talent and so many big stars on the floor, to sit back and observe who would take a leadership role among them. James flushed those two deep step-back 3s from the left side, and the West’s lead was cut to five. After a heavy Russell Westbrook hammer dunk for the West, the East fought back again. Deron Williams’ steal and layup made it a one-point deficit in the late going, and game was righteously on.
With the East down three in the closing seconds, Williams launched a long ball that missed badly, but an offensive board put the ball back in James’ hands with time running out. What did the best player on the floor do? He threw a horrible cross-court pass that was picked off, and the thing was pretty much done.
Still, that ending was intense, everything you want in an NBA game. Bodies were flying all over, plays were being run, defense was being played, pride was on the line.
Immediately afterward, during a TV interview, LeBron was asked about his stirring performance, and, with sweat still flowing, all he could think about was that turnover in the last seconds. He wasn’t happy about it. He shook his head and said he couldn’t make that kind of mistake with his teammates counting on him.
The care factor there might not have been at a championship level, but it was pretty darn high. Combine that with some great overall play, and the total mix turned out to be the best advertisement for which the NBA could have hoped.
I might even watch the whole game next year.
GORDON MONSON hosts “The Gordon Monson Show” weekdays from 2-6 p.m. on 97.5 FM/1280 AM The Zone. Twitter: @GordonMonson.