For basketball fans across the world, All Star Saturday Night was not easy on us (just read this headline from The Times Of India, which pretty much sums it all up). The night featured a H.O.R.S.E. competition that didn’t end with the participants taking H.O.R.S.E. shots, but rather Kevin Duriant showing us all what we already knew – that he was a better 3-point shooter than Rajon Rondo. That was followed by the Shooting Stars competition, where Pau Gasol and team Los Angeles finished second to Team Texas, which was led by Dirk Nowitski of the hometown Mavericks. In the Skills Competition, the younger competitors, Brandon Jennings and Russell Westbrook, weren’t able to keep pace with Steve Nash and Deron Williams, with Nash taking his second title in the competition. Paul Pierce’s win in the 3-point contest was anti-climatic, but was followed by Pierce saying that he thought he was one of the great shooters in NBA history. Normally, I’d be shocked, but we’re used to him saying ridiculous things (read: here and here). Ending the night may have been the worst slam dunk contest of my lifetime, or at least the worst one since that “Wheel Of Fortune” debacle back in 2002. Nate Robinson ended up taking his third dunk contest title over Demar DeRozan in the final.
And as hard as All Star Saturday Night was on the fans, the blogosphere was equally as hard on our boy Shannon Brown, whose unspectacular performance left a lot to be imagined.
“Brown didn’t have the Dallas Cowboy cheerleaders or glittery pompoms hanging around during his dunks. The Lakers guard didn’t try any outlandish tricks, use a trampoline or jump over anyone.
“There was nothing flashy or out-of-the-building spectacular about his dunks Saturday, and in the end, Brown failed to give the judges any reason to vote him the winner of 2010 All-Star Slam Dunk contest.”
“The general public gave him a perfect lob to throw down, yet Brown bricked his chance to make himself known beyond Southern California. He scored a 78, which tied for last place with Wallace, as Robinson ultimately won for the third consecutive year.
“Rather than greeting the crowd at Dallas’ American Airlines Center with an explosive first impression, Brown missed his first dunk by bricking a 360-degree statue of liberty. He followed that up by switching from his right hand to left in mid-air for the one-handed dunk, which sparked a few golf claps and scored a 37. Brown followed that up in the second round with a one-handed slam off a lob from Kobe Bryant, a dunk that scored a 41 but was mild compared to some of the ones he’s done in an actual game.”
“I don’t know of too many people in the NBA who could exchange the ball from one hand to the next while in the air. Its not like there are players who put it between their legs, or do 360’s or anything. He followed that dunk up with a spectacular showing, where Kobe came out and threw him a lob, and he threw it down with 2 hands. Simply amazing. I have NEVER (except maybe 1-3 times in every regular season game) seen an alley oop before.”
I mean, yeah, Brown’s performance wasn’t one for the ages, but no one’s was. It was a very hard dunk contest to watch. The fans were completely dead, just waiting for a reason to get out of their seats, but no reason was presented. Wallace didn’t try, DeRozen wasn’t as creative as he was letting on, and Robinson wasn’t able to bring the theatrics we’ve seen from the ’09 and ’08 contests. Needless to say, we’ve seen better All Star Saturday Nights, and we’ve definitely seen much better dunk contests.
For the fans, Sunday’s All Star Game fared much better than Saturday’s shenanigans. Even without Bryant (Shaq did not play either, the first time neither Shaq or Kobe didn’t play in an all-star game since 1997), the Western Conference was able to put up a valiant effort, but came up two points short, mostly due to Deron Williams bonehead foul and George Karl’s inability to draw up a decent inbounds play. Pau Gasol had a nice showing in his third all star game with 13 points and six rebounds in 20 minutes of play, but Sunday night’s brightest star was Dwyane Wade, as Michael Wallace of Miami Herald’s Heat Blog explains:
“He came out passing. He came out dunking. And he came out of Sunday’s All-Star game with the MVP award after finishing with 28 points, 11 assists, six rebounds and five steals in the East’s 141-139 victory over the West.
“How big was the moment? Wade was a superstar among stars in front of the largest live audience to ever attend a basketball game. More than 108,000 fans roared in approval as Wade hoisted the MVP award. Now, Wade has an All-Star MVP to go alongside the NBA Finals MVP he won in 2006, when the Heat closed out the Dallas Mavericks in this same town to win a championship.”
Also, after the game, the Inside the NBA Crew finally released the voting for who the Player of the Decade was, and it was none other than Kobe Bryant. There were some who felt he didn’t deserve the honor, but Bryant received 54 percent of the fans’ votes while Lebron James came in a distant second with 17 percent. Although I believe Bryant is one of the most transcendent stars of any sport, I do believe that the voting should have been much closer with both Tim Duncan and Shaq a lot closer to Bryant because of what each of the three accomplished over the past decade.
Although Saturday was a dud, there wasn’t much to complain about on Sunday. With the All Star Weekend over with, teams are gearing up for the final stretch of the season. This week can make things very interesting with the trade deadline rapidly approaching this Thursday. The Mavericks already shook things up by bringing in Caron Butler, DeShawn Stevenson and Brendon Haywood and the Cavs are looking to bring in Amar’e Stoudamire. Be on the look out for some deals that can make a break a team’s title hopes. As far as the Lakers, they pick action back up Tuesday night against Golden State. There’s still no word on whether or not Kobe is going to play.