In all honesty, I could probably just nominate the entire All-Star Weekend for a "Worst of." Millions of people vote for the All-Star starters, approximately 100 times that many people bitch and moan about who did or didn't make it in, and then NBA fans as a collective unit either dismiss or openly hate the game as well as all the side-events and hoopla that surround it. Plus, the players do the same thing. They go on and on about this or that teammate who should have gotten in, and then the guys who DO make it more or less sleepwalk through the three-day gala. I've never seen so many people care so avidly about something they couldn't care less about. But, since my pact with the Devil forces me to provide the masses with free comedy, here we go:
Dwyane Wade's fashion sense: If you watched the Rookie Challenge, you probably noticed that Steve Urkel was an assistant coach for the rookie team. But here's the thing: Jaleel White would have had to have taken an Andre the Giant-sized dose of HGH to fill out like that. (Plus, I'm pretty sure he served me at T.G.I. Friday's this weekend.) No, it was actually Dwyane Wade, who apparently got dressed by running through Bozo the Clown's closet at full speed with his eyes closed. The ensemble included a blue sports coat over a yellow v-neck sweater with a bow tie and glasses. Explained Wade: "It was a combination of a lot of different things. It was a tribute to one of my assistant coaches in Miami -- Keith Askins. He wears a bow tie. So I told him during the season, 'I'm going to show you how to wear it.' Also, I just wanted to try something new, being conservative. I brought the glasses because I was a coach so I thought I would look smart." Well, uh, misery accomplished, Pookie. Of course, it would turn out that Wade's outfit was only the second-worst clothing choice of the weekend. But more on that below.
Bill Laimbeer: Ugh. I would have rather seen him in D-Wade's outfit...even if Wade was still in it at the time:
When I see Karl Malone these days, I think: "Man, I hope I look that good when I'm his age." When I see Bill, I think: "If I ever look like that, I hope someone will shoot at me. And shoot to kill." This isn't the other fashion faux pas I was referring too, by the way. Keep reading. (P.S. Yes, I know this is last year's picture of Bill. I couldn't get one from this year. Can anybody help me out?)
The Rookie Challenge: The rooks actually have two wins in this series, in 2000 and 2002. (And get this: Dirk Nowitzki, a former regular season MVP, and Paul Pierce, last year's Finals MVP, were both on the sophomore team that lost in 2000.) But the sophomores still have an 8-2 edge in the series and, as of this weekend, now have seven straight wins. I'm just saying, it's getting a little sad. If you saw a beaver caught in a bear trap, wouldn't you set it free? You know, after you stopped laughing at all the "beaver" jokes you were going to tell your friends later? Of course you would. So please, David Stern, end the slaughter of our rookies. If LeBron's rookie team couldn't win and this year's exceptionally talented class couldn't break through, it's just an exercise in futility. Why not pit the rookies against the D-League All-Stars, as some people are suggesting?
All-Star HORSE, er, GEICO: Most of you already know how I detest the ridiculous renaming of this competition -- why not just call it something more appropriate, like TAMPAX or VAGISIL? -- but the contest failed in more than just its name. Look, I would have booed that game of HORSE/GEICO if I'd been forced to watch it at my weekly pickup league. The fact that NBA stars were bricking their way through that contest was enough to bring Pistol Pete back to life just so he could die again, only this time of shame and embarrassment. Kevin Durant eventually warmed up enough to make it mildly interesting in that "watching a spider slowly suck the blood out of a dead fly" kind of way. But that wasn't enough to save it.
I suppose the game was semi-doomed from the start, probably for a couple reasons. First off, when the NBA held HORSE games back in the 1970's, the winner got $15,000. I know it may not sound like a lot these days, but according to Basketball-Reference.com, Pete Maravich made $600,000 in 1978-79...so that $15K represented a pretty sizable bonus. I couldn't find out how much prize money Geico was putting up for this year's competition, but relative to Joe Johnson's $14,232,566 salary, the winnings would have had to be in the $350,000 range to equal the Pistol's prize for winning 30ish years ago. Since I seriously doubt Geico paid out that much, I'm guessing that the money wasn't exactly a motivator.
Secondly, today's players are all wacky about pride and respect. Don't get me wrong. So were Pistol Pete, Bob McAdoo and all those guys HORSEing around in the 70's. But go back and watch one of those old HORSE showdowns. You can tell they took it seriously. Durant, Johnson and O.J. Mayo played with a kind of mock casualness so that, if/when they lost, they could just shrug their shoulders and say it was no big deal. That way, they wouldn't lose face. But while I'm sure it helped Johnson and Mayo sleep a little better that night (and shrug off all the trash talk), it certainly robbed the game of anything remotely resembling intensity. And personally, I think some intensity would have made them shoot a little better. But what do I know?
Tony Parker's skillz: There's no shame in losing the Skills Challenge to a rookie, not when that rookie is Derrick Rose. There is, however, more than a little shame in getting bounced in the first round with a course time of 50.8 seconds...a full 17.5 ticks after Rose. But it gets better (or worse for Mr. Longoria): That finish made TP the proud owner of the two slowest times ever recorded in Skills Challenge history. (He slogged through the course in 45.5 seconds in 2003.) Duncan face!
The Slam Dunk Shamockery: Let's face some facts: Nate Robinson shouldn't have won it, okay? Yes, he's a freak of nature and it's amazing that a man who's only four feet tall can slam dunk a basketball with enough force to create tiny alternate realities full of four-foot men who can dunk. But his winning slam -- which will probably go down in NBA history as the "Kryptonite Dunk" -- was a shamockery. Watch:
Like Reggie Miller immediately pointed out, Nate didn't jump over Dwight Howard; he used his off arm to vault off of Howard's back. Why not just let Robinson use a trampoline? Or wires? Or let George Lucas CGI the dunk? Freaking Howard dunked on a 12-foot rim and then almost slammed it home from the free throw line. Dwight won this contest. It was the biggest rip-off since 2006 when -- surprise, surprise -- Robinson beat Andre Iguodala despite the fact that it TOOK HIM 14 TRIES to complete his final slamma-jamma (it took Iggy only two tries).
Look, I know the little guys are always the sentimental favorites, but come on. Oh, and by the way, Rudy Fernández got totally hosed by the judges. Bet if he were half a foot shorter he would have won it.
Craig Sager: At least Dwyane Wade was (I guess) trying to be funny. But Craig Sager -- who's long been known for his rather horrific sense of fashion -- hit a new, all-time low, even for him: Pink sports coat with a red hanky, pink and white striped shirt, blue tie with purple polka dots and red pants. So hideous that Kevin Garnett told him to burn it as soon as he got home. I can only hope for the sake of our children’s eyes that Sager took KG's advice.
Phil Jackson: I guess that P-Jax didn't get the memo that the All-Star game is intended to be a fun and entertaining exhibition of basketball for the fans. Dude single-handedly spoiled whatever fun might have been had by employing a friggin' ZONE DEFENSE for most of the game. Really, Phil? A zone?! It's the f'ing All-Star game! Who the frick wants to see a zone?! Seriously, that made me so angry I would like to spend the rest of my life punching Phil in the face and/or groin. Instead of nifty passes and impressive dunks, we got to watch the Eastern Conference All-Stars brick away from the outside (8-for-35 from downtown).
Said KG: "Well I felt like [the three-point shot] was the only option. It was the first All-Star game I've seen that you couldn't into the paint, and that was odd. I'm sure they had a strategy for winning. ... It's a weekend for entertaining and high-flying, I don't think people want to see zones and all that." No kidding. Added Dwight Howard: "I think on defense they played a zone, so we couldn't get to the rack. It was tough for us to get into the paint. It seemed like they had Shaq, Yao and Amare and Tim (Duncan) and everybody in the paint loaded up."
Look, I understand that the point of any game is, in most instances, to win. But that's not the goal of the All-Star Game. The point then is to wow a fanbase that is becoming increasingly angry and disconsolate every year. Instead of trying to make the people happy, Jackson put his own desire to win-win-win ahead of everything else. Congrats, Phil. I'm glad that operation to remove your shame gland was such a glorious success.
Dwight Howard: First he was the prop that propelled Nate Robinson to the 2009 Slam Dunk Championship. Then he was the prop that propelled Shaq to become co-MVP of the All-Star game. Way to stand in the right place at the right time, Dwight.
The MVP selection: Kobe got a co-nod for gunning (a game-high 23 shots). Shaq got a co-nod for dunking and that sweet give-and-go. But what about Chris Paul? He ran the show and amost finished with a triple-double (14 points, 7 rebounds, 14 assists) plus 3 steals. But All-Star MVP selection is almost always about scoring, so what did anybody expect? Still, the role that the point guards play in this game is always underrated.
Update! Chris's lacktion report: Joe Johnson had probably one of the worst ASG performances of all time, on the heels of being first eliminated in HOR...er...GEICO with a missed granny shot: In 21:38, he bricked four times (three pieces of masonry from downtown), took a rejection, and gave the ball away to the West on FIVE occasions. That's a suck differential of...+10. Wow.