I’m as ready as anyone to put a bow on All-Star Weekend and move on to actual basketball that means something again. I don’t know if you remember, but before the break, Oklahoma City was one of the hottest teams in the league, winning six straight and moving up to fifth in the Western Conference. But being in Dallas for my first NBA All-Star Game was quite experience and I feel the need to put down a few thoughts on it all just to close the door on it.
1. All-Star Weekend is amazing. I know that sounds simple, but holy cow, it’s unreal. Being around the best in the world for four days is just something else. The NBA does up its All-Star game like no other sport. Maybe some of the events are disappointing, but just the general atmosphere is awesome.
I could recount it all and potentially bore your brain out with a breakdown of everything I did, so I’ll just tell you about probably my favorite. It was just incredibly cool to be there with all the biggest names in basketball media and meeting them. Maybe this makes me sound slightly pathetic, but spending dinner talking with John Hollinger was just very cool to me. But on Sunday morning, Henry Abbott and Art Garcia of NBA.com arranged for willing media members to run some pickup ball at SMU.
And like Henry said when we were driving to the gym, what’s so cool about basketball is the ability to bring a group of people together and kind of bond and get to know each other around it. I only knew a handful of guys there. But through the game of basketball, I met a bunch of fantastic people and in the meantime played some hoops with them. I’m not a great basketball player by any means, but that doesn’t stop me from having a tremendous time. And if I might add, I believe my team won three straight at one point. J.E. Skeets was running some excellent point guard, with Steve Weinman of D-League Digest showing off a nice mid-range game. I just hovered around the 3-point line waiting for a catch-and shoot opportunity. We made a good team. BRING ON THE LAKERS.
The point, as always, is that basketball is awesome.
2.The stars aligned. I’ve covered a good amount of stuff in my young journalism career and have talked to some pretty important people. Bob Stoops, Adrian Peterson, Sam Bradford, Chris Paul, Sam Presti, Kevin Durant, etcetera etcetera (I realize that was probably some insufferable name-dropping there). And through all that, I’ve never been really starstruck. Nobody has ever really made me completely stop and go, “Whoa. That’s [insert person].”
But it happened twice this weekend. First was when David Stern walked by me. Upon seeing him, my immediate thought was, “I don’t belong here. This place where I’m currently standing, I shouldn’t be at.” Stern was just walking. Nothing fancy. But it was like seeing the President or something. You know he’s important, but he also looks, very, very important.
The second might be a little surprising, because it kind of surprised me. When the Eastern Conference All-Stars came out for the “practice,” I expected to be blown away when LeBron started taking jumpers in front of me. I expected to stand in awe of Dwight Howard’s shoulders. But the guy that stunned me was Kevin Garnett. I have no idea why, but there is just a “presence” about him. He’s an extremely intimidating person, but during my NBA childhood, Garnett was HUGE. And he looks intense when he’s laughing hysterically. I saw him and immediately turn around and ran away.
3. The dunk contest. Yeah, it pretty much sucked. Here’s my (wild, no-chance) idea on how to fix it: A total revamp. Instead of the dunk contest, now it’s the dunked ON contest. What are the best in-game dunks we see? What are the ones that show up on SportsCenter? When someone goes up and crams on his defender. It’s what we love. So almost in American Gladiator style, put a shot-blocker at the rim and let four contestants try and slam it on him. I think I’d pay money to Shannon Brown charge The Birdman from halfcourt to try and throw it down on him.
4. Kevin Durant was the focus of the weekend. He really, really was. Everybody wanted to talk to him, including McLovin. Obviously worldwide, Kobe and LeBron and Steve Nash and KG are the biggest names in the game, but among your well connected and respected media members, Durant garnered their attention. Which I found very cool.
In fact, Oklahoma City kind of took the whole thing over. Russell Westbrook scored 40 in the Rookie game and James Harden had 22. Westbrook then replaced Derrick Rose in the Skills Challenge. Durant did HORSE. Harden did some pregame thing before the All-Star Game where he ran drills with kids. And of course Durant played in the big game. The Thunder was just everywhere. It’s this sort of stuff that really helps to establish Oklahoma City as a legit NBA market and it helps people get used to “Oklahoma City Thunder” as a real NBA team.
5. The actual game was beyond spectacle. We all know Cowboys Stadium is amazing. But watching almost 109,000 people watch a basketball game was just mind-blowing. And the stadium did an excellent job of supporting it. Even though the arena/stadium is a giant spaceship, it didn’t feel cavernous. The mega-scoreboard actually does a good job of making it feel more arena-like because it’s kind of like a ceiling over the court.
I’d say Dallas did an excellent job. But then again, I don’t have anything to weigh that against. So for the same reason I say Saw I was the best of the series, All-Star Weekend 2010 is the best I’ve ever been to.