Saturday, February 14, 2009

Of Love & Basketball

Valentine's day conveniently fell on NBA All-Star Saturday, and boy am I grateful. Whereas I could be jealous of the happy relationships on display just outside my window, or nauseated by the roses, teddy bears, and hearts adorning the various stores throughout the city, I choose rather to embrace perhaps my first true love, and a companion I sorely need to rediscover: basketball.

Much like losing one's virginity, All-star Saturday can be great, but more likely disappointing. The biggest stars tend not to participate, and traditional entertainment has been replaced by gimmicky nonsense that barely keeps the attention of even the most passionate fans. Yet that being so, I spent my entire weekend, Saturday night included, watching the all-star game festivities. Unfortunately I missed Young Thad put on a near-perfect show in the rookie-sophomore game, but the rest of the weekend provided great opportunity to lie on the couch and indulge in the athleticism of African-Americans, the ugliness of Pau Gasol, and my affection for asian cheerleaders.

While much of Saturday was spent asking myself whether there is even a remote chance that Cheryl Miller hasn't at some point proudly worn a strap-on during the course of her life, the bulk of my time was dedicated to contemplating the various ways in which I would improve NBA All-Star weekend... or at least reduce it's shortcomings.

1) Get rid of the skills competition. As it stands, presumably hungover and quite obviously uninterested young players sluggishly make their way through a most unchallenging course. The Double Dare set would present a more difficult proposition. While the raising of the trophy confirms that many athletes still don't know that antiperspirant comes in a "clear" variety, the competition itself is depressing. While the addition of "GEICO", an intriguing play on the familiar game of "HORSE" was a half-decent idea, it panned out to be uninspired. I'd prefer a game of 21, with 10 players who actually care. You'd have big guys launching threes, little guys going to the hole, and epic fouls. This idea has potential.

2) In watching Michael Rappaport fall over himself repeatedly during the "celebrity" game, I thought to myself, good lord that man has gotten fat since his fine portrayal of a tortured young white man who fell in love with a black woman in one of my all-time favorites, Zebrahead. That and he doesn't even look like the kid I went to high school with anymore. But beyond those deep thoughts, I say replace the likes of TO, Chris Tucker, and Bow Wow with celebrities I care to watch run up and down the court, all the while banning sports bras. And maybe pants too.

3) Have the Budweiser Clydesdales at absolutely every event. Inside. Outside. Everywhere. I was with Steve Solms when he spotted the Clydesdales outside the Spectrum when the Sixers hosted all-star weekend a few years back. Granted, the man apparently has discovered perpetual euphoria, but I'm pretty sure his heart skipped ten to fifteen beats when he saw those, as he put it, majestic animals. And let it be known: he was not alone. I damn near bought a pony the next day.

4) Absolutely prohibit band-aids below the eye. Last I checked, Nelly made this popular 7 or 8 years ago. Last I also checked, he looked stupid then as D-Wade does now. And with your name on the band-aid? Really? We don't know who you are? Come on.

5) Reserve front-court seats to the dunk concert for celebrities, current players, or well-toned females. This would prevent the oversight that obviously contributed to letting the friggin Junkyard Dog and Adonal Foyle sit directly within the camera's view. Hosting a Georgetown probation meeting? Sure, invite Jerome Williams. But not at the most celebrated event of all-star weekend.

6) No matter how drunk, offensive, or otherwise awesome Charles Barkley is in the months leading up to the mid-season spectacular, let the man call the dunk contest, game, and after-party. Reggie Miller, try as he may, brings little to the table.

7) Do not allow Shaq and Kobe to pretend they like one another. What was wrong with the world when those two couldn't stand each other, and Shaq was on the brink of diving the world, as it should be, into the Kobe lovers and the Kobe haters? Absolutely nothing. As I've said many times on these hallowed pages, it's astonishing how popular Kobe is. I mean yeah, he's an ok ballplayer, but my life was way more satisfying when everyone thought he was a putrid human, Shaq included. How predictable must the NBA be? Co-MVPs?! The game itself is already a sham, but this is almost demeaning to the fans, Wilson Chandler style.

8) Make every player who cheated on his wife the night before wear some sort of scarlet letter on their uniform come game-time.

9) Every time you show Tom Chambers, give the man his props.

10) Give one lucky fan a chance to punch Craig Sager.

11) Explain when Shaq got back together with his wife. Just yesterday she was filing for divorce, rumors were consuming every free minute of my day, and my own sense of true love was falling apart. Don't just show them sitting courtside arm-in-arm without telling me what he bought her to make up for what he did wrong. The fans deserve at least this much. Moreover, scratch John Legend and company, as much as I love the man... I want a halftime scrimmage featuring the kids who participate in Shaq's Big Kids Challenge.

12) How bout a team dunk contest, rather than an individual competition? Picture a sort of Harlem Globetrotters routine, players throwing it off the backboard, jumping off trampolines, weaving in and out of each other throwing down monster dunk after monster dunk. Now picture that with Lou Will, Thad, Iggy, & Sammy. The Sixers, hands down, would dominate a team dunk contest. Set it to some music, mix in a little choreography, and voila! more time wasted watching Paul Gasol's greasy, non mouth closing self fail miserably at throwing a behind the back pass off the backboard to his hairy-shouldered countryman. Not that there's anything wrong with, or gross about that.

13) And last but not least, reserve a roster spot for Sammy each year. Sammy is a BORN all-star. The game is about taking questionable shots, using poor judgment, and basically doing everything your everyday coach tells you repeatedly not to do. Imagine Sammy in this context. Now take some time to clean up the area around where your head just exploded.

On a more serious note, I wonder who will be the next Sixer to make the all-star game. In the last decade alone Mike Lieberthal represented the Phils TWICE in the mid-season classic. Vicente Padilla, Paul Byrd, and Ricky Bo ALL can call themselves all-stars. But basketball isn't quite as forgiving. The last Sixer not named Iverson to actually play in an all-star game was Deke, who amazingly started in 2002. Sadly, I'm not overly confident Iggy ever makes that leap. His statistics might be close, but he rarely stands out, and his position in the East is cluttered with some formidable competition. Lou Will needs more minutes, Sammy needs more freedom to roam, Elton Brand's all-star years are behind him, and 'Reese is still a few years removed. But Thad offers hope. Dude is what, twenty? His game has developed far beyond the expectations of the staff - both theirs and ours - and he has that certain swagger, not to mention a smile worthy of any NBA Cares commercial. Something tells me the taste of all-star weekend he relished in the last few days will drive him to playing on Sunday sometime soon.

And in wrapping things up, let's remember that the stimulus bill plays second fiddle to truly important legislative action: recognizing Joe the Lumber's greatness (bottom of second column). GO PHILS!



  2. I think it's time to put together a business plan, and set up a meeting with David Stern. Also, it's clear that you didn't watch the rookies v sophomores game, because if you had, you would have added an item to the list about the horrific ugliness of the uniforms and really of the whole phoenix/cactus theme.

  3. Also, no comment on Iverson's newly coiffed 'do?

  4. Awes work as per usual, Firm. Your suggestions for Awes-Star weekend are all on point, and I move that they be adopted and enacted immediately.

    Now I have Soldia Boy stuck in my head.