The only thing the sports media love more than a good feud is a half-assed gesture to end it under meaningless circumstances. So it was that Kobe and Shaq were forced to awkwardly hoist a trophy together at the 2009 NBA All-Star game, just as they did back when they were three-time champions together, long before Shaq dissed Kobe in every medium available, including a famous freestyle in which the big man repeatedly rapped, "Kobe, tell me how my ass taste."
Now, how exactly the two men became co-MVPs when there was fan voting at work is a little mysterious. Did both guys really get exactly the same number of votes by text message? Damn, what are the odds?! But since the moment provided the only real excitement in a humdrum night at US Airways Center, we'll cut the league some slack.
Actually "humdrum" may be too nice a word. The 2009 NBA All-Star Game was a real slog, from start to finish. For some inexplicable reason, the players decided to play defense until the final minutes, which pretty much wrecked the vibe of a night that's usually an aerobatic spectacle. We saw more spectacularly missed dunks than made ones and the East squad alone hoisted up 34 three-point attempts. Yes, 34 three-pointers. In an All-Star Game. Oof.
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Here are the rest of our thoughts from the cheap seats.
- There was Lakers gear everywhere at the arena. Guess folks decided to travel from L.A. for the day.
- It's amazing how many looky-loos show up at these things, waiting behind a barricade for hours, hoping for a fleeting glance at the back of Allen Iverson's freshly shorn head. Actually, maybe amazing isn't the right word . . . pathetic?
- The introductions are always a great time to gauge the mood of the crowd. Turns out this one was pretty heavily Western, and all-together anti-Spurs. Tony Parker and Tim Duncan were booed lustily. Kobe got a mix. Yao Ming did pretty well. LeBron James and Allen Iverson did very well.
- Did anyone else know Grant Hill's wife has been nominated for four Grammys? Sure, she didn't win any, but that's still super-impressive.
- If Suns Coach Terry Porter was at the game, we didn't see him. From the looks of things, he's getting ready to get the ax sometime today.
- Does Jordin Sparks have to sing the anthem at every single nationally televised sporting event originating in the greater Phoenix area? We like the girl, but we feel we know every note she's going to hit at this point.
- Shaq stole the show, doing a routine with a dance troupe called JabbaWockeeZ during his introduction. To us, Shaq's mask looked like the one Buckethead wears, but of course the enigmatic axman is much more a fan of LeBron than the Diesel. Here's the video of that little stunt.
- The crowd may not have loved him at first, but Kobe's big second-quarter dunk had them going, especially coming on the heels of one of LeBron's five attempts at a trey.
- How were the East's Paul Pierce and Devin Harris both wearing number 34 on the court at the same time? If neither guy wants to give up the number, at least make them take turns playing. Sheez.
- Man, oh, man, the Miami Heat's Burnie is awful. Probably the ugliest mascot in sports, except maybe the Cleveland Indians' Slider.
- Did Paul Pierce really argue a call in an All-Star Game? TAKE OFF YOUR #34 DUPLICATE JERSEY AND SIT DOWN, you damned crybaby!
- John McCain could have done better, cheering-wise, when his face appeared on the jumbotron, but he also could have done much, much worse and probably would have at any other NBA game. If we were him, we'd stick to golf, hockey, and NASCAR.
- The childhood photos segment on the jumbotron was made entirely by Chauncey Billups' Kid 'n Play haircut.
- The Golden Grannies and Dancing Dads segment was not -- our neighbors in the upper-level press section pointed out -- received warmly. "How do you boo a promotional squad?" one guy asked. Minutes into the routine, which featured geriatric Phoenicians dancing to Hammer's "2 Legit 2 Quit" that same man said, "Make it stop!" and, "I swear if my kids do that to me when I'm an old person, I'm shooting them."
- How do you say "We don't flop in All-Star Games" in German? Dirk, Dirk, Dirk.
- It's pretty crazy that the Cavs' Mo Williams made the all-star team only after an injury and a lot of lobbying by LeBron. Through two quarters, he seemed to be the only guy who belonged there. And by "belonged there," we mean he took a ball coast-to-coast, with three full dribble-free steps in the lane, for a slam. This is what all-star basketball is all about, folks.
- We said everybody played defense until the final minutes; well, everybody except Amar'e Stoudemire, who finished with 19 points on offense.
- It was nice to see the Boston Celtics guys gather around Bill Russell to wish him a happy 75th birthday. Classy.
- Barack Obama got the biggest cheer of the night on the screen at halftime. Sorry, Johnny Mac.
- John Legend was a pretty awful choice for halftime entertainment, playing "If You're Out There" with Colombian singer Juanes. If the NBA was in sync with it's audience, we think it would've had Young Jeezy doing "My President is Black."
- For us, the highlight of the night was seeing the foreign players paraded in front of the crowd, backed by their national flags, before the U.S. Olympic basketball teams were given their rings in triumphant fashion. The looks on their faces as their failures against the Redeem Team were rehashed were soooo satisfying.
- Jerry Colangelo, you're a true hero.
- How do you say "quit playing defense" in Mandarin? Seriously, Yao Ming shouldn't be on the court unless he's willing to chill out. We understand the guy is always getting posterized, and doesn't want to add any more footage to highlight rolls like this, but its the all star game, big fella.
- Jay-Z a was a poor sport for not bowing to the rules of the kiss-cam, and smooching Beyoncé when he appeared onscreen. Instead he threw up the rock, covering his face. Lame.
- Shaq deserved the MVP for seeming to be the only guy who got what an All-Star Game is all about. He was having a blast, with 17 points and some killer assists, including a long pass down-court to Tony Parker for a layup. Such showmanship!
- That son-of-a-bitch Paul Pierce interrupted what could have been the dunk of the game, employing the hack-a-Shaq in an All-Star Game when he was down by 20 points. What a d-bag.
- If we have to have Pierce in the game, why didn't East Coach Mike Brown give us what everyone in our row of media wanted to see: The Celtics' Big 3 with Mo Williams and LeBron of the Cavs. Would have been the highlight of the night.
- So Kobe and LeBron are all alone on half the court and Kobe pulls up for a long jumper. What the fuck?
- By the time the MVP awards were presented, the crowd was half-gone. Those who were left, booed Commissioner David Stern relentlessly. Great way to end the night.