Forget coming at the King. For HE does not miss!
The day before yesterday we were about to write an article about how a superstar-less Boston beating ‘Bron may have just birth begun the next chapter of the great Celtics/Lakers rivalry in storied NBA history. One that would follow Wilt and Russell, Magic and Bird and Kobe and Kevin and center around a renewed friend or foe battle between the King and Kyrie. But then LeBron James went and scored 35 points to go with recording 15 rebounds, 9 assists and all 48 minutes and lead his Cavaliers to a 87-79 and 4-3 series win truly crowning himself as Mr. Game 7 for the ages.
As my old American friend who sends me envelopes of USA Today sports pages (thank you!) says, “I wouldn’t bet against LeBron”!
Now whether number 23 heads to Hollywood and the Lonzo Angeles Lakers for a La La LeBronland, or processes his decision and all that’s at stake in Philly this summer doesn’t matter right now. Even if it’s all we’ve been talking about all year long.
Right now its Ali/Fraizer, Cavs/Warriors IV and chance for LeBron to tie up the dynasty battle between superteam and superstar. It’s not about a Gordon Hayward and Kyrie Irving less, rookie and sophomore sensation Celtics continuing their legendary history with their hardest worked, most impressive streak (yet!). It’s not about MVP sure thing Harden showing he’s the new King James. It’s about L.B.J. showing the NBA and even M.J. that he’s the real G.O.A.T. The only one that could beat a big four of Kevin Durant, Steph Curry, Draymond Green and Klay Thompson? A true Warrior.
No Irving. No Isaiah. No Love for the make or break. No problem!
Sure the Cavs have Kevin, J.R. Smith, Jeff Green, George Hill, Rodney Hood, Kyle Korver, Tristan Thompson, Larry Nance Jr. and Jordan Clarkson. But lets face it, this Cavalier put them, the city and the whole Ohio land on his whole back and those broad shoulders. We are all witnesses to this. But how does he do it? Is it the putting down of trivial things like social media? Zero Dark Thirty. Or the books he repeatedly reads like ‘The Godfather’? An offer you couldn’t refuse. The only thing that can touch him is more ice packs than a summer in the corner store. Like Canada’s own Tristan Thompson puts it the bruising ‘Bron is a “machine” that only needs “a change of oil”. If Mike is the Babe Ruth of this sport, then the King is Ali. And even if this is the last game James wins for Cleveland and his last year as a Cavalier, they won’t be throwing rocks at the throne or burning his robes anymore, but kneeling down in front of his banner billboard in saluting respect and throwing thanks.
At a Kareem jersey age of 33, he’s chasing all sorts of history rewriting, father-time erasing records and iconic infamy like Gillette razors wish they only could him and the best a Rick Ross can get. And at the same age this writer can’t even get a text back. You’ve seen the memes and gifs. My Vine like favourite has to be the “LeBron every year in the Finals” video to the teacher chino walking into class the same way everyday, save a changing colour in shirt.
With his eight straight NBA Finals is it any wonder we wonder if postseason King LeBron James is human? The last time he didn’t make it Kobe had just won a championship, Curry was a rookie and 78% of todays players hadn’t even suited up for their first game. Not to mention only 3 of the 19 Marvel movies in the cinematic universe had been released. And if you want to keep looking at Twitter the last time LeBron didn’t make the last dance was the last time @SirDil23 couldn’t make eye contact with women. “Here’s looking at you kid”! That’s a line from an old Humphrey Bogart movie called ‘Casablanca’ from 1942. Coincidentally also the last time LeBron James didn’t make the NBA Finals.
Now that’s beyond being a superstar. That’s some superhuman, superhero stuff to marvel at. This Black Panther king is a real NBA Iron Man, Captain America hero with Hulk weight room (don’t forget the lip sync battle) smashing strength and a stormbreaking hammer of Thor dunk. Ready to snap his fingers like Thanos and you know the rest. Ashes to dust. You don’t feel so good. It’s this Avengers universe now and even if new Rookie of the Year Jayson Tatum knockout dunked hard on James…well…all that for a drop of blood. He’s ready for war with the Warriors now. And it’s going to be a gauntlet for all the stones.
You should have gone for the head. It’s the King and he’s going to sit on his throne ’till Infinity.
Chicago, All-Star 2020 blows in the Windy City for Kobe
Like Eliot Ness, that’s what Common’s city of Chicago is when it comes to this court. All greatest of all-time thanks to the statue outside the United Center that they have to bring in from the cold when ice gets in it’s cracks like the veins of new Minnesota Timberwolves cold front player, D’Angelo Russell (he should be here. These lost Lakers are just glad Brandon Ingram is). Forming a duo with Karl-Anthony Towns as dynamic as that one of Star Marbury and the uncut gem of Chi-towns own Kevin Garnett heading for the Hall.
And just like the Big Ticket, the Rose that grew from concrete and the way of Wade who was moved to tears, the rapper slash actor, author and Microsoft poet Common (who fittingly won MVP of the Celebrity Game in his city. Even after Kenny ‘The Jet’ Smith said “c’mon Common you can’t even dunk donuts in coffee” after giving Dwight Howard’s athletically graceful, camera flash freeze, cheese smile, spin dunk an 8 (Kobe?)) put on for his city like Barack Obama and of course the statue of the G.O.A.T. M.J. with a poetic rap that waxed lyrical on hoops history and it’s nuanced nostalgia.
Shouting out the real King MLK and Kobe before Magic made a moving speech, all players behind him dressed in warm-up white and Jennifer Huston brought the not a dry eye in the arena, house down with her tribute that beat the hardwood like the commercial Dr. Dre one for this California love in Chicago, like the National Anthem of treasure Chaka Khan in a 23 jersey.
Common also had rhymes for each player introduction for all those who would take to the floor dribbling across the Chicago skyline, as he rocked the mic like fellow Chicagoland legend Chance The Rapper halftime and injured All-Star Dame Lillard, who still got to play this weekend as Dame D.O.L.L.A. The first player to perform on this stage of Basketball’s Grammy’s, bringing out ‘Tha Carter’ himself Lil’ Wayne and a Mamba Forever leather that we all want to cop for this year’s Winter jacket.
From saying “Sixteen-time all-star, three-time NBA champion/ We continue to witness his reign / One of the greatest to play the game/ From the Los Angeles Lakers, LeBron James”, to “A four-time all-star / He handles the rock like Gibraltar / From the Boston Celtics / Give it up for Kemba Walker”.
But hey, I’ve got one for you all, “like the Beard and the Brow he runs the show/so where the f### is Alex Caruso”.
But to the beat of his own raps and his milk carton brother Kanye, even if every event was set off by the “GO” vocal of guitar hero John Mayer on his Common collaboration with ‘Jesus Is King’ walking God, Mr. West (from the bam, bam Bam Adebayo BAM Skills Challenge bucket win. To the Buddy Hield buzzer beating on the last ball of the last rack, Devin booking, beating and winning the Three-Point Shootout (still one of the best and most underrated events of the weekend)), this night of all the All-Stars was all about the one who should have been in the crowd cheering with his daughter courtside.
From Superman, Dwight Howard returning and bringing back the red cape out of the phone booth, with 24 on the chest, to Man Of Steel and former Lex Luthor like enemy Shaq filming on that old camcorder again. In one of the best but most controversial dunk contests that saw an all 50 and 7-foot-5 Tacko leaping Aaron Gordon robbed again like when he cleared the mascot (seriously I don’t mean to leap to conclusions, but these guys need to get over jumping over things…literally. Only Leonardo DiCaprio gets over this many people).
This time by the South Beach, bringing the Heat in the Windy City, tornado storm of Derrick Jones Jr. Air Gordon won’t be back (thanks for that judges. Dwayne Wade said in the Skills Challenge his mind can be changed…ain’t that the truth), but let’s hope the backboard ball touching, Woody Harrelson Venice Beach wear honoring Pat Connaughton will be. Because white men can jump too in an epic exciting weekend of Chicago, 2020 that in the Olympic year of Tokyo, 2020 showed all the world’s a Basketball stage like the Rising Stars game (Konichiwa Hachimura).
For the main event of the biggest weekend on the schedule itself Team LeBron all wore number 2 on their blue jerseys for GiGi and Team Giannis 24 forever for Kobe (a bald Khris Middleton even sometimes from the nose bleeds making it look like Mamba was there…which spiritually he was like his mentality), to another LeBron like Kobe dunk running the floor like Bean and the 24 second shot clock that decided the fourth quarter of an entertaining All-Star Game that was more than the legendary lay-up line and was actually a competitive affair.
That’s just what happens when you win the game on a free throw (157-155, King over Freak) as Laker and hometown Chicago hero Anthony Davis did the honors after filling the stat sheet with the game on the line. But, the All-Star MVP now beautifully renamed the Kobe Bryant award went to another Los Angeles King in Clipper Kawhi and his 30 points. Who dedicated his award to the late legend it’s named after, as fans had their fill of their favourite weekend of the mid-season they love like the hearts of a mid-Feb Valentine.
Just don’t ask him what he had for dinner.
For Team LeBron. For Kobe. For GiGi.
Canadian’s rise to the occasion at 2020 NBA Rising Stars game
Without a doubt, one of the brightest spots of the NBA All-Star Weekend, is the Rising Stars game.
Since it’s inclusion in the 1994 All-Star game in Minneapolis, it has seen multiple formats and renditions — becoming a fertile playground for “phenoms” and “sensations” to showcase their gifted basketball talents to a global audience.
Orlando Magic point guard Anfernee “Penny” Hardaway won MVP of the inaugural edition of the rookie challenge game which at the time featured a true all-rookie affair with the likes of Chris Webber, Sam Cassell, Isaiah Rider taking on Jamal Mashburn and Nick Van Exel.
Toni Kukoc + Dino Rađa first International Players
The original 8-player team rosters comprised of only two international players – both Croatian/ Yugoslavian greats Toni Kukoc and Dino Rađa made the phenom cut.
In addition to Kukoc and Rada, and up until 2000, when the NBA made it’s first format change, from a all-rookie game to a rookie versus sophomores soiree — the game had only featured a grand total of nine (9) non-American players. Arvydas Sabonis (Lithuania/1996), George Zidek (Czechoslovakia/1996), Vitaly Potapenko (Ukraine/1997), Zydrunas Ilgauskas (Lithuania/1998), Michael Olowokandi (UK/Nigeria/2000) and Dirk Nowitzki (Germany/2000) helped provide a blueprint for international expansion.
Steve Nash first Canadian selected in 1997
Steve Nash broke the Canadian trend and became the country’s first representation at the event, playing alongside Lakers’ great Kobe Bryant in the 1997 rendition. Winnipeg, Manitoba’s own Todd MacCulloch added his name to the list in first year of the new millennium, and twelve (12) years later Tristan Thompson (2012-2013) started what is now an eight-year streak of Canadians in the NBA’s Rising Stars’ Game.
Andrew Wiggins opened the flood-gates winning the MVP trophy in 2015 with an electric 22-point performance. Jamal Murray topped his scoring efforts with one of the best games in the events’ history with a 36-point, 11 assist MVP outburst in 2017.
History of Canadian’s NBA Rising Stars Game
Back then it was hard to imagine the impact that the NBA would have internationally, and across Canada. Despite multiple formats and various renditions, there’s little to no doubt that the idea of what has now become the World versus USA game has been a large contributing factor to the multiplier effect.
Record four Canadians in 2020 World vs. USA game
Now in its 26th year and in the sixth edition of the it’s latest format, the 2020 game showcased a record four (4) Canadian’s. Rookies RJ Barrett of the New York Knicks, Brandon Clarke (Memphis Grizzlies), Nickeil Alexander-Walker joined sophomore Shai Gilgeous-Alexander in the NBA’s Tupac themed “me against the world” game.
Barrett poured in a game-high 27 points, 6 rebounds, 5 assists and 3 steals. Clarke, arguably the steal of the 2019 NBA Draft was equally impressive with 22 points and game-high 8 rebounds on 11-of-15 shot attempts. Gilgeous-Alexander razzled and dazzled his way to 16 points, 3 rebounds and 3 assists while his cousin Alexander-Walker added 6 points, 4 assists and 2 steals.
The Canadian’s contributions helped Team World race out to a 39-30 first-quarter lead over Team USA. A big second-half surge saw the all-American squad turn a 81-71, 10-point half-time deficit into 151-131, 20-point victory.
Outcome aside, the game featured a bevy of highlights including an impromptu dunk contest in the last minute that included some big time dunks by Brandon Clarke and RJ Barrett.
With such an impact internationally and responsible for giving many rising Canadian basketball players their first true taste of NBA All-Star weekend — it will only be a matter of time before one or two of them makes the leap from Saturday to Sunday like Nash did, becoming an official NBA All-star — five years after his appearance in the Rookie Challenge.