“Thunder cracks and we see television store screens and surrounding lights go out. We hear and see footsteps run out of the phone booth and then take off. Left behind in the phone booth is a full suit. Glasses drop to the ground and smash. An earthquake like rumble spreads through downtown as birds fly away in fright. A child playing with a toy airplane in the back-seat of a car stops and looks out as something hurtles past at supersonic speed.
Rushing past the electrical store the televisions flicker between static and footage of a Lakers parade. We cut to L.A’.s landmark Hotel Figueroa where the three tiered building displays pictures of Wilt Chamberlain, Kareem Abdul-Jabbar and Shaquille O’Neal shining like three stripes. A stream of purple and gold zooms past at full speed. We follow the stream as it zip-lines through the skyscrapers of downtown Los Angeles before soaring to the sky between two.
We then see the sky from the top of the two sky scrapers and between the darkness appears some gold and what looks like a basketball hoop. We hear the flapping of a cape as a basketball shoots up and is followed by an outstretched hand. We see the man from the phone booth as Dwight Howard, donning a Lakers uniform and draped in a purple and gold cape flying upwards after the ball.
It’s almost in his reach as a newspaper with the headline ‘What’s happened to the Lakers?’ and one with the headline ‘Where is Dwight Howard’? along with what appears to be Mickey Mouse ears fall behind him. As Howard gets higher he cocks his hand back and smiles as the gold light shines on his face as his hand makes contact with the ball. The theme to Superman begins to play and get louder. As his cape flaps violently and he begins to slow down, he looks to dunk while disappearing into the gold light which fills the screen.
We switch to a shot of the Los Angeles skyline as the clouds disperse and the lights of the city including the STAPLES Centre come on in a sharp burst. The headline reads; ‘Superman Returns’ and then ‘Impossible Is Nothing’ before the Adidas logo appears.”
That’s how I wrote an article and Adidas commercial idea concerning Dwight Howard’s signing with Kobe’s Lakers almost ten years ago like it was the second coming of Shaq’s Superman out the phone booth. So much so I even sent it to ‘He Got Game’ and ‘Kobe ‘Doin Work’ director Spike Lee. What a difference a decade makes. D-12 and KB24’s Hollywood honeymoon period made number 8 and the 34 up there in the rafters’ Hollywood divorce look like the matrimony of a happy marriage it turned out to be in the end. For better or worse.
And Lakers nation echoed those Mamba sentiments when Howard’s end returned with the Lakers this offseason following the season crippling injury to Anthony Davis big-man back-up Cousins. Wondering why they left Carmelo hanging again like that time he pretended to take that shot sitting courtside from the baseline and then thought…NAH!
But what a difference a few games makes. From the punctuated preseason, to the first run of six straight after dropping the opener. The King’s new Lakers look ready for their ring crowning with A.D. and his King of Monsters, Ghidora big-three headed blocking machine of him, Howard and the epic, energy emphatic dunk and block of fan (and mine) favourite JaVale McGee for your seven footers. And just wait until Boogie comes back for the down low productions. The Lakers have more options in the post than phone plans. And now the legendary Laker lineage of big-men isn’t just joined by their latest Pau Gasol revolutionary pivot in Anthony Davis, but even more big names in reserve than they’ve ever had in Karl Malone, Horace Grant, John Salley, Elden Campbell or Bob McAdoo storied history.
Now this really is a Hollywood script flipped case of Superman Returns. The death of Superman was as great exaggerated as the soil coffin rising ‘Dawn Of Justice’ movie and now no longer Batman v Superman (or the Dark Knight of Kobe), this league is finally seeing Justice for this former death of a could of/should of been dynasty. There may be some holes in the cape, but fear not the flag is still flying, blowin’ in the wind.
Never say never again.
Right now number 39 over 12, Dwight Howard is playing out his mind in this redemption reunion like Basketball God fate sealed. Like he wants another thirty to go up in the banner of the Lakers tall rafters like 33 and of course 34 (he still won’t tell us the personal reasons behind his latest number, unlike the 8 in D.C. that had nothing to do with Kobe). It must be the hair…which even now we can kind of forgive like him…it’s actually kind of cool. A ‘Home Alone’ Biff like tarantula, like his defensive player all over the opposition like ‘Spider Salley’, with post everything precision. Post player, post pain, post shame. This seven feet high and rising rejuvenated like a late career Shaq still younger than LeBron at an Abdul-Jabbar 33, taking giant steps is a cut above the rest he cuts down with his trademark blocks we’ve missed like that Magic smile, or crowd flexing celebrating muscle on a leaner, meaner frame for this players perfect portrait.
Yeah…I’ve changed my tune. But it’s no longer the same song.
“Take off the blazer, loosen up the tie. Step inside the booth, Superman is alive.” Like Jay-Z said in his own retirement return for LeBron’s kingdom come.
Quick on the Twitter trigger this offseason, I take it all back Dwight…I’m sorry!
Anthony Davis leads the league in blocks right now in his bid to be the Defensive Player of The Year. But do you know whose second in the NBA right now? Yep…that’s right his back-up and former DPOY himself. Cleaning the glass with put backs like he’s about to break all of that, piecing his career back together. Notching double/doubles under his belt like he always was meant to a starter and is now doing off the bench. He’s even literally the last to leave the gym, staying behind after taking opponents to school and practicing his shaky free throws like Shaq should have. Worthy of his first start like the Big Game he’s producing alongside James, all for the 42 clap.
Remembering the titans on this Texas sweep road trip, just missing the triangle point of Houston for this former Rocketman like Elton John. Coming into the Windy City, Chicago almost blew the Lake Show away. That was until LeBron had his oldest in history and third straight, first Laker since Magic in ’87 triple-double. Right when the Lakers where going “YES” and then “NO” like Martin Lawrence in the new ‘Bad Boys For Life’ trailer with Will Smith after A.D. one night hit a 16 years since Shaq record 40 and 20 in just three quarters, only to the next day reiterate his desire to play in his hometown Chicago, because after all he “is a free agent next year”. Just a day after one of the New Orleans Pelicans he was traded for, Brandon Ingram matched him, 40 for 40. Make that meme Twitter King Josiah… mine pales in comparison.
The Lakers have a lot to celebrate in this new Showtime era. Their best dynamic duo since Shaq and Kobe, or Magic and Kareem. A big-three with the 38-19 run lead by Kyle Kuzma back for good from injury. The soon return of Rondo and hopefully his Wildcat alumni. The threes of Danny Green. Quinn cookin’ from that same angle. The play of Avery Bradley M.I.A. this game. My hero, Alex Caruso. And of course the man of steel II as you saw someone trying to come into his lane. Like bam, bam Clipper legend Quentin Richardson says, the Lakers x-factor. Was it a bird? Was it a plane? As you heard the whoosh of Superman fly through the wind he made in Common’s Chi-city and back again like he went twice around the world to reverse it’s polarity and change his past. NO! It was the huge game and frame of the return of Dwight Howard.
Like Kobe predicted it, that’s a “hell of an impact”. This time for better…not worse.
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.