Previous ArticlesBulls' Rose a Champion at All-Star Saturday
Can Phil beat Auerbach's record AND bring world peace?
by Sam Smith
Posted on Feb 16
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So Middle East peace next? It was Kobe and Shaq back together again Sunday, sharing the All-Star game MVP award. Bryant, with a game high 27 points and O’Neal, with 17 points in just under 11 minutes played, shared a slight hug after being announced as MVPs, then playfully fought over the trophy handed to them by commissioner David Stern. They joined Bob Pettit, who won four times, and Michael Jordan and Oscar Robertson as the only three-time All-Star MVPs.
O’Neal then thanked the crowd at the U.S. Airways Center saying it probably was his final All-Star game and went on to call he and Bryant, “The Big Legendaries.”
O’Neal in recent months has been saying all the feuding between he and Kobe and he and Phil Jackson was just a big marketing ploy and O’Neal had fooled all of us. So Jackson considered it a moment to deliver a message of hope and peace.
“I think it is a great life lesson for people,” said Jackson. “This is something that the people work together, people find a way to get through situations, find harmony in their life, find co-habitation. I hope this speaks volumes not just for our community in basketball but our world community too. And I like the idea that we even brought that to the All-Star Game and brought the international flavor in. Basketball is a thing that is a game. It is played as a game, but it is serious business to these players. And it is wonderful to see them have fun at it in a game like this.”
Darn. Hillary already has Secretary of State locked up.
— To some it seemed Shaq may have also been lobbying for a return to the Lakers after his contract expires after next season. Shaq is said—along with Amare Stoudemire—to be available in trade, though with his $20 million annual salary, it’s unlikely anyone trades for Shaq, at least until his deal is expiring next season. It seems unlikely Bryant would welcome any such season long reunion, and Jackson was somewhat vague, which is hardly unusual for him.
“In a capacity we’ve seen some of the teams I have coached, I was talking about Robert Parish coming to work with the Bulls when he was 40 years old,” noted Jackson. “I always felt he had a pretty good influence on the team as the Big Chief came over, sat on the bench and helped out and played a few minutes. But it was a big influence. That’s a possibility. But as a community relations guy, as a person that coaches individually, I think Shaq is great. I don’t know if he will have to stay around the game to be entertaining. I think he has such great entertainment value, he will find another venue somewhere.
— Among the big story lines of the weekend were the Shaq/Kobe teammate reunion, Stoudemire perhaps as MVP in maybe his final game in a Suns uniform (he had 19 points) and who was the league’s best player, Kobe or LeBron James. James led the East with 20 points, though the last two were on a two hand slam on a pass off the backboard to himself. The game had become so one sided and uninteresting that players parted for individual stunts, something like the rookie/sophomore games of a few years ago until the league ordered the kids to actually play basketball. These NBA All-Star games usually are competitive down the stretch, though this one never was with the East team so small that Rashard Lewis had to guard Shaq with Chris Bosh out and Dwight Howard and Kevin Garnett the only centers or power forwards. So with the co-MVP, Kobe got the last word. And a tiebreaker from Julius Erving, who said, “Kobe has the torch now, but he’ll be passing it to LeBron.” It was much the same when Michael Jordan came into the league and eventually took over the title of the game’s best individual performer from Dr. J.
— Perhaps the day’s highlight was a dance routine from Shaq with a hip hop dance group called the Jabbawockeez. O’Neal wore a white mask as members of the group do for their act as Shaq performed for them impressively in the introductions.
“That was probably the most exciting thing about the night,” said Dwyane Wade.
“I wanted to do something a little different and unique,” O’Neal said. “I realized that this may possibly be my last one, so I wanted to make it memorable for myself and the fans.”
“Of course Shaq’s entertainment quotient is very high,” said Jackson. “I think you guys all know that from interviewing him. I don’t have to go into that. But he just has a good time at this. He likes crowds. He likes to entertain. Just that pregame show is something that’s very typical of Shaq to do, just looking for something extra. He always brought some lively entertainment to our club when played with us. That’s (also) the first time I have seen an MVP that played 11 minutes in an All-Star Game. But he really had an impact on the game, there is no doubt about it. The impact was short-spelled and strongly.”
— Bryant and O’Neal had an entertaining post-game press conference in which Bryant wasn’t quite ready to sing kumbaya with Shaq.
SHAQ: “It felt like old times. I miss those times. He was really looking for me, especially when we went to a pick-and-roll and they had Rashard Lewis on me. He was really looking for me.”
KOBE: We are not going to go back to the room and watch “Steel Magnolias” or something like that, you know what I’m saying, crying, all that stuff. We had a good time. That’s all. Nothing wrong with being nostalgic. It is not necessarily my cup of tea.”
SHAQ: “I was getting ready to do a Vince Carter wrong-way windmill like he did in the 2000 Dunk Contest.”
KOBE: “And then he woke up.”
— There may be no bigger melting pot than an NBA All-Star game with sitting side by side in the front row actor Chris Tucker, filmmaker Spike Lee, presidential candidate John McCain and members of the Kennedy family. As Jackson notes, basketball is the one common language.
— President Barack Obama delivered a taped message at halftime urging public service. Also at the half, USA Basketball managing director Jerry Colangelo gave rings to the members of the men’s and women’s gold medal-winning teams who were in Phoenix. Spurs Tim Duncan and Tony Parker were booed before the game because of the many playoff failures of the Suns against the Spurs. Also, commissioner David Stern was booed as he presented the MVP trophies as local fans remain upset for the suspensions in the playoffs that many believe cost the Suns a title in 2007.
— After what I saw of a fairly awful Eastern Conference All-Star team Sunday, I’m looking for Derrick Rose to make the big guys’ Sunday game next year in Dallas. Mark Cuban has the game in the new Dallas Cowboys’ stadium and has promised the league he’ll get 100,00 fans there. But the Bulls had some solid representation Sunday with respected team trainer Fred Tedeschi working with the All-Stars. Also, Benny the Bull was among the mascots entertaining.