Monday, February 16, 2009

The NBA Goes WWE...Again

Somebody tell the National Basketball Association that sports fans don't want preordained story lines. We don't want to know the fix is in even when it is. That's why there is professional wrestling—so that fans can be guaranteed entertainment by incredible athletes while sacrificing genuine unpredictability. An element that can only be found where Mother Nature and the gods of sport have unfettered reign.

So, if you're gonna sell us a bill of sales, at least spruce it up so it looks like something we'd want. At the very least, try to be a little less transparent when you're ripping us off.

I know, I know—it was only the All-Star game. So what. It was only batting practice when Sammy Sosa's bat exploded into corked shards.

Fraud by another name damages credibility just as sweetly.

And that's what it was when "they" made Shaquille O'Neal and Kobe Bryant co-Most Valuable Players of the NBA All-Star game. Fraud.

Before I get into it, let me say I don't understand why anyone gives an MVP trophy in all-star games to begin with. Talk about an empty award—wonderful, you are the best player from a group that was probably more concerned with resting or goofing off than performing.

Congratulations, put it on your Hall of Fame resume so your homers have something to point to and don't let the door hit ya where the good Lord split ya.

An all-star MVP means absolutely bupkus except that player was probably trying harder than the rest in an exhibition game. Want proof? Go look at Peyton Manning's Pro Bowl stats. Proof-positive that all-star game performances and MVP awards don't mean jack.

Until you fix one and the fix was in Sunday.

All week leading up to yesterday's game, pro basketball fans heard ad nauseam about the forthcoming reunion of Kobe, Shaq, and Phil Jackson. Kobe was voted in, Shaq was selected as a reserve, and Phil would coach since the Los Angeles Lakers had the best record in the Western Conference. Nothing shady about that in the least.

All concerned were sincerely deserving participants.

Another little tidbit that probably flew under your radar—these were the three main antagonists who destroyed what could've been the next great NBA dynasty. Needless to say, the general media was atwitter will all the juicy storylines literally falling from the sky.

Shaq versus Kobe II? Was the initial beef sincere or was it marketing hype as Shaq now claims? Would there be a Zen yoga session to cleanse everyone's aura? Namaste.

Then came gameday, the best part of which was Shaq's dancing demonstration. That was a rather large robot, but the Diesel was doing just fine. Scratch that—he was tearing it up. Blew the game away easily.

The exhibition itself was a gently amusing afterthought that doesn't really need dissecting. Kobe put up 27 points, four assists, four rebounds, four steals, and orchestrated the West team. Shaq put up 17 points, five rebounds, three assists, took only nine shots, and played only 11 minutes. Those are impressive lines.

So what am I complaining about?

Take Kobe—his stats are great, but the points are the only thing that really jump off the page. Well, the dude took 23 shots in the All-Star Game. That's more than double the output of every other player who stepped on the hardwood except LeBron James (19), Chris Paul (14), and Dwyane Wade (13).

Quick digression—why is the 'y' before the 'a' in Wade's first name? How is that a homophone for Duane? Or Dwayne? Weird. That's like Favre. I also can't believe I've never noticed it before. Anywhoo..

Back to the game and Kobe. Along with being the biggest chucker on the court, Bryant also logged 29 minutes—most of anyone other than Brandon Roy. I don't have a problem with the attempts or the minutes (the man's rep and resume earn him that much), but both go a long way towards explaining why his are the preeminent numbers.

And then there's the Big Aristotle.

Again, O'Neal's numbers are dominant considering nobody got less run. Of course, he put up 11 points in six minutes during which Rashard Lewis—all 6'10" and 230 pounds of him—was thrown to (defending) the wolves. To be totally accurate, it was only one wolf...that was 7'1" and 325 pounds. I'm guessing several of those rebounds came during that span as well.

So, sure, you can say that both Kobe and Shaq earned the award. And it is only the NBA All-Star Game MVP Trophy. When all is said and done, who really cares?

But that works against the situation as well because why fix an award that doesn't matter? Why create a story with hype, beat the story to death so that everyone knows about it, orchestrate the event such that the arc comes to fruition, and then compound the entire thing by naming co-MVPs? It looks so premeditated.

And it's so unnecessary that—from a certain perspective—it makes the stench of the situation worse.

But, hey, at least no referees were involved...

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