A Star Studded Weekend In L.A.
By Brian Wheeler
So I spent All-Star weekend in Los Angeles, which just happened to be the city that was hosting the NBA All-Star Game. I had been to only one other such game during my time in the league. Usually I retreat to Las Vegas for the All-Star Break, but since I had already been there right before Christmas, I decided that going to L.A., and catching the All-Star Game as part of my break wasn’t a bad idea.
And this is a festive weekend designed for a city like Los Angeles. From the All-Star game itself to so many other events surrounding it, there were stars to be found everywhere, both on and off the court. I grew up in Hollywood so I was always used to seeing movie and TV stars out and about, but during a weekend like this, all the names, big and small, make it a point to be seen at an All-Star event. You had the hot new celebrities appealing to anyone that thought they were truly hip, and then there were the stars of yesteryear that still wanted to appear relevant and hold on to whatever fame they still had left. It was a fascinating phenomenon to watch.
And of course all the events on Friday and Saturday led up to the 60th NBA All-Star Game on Sunday. Only in L.A. would they have to put a time of 5:00 PM on the tickets just so hopefully everyone would be in their seats for the tip-off to the game, which actually didn’t take place until closer to 6:00 PM. And from the looks of things, most people did get to their assigned places in time.
Once the game was started, I turned to my friend in the first few minutes and predicted Kobe Bryant would win the MVP. Seems like the MVP always comes from the winning team, and if there’s a chance to give it to a guy from the town the game is being played in, even better. And being the great fan of NBA history that he is, Kobe seemed like he was well aware of the way things usually go in these games. He came out with a sense of purpose, taking a lot of shots early and staking the West squad to a 1st quarter lead. During timeouts, there was always an entertainment act to get you through those minutes away from the game. And after you’d seen some singers, dancers, or magicians, you’d have the chance to look at some of the many stars in the crowd highlighted on the overhead screen at Staples. If you got your face on camera in the first place, you were a marquee name. But if you didn’t make it up there until the 4th quarter, then chances were you were a fringe star at best.
My friend, who was attending her first All-Star Game, mentioned to me in the 2nd quarter that it didn’t seem like the teams were playing the kind of defense she was used to seeing at other NBA games she had attended. I applauded her most astute observation, and told her she probably wouldn’t see any real defense until the last few minutes of the game if it were still close. Sure enough, the West led most of the way until the East decided to make a late-game rally, making things close by clamping down on defense and forcing some bad shots and some turnovers. LeBron James led the charge, and the East nearly pulled off a magnificent comeback, with the West ultimately doing just enough to hold on to the victory. And sure enough, Kobe was named the game’s MVP, and the pro-Lakers’ crowd got what they paid for. And unlike a lot of L.A. sporting events, most of the fans stayed all the way until the end and even through Kobe’s MVP ceremony before they left. A normal Lakers’ crowd at Staples they weren’t!
It was a fun day, but could have been so much better had LaMarcus Aldridge taken his place in the spotlight as was so richly deserved. Every time Kevin Love did something wrong like miss a shot or make a turnover, I muttered to my friend, “LaMarcus never would have done that!” I think she got tired of hearing it after a while. Don’t blame her, but it was true.
It’s a real shame Portland has never had the opportunity to host one of these All-Star games. I’ve heard the NBA’s argument many times before, that Portland just doesn’t have enough hotel space within the vicinity of the Rose Garden. Seems to me that’s something that could be worked around if the league wanted to do so. I know Portland would represent as it always does, and it would be fitting to have the rest of the country see just how special a place the Rose Garden is, not to mention being able to catch all the great NBA fans in this neck of the woods in full force. Maybe someday the league will give the Rose City a chance to shine in the All-Star spotlight. And then if we were lucky, we could get behind a local guy like LaMarcus to bring home the MVP. Now THAT would be an All-Star weekend to remember!