I did not attend the East Coast Invasion at the Roxy. I didn’t crash the 2 Kings dinner thrown by LeBron James and Jay-Z. I didn’t wind up in a secret basement humidor club with World Wide Wes, Phil Knight, and J. Prince. I’m sure at some point I was sweating, but it probably had more to do with a room service quesadilla than with molly, and it did not happen at Empire Night Club with Trinidad James and DJ Khaled. I went to Charles Barkley’s surprise party, but the closest I got to all of the lights was nodding appreciatively at Dodgers play-by-play man Charlie Steiner when he said to me, “I don’t know about Flo-Rida. I’m more of a New Ride-as of the Purple Sage man myself.” It probably says more about me that I got the joke than it does about Steiner that he made it.
So much amazing is happening, and the Shootaround crew is here to help you keep track of it all. You'll find takes on moments you might've missed from the previous night, along with ones you will remember forever.
RIP, King LeBron James, 1984-2013
As the minutes trickled away during last night's game, a relative non-fan of the NBA asked me the ages of LeBron James and Kobe Bryant.
"I think Kobe is 34."
"Oh, I thought he was 40!"
"And LeBron is 28, pretty sure."
"What? I thought he was much younger than that."
On cue, age evaporated. With three minutes remaining, Kobe recovered a missed James Harden layup, crossed Drunk Chris Bosh over, and scored an easy, slicing-away basket. Then he pressed LeBron in the backcourt, hounded him across half court, looked for a steal, and then recovered and blocked a 19-footer. The deflection poked ahead to a streaking Kevin Durant, who dunked. He jutted his chin in that way, and then grinned. "Forty-year-old Kobe" — at his 15th consecutive All-Star game, tied with Shaq for the second-most to Kareem's 18 — checked the Boy King and embarrassed him. Two minutes later, he did it again, stealing the ball with less than a minute to play and the game on the line. (One play later, he did it again, cleanly blocking a LeBron drive, though a foul was called erroneously. LeBron, thunderstruck, missed one of his two free throws.)
In case you were busy making a fool of yourself mixing up the accomplishments of Franklin Pierce and James K. Polk, here's what you missed in sports last weekend.
The NBA All-Star Game pitted the best players in the game against each other in Houston this weekend, with the West coming out on top, 143-138. L.A. Clippers guard Chris Paul, who was named the game's MVP after getting 20 points and 15 assists, said, "I'm just so excited to help secure home court in the Finals for the West, because this time it counts!" When told that the game in no way counted, Paul went on to say, "Really? Is that why no one else was passing or playing defense until the end? Damn, I could have scored so many more points if I had known that."
Toronto Raptors rookie Terrence Ross won this year's NBA All-Star Slam Dunk Contest with his throwback tribute to former Raptor Vince Carter. First, he amazed the crowd with a display of world-class dunks. Then he limped off the court, petulantly burning bridges with his teammates and the people of Toronto. He plans on returning to next year's competition to complete his performance by not competing at all. "I can't believe it," said runner-up Jeremy Evans, who dunked over a painting of himself dunking over a painting of himself. "How the hell did I got out-meta-ed?"
On our first full day in Houston, Jacoby, Zach Lowe, and I had the pleasure of talking with a few of the NBA's brightest stars. Jacoby spoke with Kyrie Irving about video games, 3-point shooting, and Uncle Drew. I got a chance to talk with Chandler Parsons about the Rockets' rivalry with the Warriors. I also chatted with comic-book fan (and Nets center) (and All-Star) Brook Lopez, who told me about who hogs the stereo in the Brooklyn locker room and where The Dark Knight Rises stands in the Batman canon. Finally, Zach Lowe got an incredibly detailed account of who sits where on the Blazers' team plane from LaMarcus Aldridge and heard from Warriors guard Klay Thompson about what it was like to give up 140 points in one game. Check out the full podcast, as well as the video clips, below.
The NBA All-Star Weekend took me back to my freshman year in high school. When you arrive on campus, you think you're the man. You dominated junior high, you had a killer summer at camp, and you've officially come into your own. The braces are off, you've just started doing pushups at night, you held a girl's hand at the movies once, mom started letting you shop for yourself at Marshalls, and all signs point toward a growth spurt.
But much like the experience of being a freshman in high school, the reality of my serf-like position at the bottom of the All-Star Weekend feudal system became quite clear within minutes of settling in at my hotel in Orlando. By the end of my first week of high school, I understood that the rest of the year would entail athletes and older guys looking over me without acknowledging my presence, girls my age acting completely disinterested, and older girls sitting around, hating on the younger girls.
At first, I was bummed out, mainly because I'm an only child and used to getting at least some form of attention. But as the weekend progressed, I realized my insignificance could actually be a blessing in disguise. In this sea of NBA players, NBA insiders, wannabe NBA insiders, celebrities, and wannabe celebrities, here I was, almost invisible.
My various badges and passes got me close to most of the action but not too close. I could always see what was going on, but my invisibility cloak had its limits. Too close, and my cover is blown and next thing I know, Gym Class Heroes and Jesse Jackson are giving me swirlies in the bathroom between second and third period. There was always a buffer zone of lameness that separated me from the beautiful people, but at the same time, if they had the ability to actually notice me, they would have been thoroughly creeped out by me, staring at them, jotting down notes, always dying of laughter.
My beat for the weekend was to always be around, keeping my head on a swivel, noticing when hilarity ensued, watching as celebrities interacted, and most importantly, guessing what they were talking about, based on who they were and their mannerisms. This sounds like an easy task, but at an event like the NBA All-Star Weekend, it can cause a serious case of carpal tunnel. The observations are seemingly endless.
I’m from Los Angeles, and lately, I’ve been wanting to move back. I’d be closer to my family — and Grantland headquarters. Also, I’d get my pickup basketball game back.
They call it “noonball” at USC, my alma mater. I've played ever since my sophomore year, about a decade ago. Pete Carroll played with us for years before leaving to coach the Seattle Seahawks. But we were all equals on the court. It was almost like a fraternity.
A regular pickup game is therapeutic and calming. I’ve lived in New York — the mecca of hoops — for more than three years, and haven’t found anything remotely close to what I had at USC. I played at Columbia for a while before they realized that I didn’t actually go there, and that was the end of that. Most gyms cost more than they should and don’t even include basketball courts. Frequent travel makes it an unwise investment. And the East Coast weather means outdoor games aren’t always an option.
As I sat on a plane to Orlando, having successfully drooled all over my Club Tril T-shirt, the realization that I was en route to NBA All-Star weekend finally slapped me in the face.
In the past, I've handled events as exciting, unpredictable, and slightly dangerous as this by going with the flow, not overthinking anything, never making plans, and, most importantly, always saying yes. But something about this weekend led to a change of heart. I thought that with just a few hours of planning, arts and crafts, phone calls, rush-order eBay purchases, and carefully crafted chants and heckles, I could really leave a mark on this All-Star weekend. Also, after embarrassing myself as the only press member at the Knicks game who tried to catch a shirt from the T-shirt cannon, I fully understood that it could easily be my last. There's no time to hold back.
From one of the many Orlando-area Hiltons, Bill Simmons and Joe House sit down for a two-part podcast before this weekend's NBA All-Star Game. In Part 1 of Thursday's pod, Simmons and House review the season and talk with Timberwolves forward Kevin Love. You can find Part 1 on the ESPN.com Podcenter or on iTunes.
In case you were out living a life of leisure, here's what you missed in sports on Thursday.
Giants defensive end Jason Pierre-Paul said that his team's pass-rushers are in Tom Brady's head. And at least one of them — the insanely creepy Justin Tuck — has also been in his underwear drawer.
Bill Belichick's preparations for the Super Bowl now include taking a 31-minute break during practice to simulate the lengthy halftime intermission. He also tried to hire Janet Jackson so he could rip off her shirt in front of the team to teach them discipline in the face of distractions. She was too expensive, though, and he had to settle for an awkward cup check on kicker Stephen Gostkowski.