They dimmed the lights, and the cheerleaders hit the floor, shaking all over.
The drummers added to the din.
Tim Russert was in the house. He passes for star power in Washington.
Then they introduced the players. That took half the night.
It was a modestly entertaining show, as far as these shows go, helped at the end as Kobe Bryant and Stephon Marbury traded long-distance daggers.
The basketball purists cringe around these affairs after noticing the absence of fundamentals and team dynamics. The ratio is five or six ill-advised plays for every special play. The ratio would be unacceptable to the Harlem Globetrotters.
The 50th NBA All-Star Game featured 40 turnovers, an almost equal number of dunks, no defense for 40 minutes and a surprise ending.
“We had every reason to make this like an All-Star Game and just lay down and stop playing, and it didn’t happen,” East coach Larry Brown said.
Ragtime became real time in the last five or six minutes.
The West had the last shot.
Who says Bryant does not pass the ball to the big fellow? He passed the ball to Tim Duncan with the game hanging in the balance. Duncan rushed the shot and missed it.
“I got a great look at it,” Duncan said.
As required, the players tried to dazzle everyone. They tried too hard at times.
The East missed its first nine shot attempts and committed five turnovers. That was just like the home team. It must be contagious.
The teams combined for 17 turnovers in the first quarter, 10 by the East. This was basketball in the playground sense, much of it overwrought, interrupted by an occasional moment.
Vince Carter completed a 360-degree dunk in the second quarter after Vlade Divac elected not to stop the fun.
Carter added another special dunk late in the first half and then unleashed a primal scream on the throng. He appeared to be saying, “Look at me, look at me, look at me.”
Jason Kidd hit a 50-footer just before the halftime buzzer and granted Jim Gray an interview at courtside. Gray did not badger Kidd, as he did Pete Rose.
This night was mostly about style. On that count, Bryant received a failing mark. He wore a pair of hideous-looking yellow shoes with black trim. The shoes looked toxic.
Bryant could not blame the shoes on his bum shoulder. He tried the shoulder excuse after missing the mandatory session with the media Friday. The league was not impressed and fined him $10,000.
Allen Iverson and Rasheed Wallace had the best artwork on their bodies.
Brown called a timeout in the second quarter just to call a timeout. He was there in title, and this confirmed it.
“I thought both teams tried to play the right way and tried to win,” Brown said. “I had no idea we could come from behind, but in the timeouts they remained positive and wanted to do everything they could to make the game competitive.”
The East was short-handed. Two of the East’s best players, Alonzo Mourning and Grant Hill, were in street clothes. Hill accessorized his outfit with crutches.
The East functions with the aspersion that it is the junior partner in the NBA. The East, led by Iverson, seemed intent on disproving that after falling behind by 21 points.
Iverson was named the MVP after finishing with 25 points, five assists and four steals.
“This is a tribute to coach Brown, my teammates, especially my teammates, and my family and friends,” Iverson said.
The NBA’s acceptance speeches are starting to sound like Hollywood’s on Oscar night.
Iverson said it became a “real game” midway through the fourth quarter, when he challenged a few West players to put up some money if they were so confident of their chances. There were no takers.
“I thought we had it done,” Duncan said. “I thought it was over.”
Chris Webber suggested not to be too taken with the comeback.
“We wanted to make it interesting, and they ended up winning it,” Webber said.
The East won; the city won as well.
It was a decent finish to a nice weekend.