- The Washington Times - Monday, February 11, 2002

PHILADELPHIA They allowed playground basketball to be played in the First Union Center last night.
It went with the occasion, the NBA All-Star Game, the 51st excuse of an athletic contest that has come to be a three-day party.
It might as well have been shirts and skins. Defense was optional, the passion limited. The game's big names pass as entertainment, and pass is the last option on the floor.
Michael Jordan limited himself to 22 minutes, 11 in each half, in deference to his 38 years and the task ahead with the Wizards.
Jordan managed a light sweat, and a sheepish grin after he missed a breakaway dunk attempt in the first quarter. That captured the game's spirit, comedic at best, a game Jason Williams tries to play the rest of the season.
"[The missed dunk] was one of those situations where you want to do something spectacular but don't want to get hurt," Jordan said. "I got up there and didn't know what to do. I think the fans know I can dunk. I got one earlier."
Jordan couldn't make a shot in the second half, the same as the East, and one immodest play led to another.
Jordan finished with eight points and four rebounds, a footnote to Kobe Bryant's 31-point show, as the West defeated the East 135-120.
Bryant left with the MVP trophy and hurt feelings after being booed by his hometown crowd, presumably because of his role with the Lakers and their five-game dismantling of the 76ers in the NBA Finals last season.
Bryant was in good company. They once booed Santa Claus here, too.
The crowd booed Bryant during the game. The crowd booed Bryant again as he stood awaiting the MVP presentation from NBA commissioner David Stern.
"Home is home, and I enjoy coming home, even though the reception is not warm," Bryant said.
None of it was intended to be taken too seriously, starting with Elton John on the piano at halftime and Shaquille O'Neal in a beret.
Steve Francis nearly fell down after going behind his back with the ball and jumping into the air. Baron Davis threw a no-look pass to no one, and the ball went out of bounds. Being stylish was the prevailing theme. Look at them. Aren't they cool? Hip, hop, hooray.
The coaches, Byron Scott of the East and Don Nelson of the West, pretended to be interested in the proceedings, if only because that was their assignment.
"The main objective, obviously, is to go out there and play hard and try to win the game, and also to have as much fun as possible," Scott said.
The fun is said to cover a number of social areas in the two days leading to the game, as Washington knows only too well from last year.
You can't stop Lil' Bow Wow. You only can hope to contain him.
The scoring is prolific in the hotel lobbies, nightclubs and other play stations preferred by the young and beautiful.
To hear the Philadelphia Daily News tell it, gold-digging chicks apparently dig bad basketball.
This shocking revelation, at least shocking to those unaware of the human condition, came wrapped in a provocative photograph showing a shapely leg and spiked heel planted on top of a basketball.
One of the columnists with the newspaper questioned the value of the feature, although only because it possibly perpetuated a racial stereotype. The NBA is predominantly black, the players all male, and the late Wilt Chamberlain once put a number to his sexual conquests. He was up to 20,000 by his early 50s.
Incredible as it may seem, humans, not just basketball players, engage in all kinds of amorous activities. The global population is up to 6 billion, which reflects a certain dedication. The NBA accounts for just a drop in the human bucket, and that's not to minimize Shawn Kemp's seven children by six women.
The mass of humanity stuck on Broad Street in South Philly had to be satisfied with the small treats: two nice jams by Tracy McGrady, a nifty hang-in-the-air, off-the-glass gem by Bryant, a Gary Payton-to-Kevin Garnett alley-oop.
It was NBA All-Star Weekend, as it always is, replete with bad basketball and bad babes and, in this case, bad hometown fans.


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