This weekend the city of Los Angeles was a-buzz with All-Star hype and festivities, with just about everyone in town talking about Blake Griffin, the Dunk Contest and Justin Bieber
shooting like a girl making it rain in the Celeb Game.
The hype came to a crescendo this evening with the main event, as the Eastern Conference and Western Conference All-Stars faced off. On the shoulders of Kobe Bryant and Kevin Durant, Team West got off to an early lead that had the game looking like a blow-out until the middle of the third quarter.
Around that time, the biggest superstar in the NBA LeBron James (and yes, no matter how you feel about him, he still is the #1 draw league wide - hands down) decided he wasn't quite ready to let Kobe sit in his thrown. After a passionate court-side speech, he took a hold of the game - scoring, grabbing boards, dishing the rock and throwing down a power dunk that made Griffin wince. The East got it back to a one-possession game with a minute left, but then James kicked out to Heat teammate Chris Bosh who decided to spot up for a totally unnecessary three - which bricked and led to the final West dagger.
Although most of the exhibition was a snooze, with few to any memorable highlights, the enthusiasm displayed by the leagues brightest stars as the game came down the stretch was a great sign of things to come. With the high-profile moves of "talent' this past summer, this NBA season was all tee'd up to be exciting from the start. However, the Three Amigos started slow in South Beach, the defending champs have looked dis-interested most of the season and the best team in basketball play fundamental (aka "boring") hoops in southeast Texas (aka "most boring part of the country").
But the NBA, more so than any other professional sports league because of the smaller roster sizes, is really all about their stars. And, the late display on Sunday night has us feeling very good about the increased level of excitement as we make a run towards the play-offs.
The Heat and Celtics are now in a virtual dead-tie atop the Eastern Conference and both teams are chalk full of superstars playing A+ basketball as of late. The Bulls and Magic are close behind, and if Carmelo were to join Amare and the re-invigorated Knicks, there would be a great level of intrigue amongst teams playing in the biggest sports cities east of the Mississippi. All the while, it appears that the Western Conference isn't simply going to lay down for the Lakers (as has happened the last few seasons), with the Spurs and Mavericks looking like serious title contenders.
Football is over, spring training hasn't even fully started and the NBA playoffs are still a couple of months away. However, the good news is that for sports fans is that if the final quarter of the All-Star game are any indication, the final quarter of the regular season should actually bring some excitement everywhere from LA to NY.