All-Star Weekend much more than just another wild LA party

Above all else, the All-Star Game is about teamwork.

By JOSEPH D. ROBBINS
February 22, 2011 00:12
Kobe and Lebron in All Star Game

Kobe Lebron 311. (photo credit: Associated Press)

LOS ANGELES – Promotional posters cover walls across the city.

The celebrity attendees included the biggest and brightest stars spanning the all parts of the entertainment industry.

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Numerous articles were penned detailing the attire of attendees, while the game itself received coverage worthy of an awards show.

Even without Los Angeles or the 60th anniversary, NBA All-Star Weekend would be a weekend chockfull of festivities.

Add in the Hollywood splash, and the city of Los Angeles and the National Basketball Association were assured a wild weekend – regardless of the outcome of the main event.

Like the Super Bowl and the myriad awards shows Los Angeles is known for, All-Star Weekend has become a spectacle.

But All-Star Weekend is much more than a party. It is a return to the core fundamental the game was founded upon.

Above all else, the All-Star Game is about teamwork.

It is about putting players together – many of whom never have played alongside one another – and proving that with practice and desire, anybody can play as a team.

Perennial all-star Kevin Garnett touched upon this notion Friday when he said that the All-Star Game is a chance to see matchups that would not otherwise occur in the NBA.

“You get to see Shaq and Tim Duncan play together,” Garnett said, referring to the two sure future Hall of Famers, who have played alongside each other in numerous All-Star Games.

This year’s game featured bright young up-and-comers such as Blake Griffin and Russell Westbrook, as well veteran superstars like Garnett and Kobe Bryant.

For the young players, the experience is the opportunity to learn from the greats who have been there before, while the veterans have the chance to pass on some of the wisdom gained over their illustrious careers.

On Friday, coaches Doc Rivers and Gregg Popovich were asked about coaching the All-Star Game.

While the theory confirmed by both is that the best way to coach the All- Star Game is by “not coaching,” both stressed the importance of teamwork.

Popovich, the longtime coach of the San Antonio Spurs asked reporters – only semi-jokingly – if they knew the expression, “roll the ball out there and go with it.”

He went on to say that that was what the Western Conference all-stars were going to do. It wasn’t about the individual players or the coaches, it was about the unit playing as a cohesive team.

Popovich stressed the talent level of the players, only to enforce his stance that the All-Star Game is about playing team ball. Having the best players in the world would not matter if they did not play as a team.

Luckily for everybody, the stars came out as cohesive units and worked together to wow the crowds with a host of screens, alley-oops and fast break conversions throughout the game.

Eastern Conference (and Boston Celtics) coach Rivers said that the best part of All- Star Weekend was getting to see how well the stars play together, despite having a meager few days to prepare for the game.

The Eastern Conference was helped in the cohesiveness department by the fact that four of the Celtics’ starting five – Kevin Garnett, Paul Pierce, Ray Allen and Rajon Rondo – all made the squad.

Rivers inserted all four at once on Sunday, and they responded by playing unified ball, the way they have functioned all season en route to the second-best record in the NBA.

It was the first time in over 30 years that four players from the same team had been selected as reserves.

While their selection may not seem as impressive as being voted starters, it actually can be seen as more prestigious, with the coaches around the league selecting the reserves, as opposed to the popularity-driven fan voting which determines the starters.

Although their individual statistics are not as staggering as other all-stars, the Celtics show that team ball is valued in the NBA year round.

This is an important notion for a league often viewed as a “superstar league” where players play “selfish” basketball.

The Celtics were far from alone as far as teams with multiple players participating in the events were concerned.

The Miami Heat’s “Big Three” of Lebron James, Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh were all Eastern Conference all-stars, while Atlanta, Oklahoma City, San Antonio and the hometown Lakers were each represented by two all-stars.

During his postgame press conference, MVP Kobe Bryant discussed the players coming together to showcase their skills.

While he was highlighting individual skills, the key component of his statement was, “the players coming together.”

When legendary coach James Naismith founded the game of basketball, he did it to provide a team sport for the students under his tutelage.

Teamwork was the core of his vision, the heart of his invention.

Above all else, basketball was created as a team sport, a way to help rowdy students come together during the harsh Canadian winter months.

It is well documented that Naismith considered basketball to be inferior to gymnastics and wrestling as forms of exercise.

Yet he dedicated his life to furthering it and watching it bloom into what has today become one of the most popular sports in the world.

Naismith might not have valued the athletic contributions of basketball, but he recognized its importance as a team sport.

Every year, the National Basketball Association takes a break from normal game play and honors its brightest stars.

Some of them are on good teams, some are on bad teams.

Some are from America, others from Canada.

Regardless of their records or hometowns, these players come together to join forces.

East versus West, they wear unified jerseys, driving home the point that they are in fact teammates, not individuals.

They work together to entertain and they continually excite with one of the greatest athletic outputs of the year.

At the end of the game, one player (in this case, the inimitable Bryant) is crowned Most Valuable, but it is the sport and the fans that come away the winners.

The parties, celebrities and fanfare all shine brightly at All-Star Weekend.

They may take center stage, but no production can overshadow the true theme of the weekend.

Teamwork.

Sometimes, dreams do come true, even if the dreamer isn’t around to see it. Sunday night in Los Angeles was a testament to this.

Somewhere out there, Dr. Naismith is smiling.


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