Sheridan: All-Star finish was fun, but too much like June for LBJ

ORLANDO — Tuesday can’t get here soon enough. This one was fun for the final 3 minutes.

Too bad it took three days to get to those final 3 minutes.

And the final 10 seconds? Well, that was quite a special pass LeBron James threw to Blake Griffin (wrong team) rather than attempt the game-winning shot.

We gonna see that again in June, ‘Bron?

Even Kobe Bryant got up in James’ face after that ill-advised pass, asking him what the hell he was thinking?

“He was telling me I have to shoot it. I definitely wish I could have had that one back,” James said.

Didn’t we hear that last June in Dallas?

This was the first All-Star Weekend I’ve attended in four years, and pardon me for being a party-pooper, but I’ll remember enduring the first 45 minutes of Sunday night’s showcase event more than enjoying the final 3.

What will I remember from being in the building Sunday night? Elevators that beeped if too many people were aboard? The L.A. Thai Burgers ($12.50) being sold at the concession stands behind the luxury suites?  Security guards who decided that the rules for getting around the building on Saturday night no longer applied on Sunday night? Dwight Howard reading off a cue card as he thanked the NBA for having the league’s showcase event in “my city, my home, Orlando.”

When Howard closed his opening statement with he words “I appreciate you guys from the bottom of my heart,” you couldn’t help but wonder if that was coming off the cue card, too.

We are about to enter the annual post-All-Star rumor hysteria period, and the stuff being thrown against the wall is going to last for three weeks rather than the customary three days.

In a typical year, the trade deadline comes on the Thursday after the All-Star game. Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday are rumor days, the deadline then mercifully arrives, and we have a final reading on what each team if going to look like heading into the home stretch.

Then for two months, we can concentrate on the basketball.

This year, however, is not the same. The rumor mill will churn so hard it will detract from the quality of the ball being played by the league’s best teams, specifically the Heat, Spurs, Thunder and Bulls, and all eyes will remain on Orlando as the league awaits to see what 85-year-old owner Rich DeVos decides to do with his franchise center.

It is going to seem like an eternity — sort of like this weekend did.

The dunk contest? A dud.

The 3-point shootout? Hasn’t been exciting since Craig Hodges was in it.

The rookie game? Sorry, but I prefer to see Kyrie Irving do his thing when the competition is actually trying, because this kid gets it done for the Cavs like a grown man — not like the teenager he actually is. I don’t want to see him playing exhibition game-style basketball.

I’ve probably grown too old for these All-Star weekends. I am 46, I’ve been coming to these things since I was 28, and the allure of being surrounded by mobs of people, getting stuck in traffic and being spoken to condescendingly when asking a legitimate question of the commissioner has me down on this whole event.

I like real NBA basketball, because it’s competitive.

I love FIBA competitions, because they are speedy 40-minute battles in which players cannot call timeouts, there is true national pride involved, there are actual culture clashes and the whole thing is just so damn genuinely real.


It’s gone too over the top. It is more about the pre-game introductions and the halftime show, who is sitting courtside and who is in stopping to get photographed on the red carpet outside the VIP entrance (yes, they had an actual  red carpet. It about 1/100th the size of the one at the Oscars, which happened to be the NBA’s TV competition on this particular All-Star Sunday.)

If I had been home on the sofa and had the choice, I would have switched to the programming being beamed out of Hollywood rather than watch the first three quarters of this game, which was won by the West 152-149 over the East in what turned out to be an entertaining, close finish.

“I feel like I let my teammates down,” James said after throwing the ball away with less than 2 seconds left when he should have been freeing himself for the game-winning shot.

The West scored 88 points in the first half Sunday night, an All-Star record, and the teams combined for 157 points to tie the record for a half. In the second half, Bryant surpassed Michael Jordan as the all-time leading scorer in All-Star game history when he converted a breakaway dunk midway through the fourth quarter. I guess that is a neat thing. But I’d bet true die-hard Laker fans could care less. They want a better team by the time March 15 has come and gone, and they want a straight answer from the commissioner on why he vetoed the Chris Paul trade (I know this because hundreds of them tweeted me Saturday night for asking Stern the question they all wanted asked.)

But what this particular game reminded me of (aside from the Mavs-Heat finals) was the charity games that were being held here and there through the summer of the lockout, the summer that turned off so many of the casual fans that had begun to embrace this game for the first time since Jordan retired.

Those folks may come back in the spring when the playoffs begin, and it’ll actually be nice to have a compacted postseason with back-to-backs in the second round because that’s the kind of legit old-school NBA basketball I spent the early part of my adult years watching.

Those games were battles. Real battles. The atmosphere back then was genuine, not manufactured.


Bring on Tuesday, when there are nine real games on the slate. And then bring on Wednesday, when Andre Iguodala is going to be in Kevin Durant’s jock in Philly, actually trying.

I am a sucker for real competition. I am a hater of fake competition.

My idea is for a one-year experiment, scaling this event back.

Put the All-Star weekend it in a big city, but put the game itself it in a tiny gym that has real atmosphere. Or better yet, put the actual Sunday night game in a YMCA with no crowd at all.

Put a wireless microphone on every player, put a pile of $12 million in cash on a table courtside, like they do at the World Series of Poker, and let the winning team split it up evenly. The losers get nothing.

I guarantee you’ll get a more riveting game for a full 48 minutes, rather than just the final 3. The NBA is all about money, anyway, so they might as well make that the actual prize.

Maybe that’ll be the thing that makes LeBron go for the game-winning shot rather than reminding everyone about how he played last June. He’s all about the money and the glitz anyway. If a table of money was sitting there, I’ll bet he’d have taken that last shot.

I’ll walk away from this one with one final snapshot in my head — James giving the ball up when he should have been going for the glory.

Who knows when he’ll play another close fourth quarter and we’ll get to see what he’ll do with the ball in his hands and the game on the line. The Heat have been beating everyone so thoroughly, we haven’t seen him have many of those chances.

Maybe we’ll get that treat later this week when the Heat go out West, where  they went 0-3 on a road trip earlier this season. And if I have to stay awake until 1 a.m. to see whether LeBron is going to shoot or pass, it’ll have been worth it. For the remainder of the season, that is the question I want answered.

Yes, I want to know where Dwight Howard will end up.

But mostly I want to see if LeBron can come through in the clutch.

He certainly didn’t Sunday night, just like last June.



  1. Daniel says

    Chris you are a good write and I am surprised you wrote this article. For all was said about the last shot if you break down the play Kobe was not one on one he was double teamed by KD. Also Kobe was on him in the fourth all 4th quarter and he finished with 16 points and 3 pts. He had a bad turnover in a pick up game come on. Oh yeah lets for get Kobe talking trash to Paul Perice about the FT and than he clanged them just like he did against Dallas. For all this Kobe is clutch he is 7-29 on game winner. The argument of he is not afraid to take the last shot is a joke considering Kobe will always get the pass.

  2. Andrea says

    I think you’re a great writer, Sheridan, one of the best in the business, but come on now, LeBron had a MONSTER game tonight..he also made a few really, really tough shots. And he was the main reason the East got back in the game. If it wasn’t for him then the East would’ve been blown out and we wouldn’t even be here talking about his last play. Besides, had he made the winning basket people would be screaming at the top of their lungs “but it’s the all star game, so it doesn’t count!”

    As far as the game itself..the last quarter was GREAT, lots of intensity, defense and a very exciting finish. Not sure how people could hate on it. Just show that it’s impossible to please everyone.

  3. Sam says

    If he took and made the shot people would say it doesn’t count because it’s just the ASG. He made a poor pass and that counts? C’mon…can’t beat the narrative

  4. Craig Pottinger says

    @Dwayne +1000000000000. These so called “esteemed” media members are really just moronic idiots who are so desperate for readership. They will say anything that attracts attention good and/or especially bad. Lebron James is a special talent and that is undeniable whether you love or hate him. He is already one of the greats in spite of the fact that he has as many rings as Kwaaaaaame Brooooowwwwnnn!! When he is on your team you are always in contention, whether that team were the lowly Charlotte Bobcats or his now superior Heat team, which was a first round and out team before he got there. He has his flaws, but so does everyone. I have no problem if people/media are critical of Lebron. After all, they were critical of “tragic Johnson” and “stat stuffer” Michael Jordon before those guys went on to win multiple championships. However, I hate that so many media members/people will exhaust, to belabor a dubious point, every moral and intelligent fiber in their body. Enjoy the great player that he is. It will be a sad day when he can’t do the spectacular he does on a nightly basis.

  5. Lawler's Law says

    Yawn!…1 of 3k articles that will be coming out about this same subject in the following 24 hrs…yes, he’s not a finisher…but I’ll take him for the first 43 mins of a game and let someone else close it out…

  6. Dwayne says

    Sigh…I am sincerely tired of the Lebron James bashing. If he takes that shot and makes it, people will say it doesn’t matter till he does it in the finals. He passes it, he doesn’t have what it takes. If D-Wade makes the shot, then Lebron is just a Robin to his Batman. The guy can’t win. It’s hilarious to me that we are analyzing the last play of an All Star Game.


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