One week from today I’ll be filing these rankings from Houston, and next Sunday night we’ll see if LeBron takes the biggest shot of the game … or instead chooses to inbound it.
“You’re inbounding?” Kobe Bryant asked LeBron incredulously as the East had the ball for the final shot and the win in last year’s game in Orlando … back when The Haters ruled the LeBron James universe and a majority of people were quite certain that he would continue failing in the clutch, over and over again, for as long as his career lasted.
A lot has changed in a year, eh?
Let’s imagine the roles are reversed this year, and the teams are coming out of a timeout with 5 seconds left and the West trailing by two with the ball.
This time, could LeBron be the agitator? (KG can give him lessons).
“You guys are under .500?”
“You think Dwight’s staying? I don’t.”
“How many coaches you gonna kill this season, diva?”
And of course, Kobe will be rattled by none of it. Probably.
The only time I have ever seen him rattled at the end of an All-Star game was 10 years ago in Atlanta, after Michael Jordan (after being honored in a halftime tribute by Mariah Carey) had knocked down a baseline jumper with 4.8 seconds left in overtime to put the East ahead by 2. On the final play of OT, the ball found Kobe in the corner, and he was clobbered as he went up for a 3.
Perfect time for the refs to swallow their whistles, being that it was Jordan’s night and all, but the foul was a legit one and Kobe went to the line.
If he hits all three, the West wins. But he made only two, and Kevin Garnett dominated the second OT and finished with 37 points and game MVP honors.
Bryant and Garnett will be back as All-Stars next weekend, both playing for the 15th time. For LeBron, it’ll be his ninth. Let’s hope it’s a fun game. In fact, let’s hope it’s exactly like last year — but without LeBron inbounding on the last play. I want to see what he does with the ball in his hands and the game on the line. Or whether he gets into someone else’s ear.
Not that it’ll matter in these rankings. And not that it would linger in the minds of voters when they cast their ballots in April. I think.
Anyway, Kevin Durant will be in Houston next Sunday, too, and he is the defending All-Star MVP.
He also remains where he has been for a majority of the season now in these here rankings, which welcome three newcomers this week …