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All-Star Hoopla

By Sarah Barton

02/19/09


It's been a pretty low-key week here in Celtic Land. The C's have seven days between games due to the hullabaloo that was All-Star Weekend. Saturday's dunk contest was entertaining, and the Three-Point Shootout was, well, the Three-Point Shootout. But Sunday's All-Star game wasn't the usual hoopla. It was hoop-LA. I use this term to convey the NBA's current obsession with the regression to what was once hoops in LA: Kobe, Shaq, and Phil.


The reunification of those three shoved Boston's Big Three (along with the rest of the East...and arguably the West) under the rug. It may have been the biggest comeback performance since the Spice Girls Reunion Tour. For the host city of Phoenix, whose Suns are currently in the bottom half of the West, the hoop-LA was a welcome distraction.


Shaq danced, Kobe scored, Phil coached, and all three won. Shaq poured in 17 points in just 11 minutes of play, and he and Kobe (27 points in 30 minutes) shared the MVP award. For the record, the MVP voting went down like this: Shaq won the media vote 5-4 over Kobe, but Kobe got two more for winning the fan vote and Shaq got one for coming in second in the fan vote. The final tally: Shaq 6, Kobe 6. (Sidenote: A few weeks ago, I stated that "The sports world does not require an Electoral College." I stand corrected.) It couldn't have worked out any better. Too bad Bruce just performed at the Super Bowl, because a rendition of "Glory Days" would have been oh-so fitting.


But, in the midst of all of that, it took a Celtic to remind the NBA of its true glory days. On Saturday, the NBA announced that the Finals MVP award will now be named after Bill Russell.


There are winners, and there are Winners. Bill Russell is a Winner. He has been called the greatest winner in sports history. Step back and think about that. The goal of every athlete in every sport is to win. That one man has won more and better than any other athlete in history is astounding. Bill Russell is that man.


Russell won 11 NBA Championships in 13 seasons with the Celtics. I would guess that a majority of NBA players don't last more than ten years in the league, and only a handful of them even reach the NBA Finals. Russell won 11 rings, and his final two came as a player-coach. Can you imagine a player-coach in the NBA today? Me neither. 


It is only fitting that the NBA Finals MVP award be named after Bill Russell. How many times did he win the award? Zero. It didn't come into existence until his final Finals appearance when it went to Jerry West, thereby making West the only Finals MVP in history whose team did not win the series.


It makes no difference that Russell never won the award. What goes around, comes around. The man himself is a walking, talking, humbling pillar to success - both individual and team. His appearance at this past All-Star Game was a brief but necessary antidote to the hoopla and hoop-LA and literal song and dance that we have come to expect from the NBA.


Just before halftime of the game, the Celtics' Big Three presented Russell with a cake to celebrate his 75th birthday. In the midst of Shaq's dancing, Kobe's scoring, and Phil's coaching, Russell's eating may not have stolen the show, but he earned his cake and savored it too. Come to think of it, instead of a cake, the NBA should have arranged for a huge humble pie, and every All-Star should have been given his fill.


Maybe next year.


...Wait...what? Dallas hosts the 2010 All-Star Weekend? Never mind then. I'm not sure that "humble" is in Mark Cuban's vocabulary.

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