From Minaj to Durant, All-Star Game brings it
ORLANDO -- Four months ago, during the dog days of the lockout, some people didn't think the NBA would make it here. But here we are. One hundred and sixty one days of work stoppage and two months of an accelerated basketball schedule have all led up to this one moment, the NBA All-Star Game.
Judging by the level of excitement in the crowd, the lockout is a mere afterthought. The NBA's best and brightest are preparing to put on a show for a star-studded crowd; anyone who is anyone is in the house tonight. Including yours truly. Tonight, you're V.I.P. with me as I give you all the behind-the-scenes details from the big game.
7:20 p.m. ET: My favorite artist, Nicki Minaj, gets the party started here at Amway Center. Bass bumps throughout out the arena, giving it a total concert feel. Nicki memorizes the crowd and is feeding off of its energy. She's putting on a show here. But would you expect anything different? She picks the perfect song ("Moment for Life") to commemorate this special moment for all the players.
7:25 p.m. ET: Did the starting lineup just come out of the ground in an introduction complete with smoke and fire? OK, that's it. The NBA has the best All-Star Game. That looked like a scene straight out of a Michael Bay film.
7:33 p.m. ET: The East's starting lineup comes out bouncing to Rick Ross' "I'm a Boss." Derrick Rose is ... well ... just Derrick Rose. Blank. Someone buy that boy a personality.
7:30 p.m. ET: Minaj performance No. 4. I think the All-Star Game has been replaced with a Nicki concert. Oh, well; this Nicki Minaj fan doesn't mind.
7:42 p.m. ET: Mary J. Blige gets the game started right by putting a little edge on the National Anthem. That's how you sing it!
7:47 p.m. ET: Dwight Howard comes to the middle of the floor with a piece of paper and a microphone in his hand. Is he going to announce that he's staying in Orlando? I think Amway Center would explode and the Internet would crash if he did. Alas, no big revelation. But he uses terms like "my home" and "my city" when thanking everyone for coming out to celebrate the weekend.
7:50 p.m. ET: Before the game gets under way, let me get my MVP prediction out of the way. If the West wins, I've got Kevin Durant; if the East wins, I've got Howard (just for the great storyline).
7:54 p.m. ET: As Rose gets the dish down under from an East teammate, I realize we could be getting a preview of the 2012 Olympic team. By the looks of things, the rest of the world is playing for second place.
7:56 p.m. ET: Chris Paul with the assist to Durant. And the alley-oop contest that is the All-Star Game is under way!
7:59 p.m. ET: Almost every basket is a dunk. Some windmills, some tomahawks and some just ridiculous. The crowd is digging every minute of it.
8 p.m. ET: All-Star crowds are normally pretty quiet and just wait for the next dunk, but this crowd is present and hyped for every play. That's pretty special. The arena and massive amount of people here have something to do with it.
8:10 p.m. ET: Is it just me or does Rose not seem to fit in here? He's doesn't have the flashy play or personality the All-Star Game calls for. Each time he gets in the paint, he just dishes it off to a teammate. Rose's mind is focused on one thing and one thing only -- bringing a championship to Chicago. It's like he could do without all this All-Star stuff.
8:15 p.m. ET: Remember that hyped crowd comment I made a few minutes ago? Well, I take that back. It's toward the end of the first quarter, the starters are sitting and the crowd dies down, figuring it's a good time to break for concessions. There's no music playing during play. It kind of feels like a high school basketball game.
8:20 p.m. ET: The JumboTron is showing a Magic Johnson montage commemorating the 20th anniversary of him announcing he was HIV positive from Nov. 1991 and his subsequent return to the court just months later at the All-Star Game, which was also in Orlando. After the montage, Magic walks onto the court to a standing ovation from the Amway crowd.
8:30 p.m. ET: A comical timeout performance; a mascot pretends to lick Cee Lo Green's head. Mascots really make my day.
8:32 p.m. ET: Russell Westbrook is doing the most right now. All-Star Games are made for people like him. His play says, "Look at me! Look at me! There's another talented player on the Thunder, too!"
8:38 p.m. ET: Well ,that's something you will never see during the regular season. Howard just got dunked on -- twice. Durant follows his dunk on Howard with the stare down. What makes it so funny is that KD doesn't have a mean bone in his body.
8:40 p.m. ET: Is it time for the halftime show yet? Halftime at the NBA All-Star Game is the only NBA halftime when folks don't hit the concession stands. Why? Because it's party time.
8:45 p.m. ET: The lights at Amway Center begin to dim for the halftime act, Mr. 305 himself, Pitbull. I think the NBA could have picked a better performer, but let's see what the King of Miami's got.
8:55 p.m. ET: Pitbull has everyone out of their seats trying to get a closer glimpse of the stage. He seems to know what he's doing up there. My foot may or may not be tapping underneath the table.
9 p.m. ET: OK, I give in. Chris Brown just hit the stage for a cameo with Pitbull. It's a party in here.
9:02 p.m. ET: Pitbull disappears and Brown rocks the stage solo like everyone wants him to do. Breezy jams out to the beat like only he can. He really doesn't even need a microphone; his acrobatic dancing is enough from me. It's like he has happy feet.
9:05 p.m. ET: A Grammy performance just broke out in the middle of the All-Star Game. There are at least 30 dancers on stage, strobe lights everywhere and silver streamers falling from the sky. Whoever is responsible for this halftime performance really outdid themselves. Bravo.
9:08 p.m. ET: Whew, I feel like I want to hit the club after that show. Thankfully, there is still 10 minutes left in the half to calm down from that blockbuster performance.
9:20 p.m. ET: The second half starts with Dwyane Wade fouling Kobe Bryant and giving him a bloody nose. Wait a minute, there's blood and hard fouls in the All-Star Game? That's got to be a first. Everyone knows, this is really meant to be a 48-minute dunk contest.
9:34 p.m. ET: Kobe with the breakaway dunk. Why am I always surprised when he elevates? Black Mamba's still got it.
9:42 p.m. ET: There is an announcement that Kobe has passed Michael Jordan's 262 points to become the all-time All-Star Game scoring leader and it is met with little applause from the crowd. Do these people know anything about basketball?
9:50 p.m. ET: According to my Twitter timeline, the Academy Awards are on. And I should care because ...?
9:55 p.m. ET: John Wall is on the kiss cam with some girl he's not even acknowledging. Can you say, awkward?
10:03 p.m. ET: Five minutes left in the game. When is this going to turn into the Blake Griffin show? I know I'm saying what everyone is thinking.
10:07 p.m. ET: My Durant/MVP prediction is shaping up nicely. He has a game-high 34 points and the West is winning 140-130.
10:11 p.m. ET: LeBron is ruining my MVP prediction with two 3-pointers in the last two minutes to bring the East within five points.
10:15 p.m. ET: Surprisingly, the fans are still in their seats. I guess they want to make sure they don't miss the dunk of the night.
10:16 p.m. ET: As I typed that last comment, Russell Westbrook delivered what may be the best dunk of the night. Just when you think you've heard it all, the crowd starts chanting, "Defense!" in a 150-149 All-Star Game.
10:19 p.m. ET: Fans are now booing Kobe at the line as he goes for two clutch free throws. These fans really care about a game that, in the big scheme of things, doesn't mean much. And who said the league would suffer after a lockout?
10:25 p.m. ET: NBA commissioner David Stern presents Durant with the MVP award. Too bad I can't gloat to anyone on media row.
10:30 p.m. ET: There you have it; the West wins its 25th All-Star Game with a 152-149 victory against the East.
All-Star weekend was filled with music, fun and, most importantly, basketball. The NBA really knows how to throw a party. Now, back to our regularly schedule program of Linsanity and badgering Howard about where he wants to play.
See you in the second half of the season!