|LeBron is on their minds|
By Ralph Wiley
Page 2 columnist
LeBron scored 52 points in a little over 28 minutes against L.A. Westchester High, in Trenton, New Jersey last Saturday night, then sat out for nearly half the fourth quarter. One of the high school refs later had his picture taken with LeBron for posterity, and was not the least bit self-conscious about it.
The NBA All-Stars nonchalantly talked about this before their double-overtime, 58-minute game Sunday in Atlanta, shrugging it off as best they could, that a high school kid basically opened the weekend show for them, and was in fact stealing it, trying to or not. It was up to them to steal it back. So T-Mac and Alley I. shot your basic 30-30, give or take a few tracers. Kobe had his, Shaq his, Yao reached down to pull up an alley-oop, KG had 37 and 9. MJ went out as he came in, firing without conscience, muttering, "Way to screw it up, Pistons."
He meant Pacers. Same thing.
Do we have more on MJ's thought processes below? You bet we do, in NBA All-Star Uncensored Thought Balloons.
Michael Jordan, G, Washington Wizards -- "Way to Screw It Up, Pacers, Bad News Boys. First, what was that at the beginning, letting me get introduced with the reserves, then having Vince traipse in with the starters while announcing he's "letting" me start? Yeah, "Surprise." Thanks. Couldn't buy one for a full quarter behind that, thanks for the favor, Isiah. Please don't do me any more. Even when you mean well, you're bad news. Mariah was looking good, but I'm on lockdown. Rain check on that, maybe? Then I hit that floater depth-charge bomb to win it at the end of the first OT, and Jermaine O'Neal, not the brightest light on the porch, fouls Kobe on a ridiculous off-balance would-be walk-out 3-bomb with one second left.
"Hell boy, don't screw up the happy ending! Damn! He makes it, he's a hero, we get paid and go home. He misses it, I'm a hero, we get paid and go home. That's what they pay to see! Geez ... this way was total anticlimax bleh bullcrap. I was putting out p.r. fires like this for people all weekend with all those mikes stuck in my face. Could give them a crueler assessment of the current situation. Could do that. But not tonight ...
"Now, with KG, Big Sleep, J-Kidd, Kobe, A-I, here comes LeBron. LeBron's 18. I took my time, and am still going to take my time, so you take your time, LeBron. Be careful what you ask for. You might get it. Now do you see how it feels to be recognized by everybody? Good, mostly. Feels good to be the king. So why should I give it up? Say you can't go out without being mobbed now? You don't even know what it is yet. Got two words for you to learn. Room service. And don't underestimate my scoring. I can score any time I want. Who's got the cards? Bron, you play?"
Kobe Bryant, G, Los Angeles Lakers -- "That was fun. Nice shot, Mike. Nice block, me. Dumb foul, him. This LeBron thing? Interesting? Piques my nostrils. Of course, in time I will bust him wide open like a pinata, but that's just me ... "
Shaquille O'Neal, C, Los Angeles Lakers -- "Sacramento Queens, Houston Rockettes, yeah I said it ... take a picture, write a book, burn a CD, open a can of paint, I don't care. Until April. ... I wasn't being a bully when I mocked Yao. Tell Yao I said, "Meat Wall made boo-boo." Maybe I was childish, but I wasn't trying to be that, that's not what I was going for. Yao is my brother. He called me 'Meat Wall.' Whoops. Just threw me a lob, on a line, on a down angle. Wow. Missed converting it ... never seen one before ... and did you see Yao's little hands-on-hips arms akimbo move during the introduction? ... I get a feeling Yao thinks he's Bruce Lee ... got a little swagger to him ... can you dig it?"
Yao Ming, C, Houston Rockets (translated from the Mandarin) -- "Shooting commercial every week, $10 million. Being athletic God to 1.3 billion people, $530 million (all to government). Seeing that look on Shaq's face: priceless."
Allen Iverson, G, Philadelphia 76ers -- "Does my voice sound gravelly, worldly, intriguing? I hope so. Practiced in front of enough mirrors. LeBron is real. We definitely ain't talkin' 'bout practice no more. Plus he's 6-8. Do you know how hard it is to be a six-footer and get off on these NBA giants like I just did? Damn hard, let me tell you. So don't worry about LeBron. Worry about the guy shorter than LeBron."
Steve Francis, G, Houston Rockets -- "I've got powerful big lips. The better to vacuum up any hype that might be left down in the carpet after LeBron sweeps through."
Tracy McGrady, G-F, Orlando Magic -- "LeBron, come on down. Got a little something for you, the same 30 I had for Kobe and everybody else. Seventeen in a quarter in an All-Star Game, and a quiet 17 at that. It's nice -- billboards, the sneaks, the life, but I'm tired of dropping 30 and still getting wiped, night in and out. I feel bad about Grant, but at the same time, get me some help up in here like tonight. I don't mean an all-done Horace Grant, where the best thing they do is sweat. No politicians. No funny ha-ha. Need a man ... so, yeah, LeBron would be nice. I can think of 28 or 29 other teams that would feel the exact same way."
Vince Carter, G-F, Toronto Raptors -- "It's over! Oh, wait, that's the slam-dunk contest. My starting spot over? Thanks a lot, Isiah. Way to put the weight on me. Go ahead, don't mind me. Go against the fans. Vinsanity's my name, power-dunking is my game and caring ain't in my contract. Who you gonna believe, Oak, or your own eyes? Honestly, how many people are rushing out to watch Oak whirlybird-dunk? Can I win. Yes I can. Can you? Oooh. That jam was sweet. Ow. That didn't hurt. Yes, it did. Time. Sub. What? You want to sub LeBron for me? Wait, I feel better."
Kevin Garnett, F, Minnesota Timberwolves -- "So they want to try LeBron at 4. Against me? I think not. Try 37 on for size in an All-Star run. When I can shoot over the top of T-Mac, a long-a$$ man, with such ease, it's tough. I even played some 2, and, like Carrie's mother, I liiiiked it. Don't be a skirt, Steph; we did phone hang in high school hours at a time, laughing about swag and busting up overmatched kids. Was it all so simple then? What did the years do? Why is Steph trying to run me down in this parking lot?"
Tim Duncan, C-F, San Antonio Spurs -- "It's quiet. Too quiet ... what DVD to play? 'From Hell,' 'Texas Chainsaw,' 'Red Dragon,' 'Manhunter,' 'Hannibal,' 'Resident Evil,' 'Evil Dead II' ... who's knocked? Uh-oh, its David ... let's see, 'Like Mike,' 'Hoop Dreams,' 'Hoosiers,' 'Blue Chips' ..."
Shawn Marion, F, Phoenix Suns -- "You belong, Shawn. No, you do. You can play. You can play way better than any LeBron. Far as you know. Just be cool, Shawn. Uh-oh, they're putting you on Jordan, Shawn. Give him nothing cheap. Make him work. Ohmigod ... I can't believe he just hit that freaking rainbow ... is that a zit? Not now ..."
Jason Kidd, G, New Jersey Nets -- "LeBron? It's my own son who concerns me. Why is his mustache thicker than mine already? I'd ask his mother, if I could get a word in edgewise. Son, don't sit on the bench with Daddy during the skills challenge ... don't look at me like that, son. ... OK, sit wherever you want ... Daddy's cool ... isn't he, son? Let me concentrate on Kobe. Nice to do battle with him. Make it tough on him. ... Jermaine, no! ... What are you doing, man?"
Gary Payton, G, Seattle Sonics -- "... umm, more gear ..."
Steve Nash, G, Dallas Mavericks -- "I don't see that there's anything so wrong with the way Michael Jackson looks. Nice, Allen. Very, very nice. Secretly, Allen's my hero."
Brad Miller, C, Indiana Pacers -- "If LeBron goes out West too, they might as well cancel the All-Star Game, just make it U.S. vs. the World, Shirts vs. Skins, anything but me and Jermaine facing Yao, Shaq, Duncan and Garnett year after year. You invite me to the All-Star Game just in time to stick me into a meat-grinder. What happened to you, David Stern? You used to be somebody I could trust. Zydrunas, my man. C'mere ... listen, I was thinking ..."
Dirk Nowitzki, F, Dallas Mavericks -- "If I cut open my head, millions of tiny basketballs with white propellers in a sky-blue background would spill out and fly off like Fokker D-7 tri-planes or Messerschmitt ME-109s. ... If I cut open Nelly's head ... I would get a jowly, blonde, middle-aged man with a paunch doing a sideline jig, or a signifying kid surrounded by seductive dancing women, singing tunes about Air Force Ones, whatever they are. In LeBron's head? Unknown. LeBron seems to be the one cutting open all the heads around here. America -- it's a compli-cated place."
Stephon Marbury, G, Phoenix Suns -- "LeBron got nothing on me. I got way more than two jerseys. Never get over KG not sticking up for me to get mine. He still my boy, but it was all about mine. That's what I thought at the time. I am the man. I was the man on Coney Island. I cried when I got drafted. Begging relatives make you sad. I played pick-up with my cousin Sebastian Telfair. Yeah, he made a few shots. I did not quit. I had somewhere else I had to be."
Paul Pierce, F, Boston Celtics -- "Wait, wait -- 'Toine was in the 3-ball? 'Toine? Ohhh-kaaay. (On bench, second half) Hey, don't look at me, he's not with me. Why aren't we playing? I guess Isiah doesn't like me? Fraud. Said he was trying to win. I take that personal. Shouldn't I?"
Antoine Walker, F, Boston Celtics -- "Never should've entered the 3-point contest. How many I make? Seven of 30? I'd be embarrassed -- if I had any shame to begin with. Yeah, low block, post up, re-post, sure, right, got it, (rolls eyes, sings like Boss) Bornnnn ... on the 3-Point Line. ... One thing I know for sure, I'm sticking my 6-9 butt out and hoisting. Take me to the Olympics. Please. I promise to do the dirty work. Yeah, hoisting. Figure some of 'em gotta go in. Right? OK, one more. Damn. OK, one more. Little too strong. OK, one more. Off. Way off. OK, one more. ... (On bench, second half) Why he won't play me? Me and Paul. Zydrunas nailed to the pine I understand, but me? I'm (vexed). I'm (very very vexed). Isiah, that (bleep)."
Peja Stojakovic, G-F, Sacramento Kings -- "Beyonchee Knowles, yum. Mariah too. Rick Fox, ew. Want to fight Peja, think he in Peja's head. Fox has fine strong wife. But if I tell Fox in playoff, he want to fight. Must hit 3-ball to beat Lakers. Make up for choke job air ball. Hard to shoot with knotted stomach. Hit shot, be loved, like Drazen. Then go to Split in glorious. Come back and really get paid. That how you say it, right? Really get paid. That how you say it. Vlade taught me. Vlade is smoooth."
Chris Webber, F, Sacramento Kings -- "ESPN had a poll to see who had the nicest butt. They got, like, no clue, man. LeBron wasn't in the poll. Tyra was. I'd brood, and scowl, and howl, and be threatening, just to keep up appearances, but, first of all, I'm on best behavior, and as she's informed me, it's her butt, not mine, although I can lease it. Speaking of a$$ out, I'm playing that way. ... I know nobody'll be happy, 'til we win the NBA title. I'd be happy just to get a do-over on certain testimony. Should've listened to Jalen."
Ben Wallace, C-F, Detroit Pistons -- "LeBron, Shaq, Yao, Wilt, Russ, Lightnin', Thunder, General Desolation, bring 'em all on. I am. ... Big Ben ... see you soon, flyin' boy."
Jermaine O'Neal, C-F, Indiana Pacers -- "LeBron ain't, like, new. I came in out of high school, too. Not getting blown up like this, no. Was I as good as LeBron? Seems like I was better, the way I remember. Don't ask the Yugoslavs or the Argentines though. What do they know about it anyway? Must block Kobe now. What? Foul? Who? Me? No. Mike? Mike? Sorry. Really sorry. My bad. I'm your legacy too, Mike ... Mike? ... Mike must've not heard me. ... Isiah ... please don't leave me hanging out here by myself ..."
Zydrunas Ilgauskas, C, Cleveland Cavaliers -- "No. I didn't mind playing only four minutes. Noting out dere for me except, how you say, heartache and pain? Just hoppy to be here, So LeeBron James will be dunking on me too, very soon?" (Sighs.) "OK, let's talk business ... I want a dozen posters of him dunking on me, all signed and personalized, two matted and framed, use of the Hummer for five days a calendar year. Unless he plays for the Cavs. Then, same deal, only I get him a Hummer, outright. OK? Deal."
Ralph Wiley spent nine years at Sports Illustrated and wrote 28 cover stories on celebrity athletes. He is the author of several books, including "Best Seat in the House," with Spike Lee, "Born to Play: The Eric Davis Story," and "Serenity, A Boxing Memoir."