King Kaufman's Sports Daily

The NBA All-Star Game: It's not ready for prime time-tastic! Plus: Barry Bonds, in the new streamlined format.

By Salon Staff
Published February 18, 2004 1:00AM (UTC)
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Thank goodness for the holiday because I needed an extra 24 hours of vacation to recover from the excitement of that NBA All-Star weekend. It took all the energy I could muster to ignore most of it.

There's no event in sports that comes close to the lopsided hype-to-payoff ratio of the NBA All-Star Game. Even when the Super Bowl is a dud, it offers more excitement per cubic inch of buildup than when the NBA All-Star Game is a doozy, as it was last year, by its own paltry standards. It wasn't half bad this year either. But still.


It seemed like the whole world was in L.A. all week, pufferizing for the Big Event. Somewhere between the celebrity game and the rookie-sophomore game and the slam-dunk and three-point contests and the perfunctory parking-lot performance by Outkast, every single person who's ever had his or her picture taken by a paparazzo got at least three seconds of camera time. Paris Hilton's dog coached the celebrity game, or something.

Every sportstalk loudmouth was in town. Ashton Kutcher came out of his shell and allowed himself to be seen. I couldn't get an appointment with my podiatrist. "Dr. Schmedley is in Los Angeles all this week," his service said. "He's examining celebrity feet at the Magic Johnson Theatre in South Central for a special that's going to air right after 'The NBA Got Milk Former Child Star H-O-R-S-E Challenge Featuring Todd Bridges and Danny Bonaduce.'"

But all of this was mere prelude, nothing more than a weeklong overture leading up to the thing itself, the event so grand, so star-studded, so unbelievably exciting that it isn't big enough for network television. As Yao Ming jumped center against Jermaine O'Neal Sunday night, basketball fans from coast to coast exclaimed to each other, "Damn! TNT's going three hours without showing a rerun of 'Charmed'!"


That is, except for those of you, and you know who you are, who said, "Since when can Alyssa Milano dunk?"

At least there was halftime entertainment free from the heartbreak of wardrobe malfunction, though the headliner, ubiquitous hottie Beyoncé, didn't seem to bring her A game. And who in the cutting-edge, hip-hop-dominated NBA thought of having Michael McDonald as the opening act? What, was Kathie Lee Gifford booked?

The game itself is generally a mildly diverting affair, with this year living up to that standard. It's nice enough, if you don't have anything better to do, to watch the NBA's biggest stars having fun and joking around, trying to set each other up for spectacular dunks, wearing mismatched shoes, that sort of thing. But the insane level of puffery around the thing makes it seem even more pointless than it already is. An actually worthwhile event couldn't live up to the hype. How can something as weak as the NBA All-Star Game?


I have to say, though, that I'm glad the NBA has brought back the special East and West uniforms. In the old days, the All-Star unis were alternate-universe versions of the host team's home and road duds, but now both teams just wear generic-looking red, white and blue uniforms with lots of stars. Not great, but better than the practice in recent years of just having the players wear their regular team suits, which really looked shabby, like a pick-up game at a summer camp for high school players.

All-Stars wearing their own uniforms in baseball's game is a tradition, one the tin-eared baseball marketers tried to fiddle with last year, unsuccessfully. In the basketball game, which has been around for more than a half century without taking on a whiff of tradition, players wearing their own uniforms just seems like laziness.


TNT followed the All-Star Game with a marathon of "Law & Order" reruns. I kid you not.

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Thin is in: First Anna Nicole, now Barry? [PERMALINK]

"Barry looks great, thin, like a wire," Giants manager Felipe Alou said this week about his star slugger, Barry Bonds. "He works so hard. He looked good and strong, and he said, 'I'm ready to go.'"


In the wake of a 42-count indictment handed down in the BALCO steroid scandal, including charges brought against Bonds' personal trainer, Greg Anderson, it might not have been the most politic thing for Alou to do to point out how thin Bonds looks. As spring training opens, the sporting world is going to be looking at Bonds and his fellow bulked-up superstars with a more suspicious than usual eye to see if body shapes have altered any with the presumptive steroid spigot clamped off.

It's always been difficult to believe that Bonds, Sammy Sosa and other sluggers suddenly became muscle-bound behemoths mid-career without benefit of some sort of chemical help. The question has always been whether that chemical help has been of the legal, at a health store near you variety or the illegal, banned-substance variety.

Bonds' gym work ethic is legendary but it's never really explained why his neck became enormous in his mid-30s. If the shutting down of the BALCO operation in a storm of drug charges is immediately followed by Bonds showing up in Arizona looking like the long, lean colt of his Pittsburgh days, it will sure look like all those home run records Bonds has been setting the last few years can be traced to more than just hard work and native skill.


And skinny Barry sightings, I'm told, are the talk of the town in San Francisco.

Of course, if this new wiry Bonds hits 45 home runs this year, that would suggest either that he's been clean all along or that steroids don't help hitters much. Either way, it's something to root for.

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