ORLANDO, FL -- It's late Sunday night, and after 48 hours of NBA All-Star Weekend, I'm borderline catatonic, so we'll go ahead and keep this pretty disorganized. For a look at Friday night and Saturday night, click here and here. For a more coherent recap of Sunday's All-Star Game, click here.
Now, then. Let's do this.
ALL-STAR WEEKEND IN A NUTSHELL
Well, the photo above -- with Lil Wayne and Kevin Durant -- pretty much nails the colliding worlds at All-Star Weekend. All that's missing is some aging NBA icon in the foreground, and like 800 groupies in the background. All-Star Weekend is the greatest.
I've never been to Super Bowl Week, but I think All-Star Weekend probably wins that battle. With the Super Bowl, everyone's so serious about the whole thing. There's parties and chaos, sure, but at the end of the day, you're still having a thousand conversations about the same game. The one that everyone's already sick of, in a city that's overrun by media and functionally paralyzed, all leading up to a night where most will be on the outside of the stadium looking in.
As far as All-Star Weekend's concerned ... If you're going to have a city become functionally paralyzed, it might as well be because it's overrun with rappers and groupies and star athletes. Right? Nobody even cares about the game. All-Star Weekend IS the game. People on the outside looking in don't even care; the spectacle's on the outside, anyway. Maybe it's not a trip you make every year, but if you love basketball, seeing All-Star Weekend in all its batshit glory is definitely something that's on your bucket list. Speaking of which ...
ALL-STAR SATURDAY NIGHT WITH FAB AND MELO (NOT FAB MELO, THOUGH)
With the help of some friends, I got into Carmelo Anthony's party on Saturday night. I feel obligated to provide a recap. And ... yeah, it was pretty fantastic. Not because it was ornate or even that impressive -- that would've been Dwight Howard's Adidas party on Friday, which was apparently held in an executive airplane hangar -- but because it felt like a more authentic glimpse of the All-Star social scene than anything you'd find in an executive airplane hangar.
We walked in through a smoky entrance to a club that was already pretty much at capacity, a full hour before any celebrity would show up. And until they did show up, the scene was grim in the most entertaining way possible. You had throngs of women squeezed into dresses that don't fit wobbling around on heels that make no sense, guys who were taking all this way too seriously, and then upstairs at the club, I guess blunts were just, like, legal?
You don't realize quite how white you are until you're in a club where pretty much every woman on the dance floor is singing along to "9 Piece" by Rick Ross. The most awkward moment of the night was probably when a friend and I walked up to two guys in matching jump suits, dreadlocks and gold teeth, and mistook them for the Ying Yang Twins. In our defense, we weren't the only ones who made that mistake. And on All-Star Weekend, isn't there at least a 50-50 chance you're gonna run into the Ying Yang Twins at some point?
The celebrities arrived a few minutes after our Ying Yang mistake. Kevin Durant, Russell Westbrook, Carmelo, Fabolous, Andrew Bynum and Andre Iguodala were all "Definitely in the building!" as the DJ said, and they were all definitely wearing those illuminati glasses we discussed on Saturday. The DJ also claimed Kobe was there, but I never saw him, and more importantly, I refuse to believe that Kobe does anything on All-Star Weekend besides sit in his hotel room and think about his legacy.
All the basketball players were on a platform in the middle of the crowd, which basically meant that other clubgoers were grabbing at them the entire time. Which leads the most important takeaway of the evening: All-Star parties are entertaining for people like me, but for actual superstars they just seem MISERABLE. I hope all those guys got paid to be there Saturday. All in all, though, on my end, it was definitely worth the trip downtown. As I tried to make my way through the crowd toward the exit at about 2:30, I accidentally stepped into a non-celebrity's $500 VIP Area, and was immediately shoved out HARD and given a pretty intense death glare. All-Star Weekend!
ORLANDO, THE CITY THAT'S A MAN-MADE LAKE
I don't know whether the water above was actually man-made, but think of Orlando this way: a man-made lake isn't bad. There's no real reason for it exist, but it's not a BAD thing. It's actually pretty great compared to most alternatives. Especially in Central Florida.
At the same time ... compared to all-natural, authentic alternatives (L.A., New Orleans, New York City, Chicago, Miami, Vegas), the man-made lake doesn't stand a chance. There's just that extra little character that certain cities have and others don't, and it can't be faked. Orlando was cool, but it doesn't have that character. It's as spread out and painful to navigate as Los Angeles, but it's NOT Los Angeles. So yeah, it'll never happen, but I still say the All-Star Game should rotate exclusively among the cities above. Or, if they insist on moving it every year, why not add someplace like London to the mix? TRANS-CONTINENTAL GROUPIES, Y'ALL.
TNT'S INTROS ARE THE BEST
However ... Idris Elba should never be allowed to speak with his British accent in public. Stringer Bell is too indelible a character to jeopardize with Idris Elba out here speaking like a golf announcer. That TNT video was great (they played it in the stadium too), but it stands in clear violation of the rules here. Then again ...
OH LOOK, IT'S NICKI MINAJ!
Any intro in the entire world is better than a Nicki Minaj-themed intro. One of the only actual, reporter-ish notes I took at Sunday night's game said simply: "Nicki Minaj is the f***ing worst."
It certainly seems like whoever makes the music choices for the NBA is a 13-year-old girl, and for a league that has a legitimate claim to being the coolest, most culturally literate sport in America, it's sort of mind-boggling that they can screw up this badly with such consistency. Sunday night we had the Gym Class Heroes at the pre-game concert, Nicki Minaj during the intros, PITBULL AND CHRIS BROWN at halftime, and then, just to top things off, they brought something called "Pentatronix" to butcher a Marvin Gaye song. We were somehow spared this year, but I refuse to believe that the NBA didn't ask LMFAO and the Black Eyed Peas, too. Someone needs to take the 13-year-old girl's iPod away.
A few more notes on the basketball side...
LONG LIVE LOVE
Especially amid a sea of superstars dressed up in hipster glasses, it's pretty great that Kevin Love and Kevin Love's spectacular lumberjack beard have emerged as dominant this year. He'd always been good in Minnesota, but now he's just tearing people apart. He didn't quite have his "moment" at All-Star Weekend -- where he destroys everyone so memorably that there's no question he's one of the best players in basketball -- but he more than held his own Sunday night, he walked away with the three-point title Saturday, and if there were any doubt among the mainstream about whether he's overhyped as a franchise player, it seems like he put all that to rest this weekend.
GOD THE CELTICS ARE DEPRESSING
The Eastern Conference All-Stars had four legitimate MVP candidates in the starting lineup, but good GOD the drop-off was painful once you got to the second unit. Paul Pierce is a Hall-of-Famer and one of my favorite players of the past 15 years, but only The Truth in an iso could make an All-Star offense look labored and overmatched, and Rajon Rondo was nearly as bad in his own right, only he didn't even have an excuse. Good rule of thumb for the next few years: Until they all retire, just avert your eyes when the Celtics take the court.
THUNDER AND LIGHTNING (OR SOMETHING)
(It's just an All-Star Game and Scott Brooks was coaching so things were probably skewed in their favor from the start, but didn't Russell Westbrook and Kevin Durant kinda look like the most explosive players on the entire West roster? It's like we've talked about them as "budding" superstars for the past few years now, and this year when they've both taken it up another level at the same time. It's too early to anoint them and we don't want to jinx anything, but if they somehow have another level to jump in the next few years, then the rest of the NBA is so totally screwed.)
(If we gave KD and Russ the nickname above, Russ would definitely be thunder, right? He dunks so ANGRY. Like he's trying to physically assault the rim every time he goes to the hoop.)
(Oh, speaking of the Thunder.)
BY FAR THE BEST PRESS RELEASE OF THE WEEKEND
The NBA is pretty great about getting press releases out to the media each day, and most of them are pretty basic. Either you're getting rosters, press conference transcripts or some promotional numbers for whatever event is coming up later that night. But amid the blur of propaganda, there was also this magnificent press release for Kevin Durant's new movie Thunderstruck.
Here's the synopsis they gave us:
A fun and energetic family basketball movie starring KEVIN DURANT AS HIMSELF, a basketball star who switches talent with a klutzy 16-year-old fan. When Brian, a hopeless uncoordinated young fan, magically switches basketball skills with his hero, Kevin Durant, he becomes the star of his high school team ... while Kevin Durant suddenly can't make a shot to save his life. But with the playoffs approaching, Brian learns that being a true hero winner involves working hard at your own game, and he tries to make things right in time to prevent a catastrophic end to his hero's season. "Thunderstuck" stars the Oklahoma City's Kevin Durant as himself, Taylor Gray (Nickelodeon's "Bucket & Skinner's Epic Adventures"), James Belushi ("According to Jim"), Brandon T. Jackson ("Tropic Thunder"), Doc Shaw ("Pair of Kings") and Tristan Mays ("Victorious").
"Thunderstuck" is directed by John Whitesell ("Malibu's Most Wanted", "Big Momma's House 2") from a teleplay by Eric Champanella ("Mr. 3000") ... Mike Karz ("New Year's Eve" and "Valentine's Day") produced the film.
HOLY S**T. This is like a 30 Rock spoof brought to life, right down to the Holiday Movie Guy producing and some C-list celebrity (Belushi!!!!) there to lend a hand. How badly must have Belushi mismanaged his money over the years?
Anyway, let's all go see this opening night.
THE BEST PHOTO FROM THE ALL-STAR GAME
Derrick Rose is either trying to meditate, or he's fantastically disgusted with LeBron James.
Maybe you side on TEAM ROSE here and think LeBron's kind of a horse's ass. There's so much evidence to support your case it's actually just redundant at this point.
On the other hand, if you side with TEAM BRON and think Derrick Rose's whole "there's a time and a place for dancing" explanation was totally lame, that's fair, too. There IS a time and a place for dancing, and it's OBVIOUSLY at the NBA All-Star Game, Derrick. Were you worried about disgracing the integrity of the game where the announcers basically treat Kevin Hart as a sixth player?
EITHER WAY: It's pretty great that the last two MVPs appear to genuinely hate each other. Or at least, D-Rose genuinely hates LeBron. Nobody's really sure if LeBron's paying attention.
THE SECOND BEST PHOTO FROM THE ALL-STAR GAME
A Chocolate Thunder sighting!
As ridiculous as the NBA All-Star experience seems (and is), it's also something like a family reunion for thousands of people who've been living through pro basketball for decades. I'm not part of that club and neither are you, but it's pretty cool that the All-Star Game gives us an annual excuse to join in anyway. 'Til next year ...