LOS ANGELES, CA-Everyone wants to be like Mike. Or James. Or Russell. Or Blake. Or LeBron. Or Steph. You can’t blame them. Players making a living in the NBA make it look easy on the basketball court. That happens when you’re regularly breaking somebody’s ankles on a stupid crossover or humiliating your opponent with an ego-busting step-back, three-point shot. We’re not even going to discuss many of those posterization dunks that come on a nightly basis.
That’s basketball. That’s the NBA way. From playground pickup games to summer pro-am basketball leagues, the NBA finds its game emulated and duplicated. Sometimes when you watch James Harden go through with one of his patented drives to the basket you sort of take it for granted that the Houston Rockets star is one of the best ballers on the planet.
When we see reining league MVP Russell Westbrook put on his one-man show, the awe of watching his superior athletic skills can be dumbfounding. Let’s not forget about the stupendous distant shooting show Golden State megastar Stephen Curry entertains basketball fans everywhere with. Then there’s LeBron James. Well, you really don’t have to add anything to those two words. Enough said.
When we watch these individual players, sometimes the thought is that, “if those guys can do, I can do it.” No, that would not be the case.
That’s not a good form of reality. Try matching the full throttle intensity and speed of Harden or Westbrook as they go coast-to-coast on a drive and you’ll likely need some medical attention. There’s a reason why these players and others are the best among the best in the world. There’s a reason why people fork over hundreds, even thousands of dollars just to see them up close and personal as they orchestrate their magic on the basketball court.
Then there’s the everyday jock who play the occasional pickup game and think we can simulate that same kind of aura. That would be wishful thinking. It would be fun trying but trying to emulate one of Westbrook’s dazzling drives or trying to mirror a Blake Griffin power show might get you into a heap of trouble, especially if you like to talk trash. The basketball court doesn’t lie, and it doesn’t compromise.
You either bring a semblance of a game to the court or you’ll find yourself getting embarrassed. Everyone thinks that they can be a hoopster. As we witnessed at the 2018 NBA All-Star Celebrity Game being played at the Verizon Up Arena inside the Los Angeles Convention Center, the contest dazzled in name-dropping, not necessarily in Hoop Academy 101.
It was cool to listen to Academy Award winner Jamie Foxx talk smack to Justin Bieber during the pre-game warmups. Seeing Black Panther star Michael B. Jordan, along with ESPN sports personality Rachel Nichols, coach up his Team Lakers squad was awesome.
Quavo, one-third of the hip hop group, Migos, showed he can hoop, going 3-for-3 on his field goal attempts in the first half of the game. He wound up scoring 19 points and wound up as the game’s MVP as Team Clippers beat Team Lakers, 75-66. Olympian and former USC sprinter Andre De Grasse showed he can do a bit of something with the basketball, slashing his way to the basket to score 17 points.
WNBA and Los Angeles Sparks star Candace Parker called out Foxx in a personal challenge. Red Hot Chili Peppers founder and bassist Flea, golfer Bubba Watson and Stranger Things star Caleb McLaughlin, along with the industrious Nick Cannon, were all trying to find their basketball groove. It turns out that the contest was supposed to be what it turned out to be: entertaining and a whole lot of fun.
There wasn’t a whole lot of real round ball skills being exhibited on the court. But then again, if you attended the game hoping that Curry, Harden, Westbrook or Griffin would show up in the form of your favorite celebrity, you turned the dial to the wrong channel. That broadcast is scheduled for regular programming on Sunday. The NBA All-Star Celebrity Game is in place to provide relief and fun in the middle of the hoops universe, and nothing more.