LOS ANGELES — Hoops united with Hollywood on a night of stars that ran the gamut by appealing to every taste, regardless of generation.
During the 60-year history of the NBA all-star game, there have been more compelling storylines, extended stretches of high-level play, but none of the league’s mid-season classics quite compared with the latest renewal, which unfolded Sunday night at the Staples Center.
The evening’s tenor was set by Lenny Kravitz, who performed pre-game and whose music ushered in the game’s players.
It would continue with Josh Groban’s stirring rendition of the U.S. national anthem and a riveting halftime show by Rihanna, who was joined midway through her set by the crotch-grabbing Kayne West.
If the fans were entertained by the uptempo pace and dunks, the constant sightings of pop stars, movie stars, rap stars and the occasional porn star held them captive.
It was that kind of night, a night that could be orchestrated only in L.A.
And the fans loved it, which, at the end of the day, is all that matters.
In the entertainment capital of the world, the on-court entertainment wasn’t the greatest, but it wasn’t bad, either.
Defence becomes an afterthought in any all-star backdrop, replaced by quick jumpers, multiple substitution patterns, unlikely lineups and plenty of sloppy turnovers.
The competitive best from the world’s best ballers comes out when the game is on the line, a time that normally arrives in the final minutes.
Sunday was no exception when a walk in the park by the West turned into an intense battle.
The West took the early initiative, spearheaded by Kobe Bryant, the Lakers superstar who got the loudest ovation.
On one possession, Bryant drove the baseline and finished the sequence with a reverse dunk.
He would find his shooting rhythm, produce steals and emerge as the game’s MVP in leading the West to a 148-143 win.
Before the opening tap, Bryant, teammate Pau Gasol and Clippers sensation Blake Griffin addressed the crowd and thanked the audience and the city for supporting the star-studded weekend.
While Bryant was cheered, L.A. native Paul Pierce of the Celtics was booed, be it during the pre-game introduction, the moment he and the rest of Boston’s Big Four entered the game or the time Pierce heaved an air ball on is first attempt.
The rivalry between the Celtics and Lakers is so intense that it wasn’t surprising to hear the boos cascade, though fans did show their appreciation of Ray Allen’s three-point shooting ability, cheering Allen following his first make from beyond the three-point arc.
Recently, Allen broke UCLA product Reggie Miller’s mark to become the NBA’s career leader in made three-pointers.
Miami’s Big Three of Chris Bosh, LeBron James, who would post a triple-double, and Dwyane Wade were spared the boos by the crowd.
In fact, fans enjoyed the way Bosh was able to get off his silky smooth jumper, on spot ups, step backs and fadeaways.
Bosh would make his first six shots from the field.
Given his hectic weekend, which included a win in Saturday night’s slam dunk event, it wasn’t surprising to see a lack of pep in Griffin’s step.
Fatigue notwithstanding, Griffin did convert an alley-oop feed by Deron Williams that excited the crowd.
All in all, it was a night worth remembering.
And as they say in Hollywood, that folks was entertainment.