Someone asked me how my blog and newspaper column came to be titled "Bleachers Brew". It's like this, it's an amalgam of sorts of two things: The bleachers area in the stadium/arena where I used to sit when I would watch baseball, football, and basketball games and Miles Davis' great jazz album Bitches Brew. That's how it got culled together. I originally planned on calling it "The View from the Big Chair" that is a nod to Tears For Fear's second album, Songs from the Big Chair. So there.

Monday, February 19, 2007

My favorite NBA All-Star Weekend Moments

Pro basketball’s biggest party is something I really look forward to every year. When I was a kid, I’d associate the All-Star Weekend more with February more than Valentine’s Day – well, that is until girls became a little more of a priority (but now I don’t celebrate V-Day on the 14th but either the day before or after to avoid so many inconveniences).

For me, it’s the best “all-star” event of the major sports. I sure do enjoy Major League’s Baseball’s Home Run Derby but that’s about it. The All-Star Weekend – no defense and all – is still king. Now if pro football (not soccer, dummy) only would have something similar not just UEFA.

Here are some of my fave All-Star Weekend moments:

1988 Three-point Shooting Contest. The immortal Larry Bird put on a performance that I will never forget. Bird began by talking some subtle trash in the locker room when he asked, “Who’s finishing second?” Bird had won the first two installments of the contest despite a verbal disdain for the three-ball – if you ask me, it was just Bird bustin’ folks as he likes to say. Seattle Supersonics sharpshooter Dale Ellis finished with 15 in his final round and Bird calmly took to the right side of the court. After he rifled in a shot to tie the score, he held in his hand the money ball which he fired with time running down. Bird raised his crooked index finger as if to say that he was number one even before the ball settled into the net for the victory! Celtic teammate Danny Ainge who likewise took part in the competition raised both his hands in celebration as for one magical evening; the crowd in Chicago was firmly on the Birdman’s side.

1988 Slam Dunk Contest. The Human Highlight Film versus Air in the best slam dunk contest ever – sorry, Vince. I said contest not soliloquy. Pretty much every dunk you’ve ever seen that rocked the rim was on full display this night by two of basketball’s best dunk artists. Michael Jordan would end it with an awesome length-of-the-floor take off from the 15-foot line leaving Dominique Wilkins feeling both starry-eyed and robbed at the same time.

1991 All-Star Weekend. I was at my grandparent’s house watching the games on FEN. It was at Charlotte that year in 1991. A day before, Dee Brown won the Slam Dunk Contest with “the blind dunk.” Before the start of the All-Star Game, celebrated jazz saxophonist Branford Marsalis and Top 40 artist and pianist Bruce Hornsby trotted out to center court to perform what I believe was the game’s most stirring version of Star Spangled Banner. Now this was right before the start of the first Gulf War and it was a most anxious time for the world. San Antonio Spurs center David Robinson who was in the Navy reserves was playing badly as he was worried he would be called up for military service at that time. Charlotte is near the military’s Fort Bragg where many of its soldiers were deployed to the gulf and there were many military families in the stands and players on the floor who had tears in their eyes after Marsalis’s and Hornsby’ emotional performance. Their rendition proved to be so popular that the duo went on to record it and was later used in Ken Burns’s epic Baseball documentary.

A Magical Cameo. There was still some Magic in the air on February 9, 1992 at the O-rena in Florida. Several months after announcing that he was retiring after contracting the HIV virus, Magic Johnson was voted by fans despite not having played a single NBA-minute. The Golden State Warriors’ Tim Hardaway graciously gave up his starting slot to Johnson who didn’t disappoint with a 25-point and nine assist performance. He took Isaiah Thomas and Michael Jordan on-one-one and drilled a pair of treys that just rocked the stadium. And for Magic who came into the NBA with a boyish and winsome smile, he flashed the biggest grin of the night as he claimed the MVP trophy.

The 2000 Slam Dunk Contest in the Arena in Oakland. Vince Carter single-handedly pumped life back into what was becoming a sterile contest. He unveiled new dunks that no one saw before and firmly established himself as probably the best dunker of all time.

The Slam Dunk Contest in Las Vegas also has an added attraction with former dunk champs Julius Erving, Dominique Wilkins, Michael Jordan, Kobe Bryant, and Vince Carter as serving judges. Now here’s hoping that Nate Robinson loses.

On a side note: Pat Riley is a sham. First of all, when his Miami Heat started to lose, he steps down and says he’s had enough while handing the reins over to Stan Van Gundy. When the team is on the cusp of a title, he returns and dumps Van Gundy and goes on to win his fifth title as a coach. Then early this season, his team sucks and he bails out because he says he needs surgery. Just when the team begins to get healthy and “interim” coach Ron Rothstein does a masterful job, he’s back on the sidelines. What a faker! Here’s hoping his Heat crash and burn. Phil Jax is still way better than you, Riles! Let’s Go Bulls!

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