A few weeks ago, when the National Cattlemen’s Beef Association held its annual convention and tradeshow at the Phoenix Convention Center, I wandered through the building and was surprised to find live bulls and broncos roaming about its lower level.
I figured that was as surreal a scene as I was likely to see in a downtown convention center until I walked into the same building Friday night and witnessed Magic Johnson and Julius Erving exchanging pleasantries in the center of a full-size basketball court as a half-dozen NBA mascots flipped about like Mexican jumping beans and that guy from Chuck ducked a camera boom to bump fists with Stuart Scott.
It was like 1982 NBA Finals meets Pan’s Labyrinth. Or maybe SportsCenter meets Hollywood Squares. Either way, it was weird.
The occasion for all this frivolity was the McDonald’s NBA All-Star Celebrity Game, which brought together NBA legends, TV and film stars, and (refreshingly) members of the Harlem Globetrotters for an evening of light-spirited hoops.
I won’t bother recapping the game, but in the spirit of Oscar season and obligatory blog snarkiness, here’s a list of highly unofficial awards that recognize the evening’s best personalities and performances. Enjoy.
Best Athlete on the Court: Terrell Owens. T.O., who won his second consecutive Celebrity Game MVP award, could log productive minutes at small forward for several NBA teams, including the Suns. Come to think of it, being on the receiving end of Steve Nash’s passes rather than Tony Romo’s might be better for his stats and his ego.
Fan Favorite: Chris Tucker. His voice is higher than his vertical and he’s a few sacks of rice heftier than his Rush Hour heyday with Jackie Chan, but Tucker still knows how to solicit laughs and cheers.
Awww, That’s Too Bad Award: To former “Human Highlight Reel” Dominique Wilkins, who couldn’t quite elevate for a dunk under the basket. When it comes to old guys and windmills, Dominique now plays second fiddle to T. Boone Pickens.
Chivalry is Dead Award: To Arizona alum and Harlem Globetrotter Eugene “Wildkat” Edgerson, for waylaying Lisa Leslie. Edgerson, who is 6-foot-6 (6-foot-11 with afro) and 245 pounds, rumbled from one end of the court to the other to swat the shot of the spindly WNBA star, sending her into photography row. That’s no way to treat a lady, especially on the eve of Valentine’s Day.
Biggest Bruiser: Micahel Rapaport. If it moves, Rapaport (Beautiful Girls, Mighty Aphrodite) will foul it. Then he will complain about the call in an over-the-top Brooklyn accent. This schtick was pretty funny the first seven times, but by foul No. 8 even his teammates seemed tired of it.
Ageless Wonder: Dan Majerle. Phoenix’s favorite adopted son scored 13 points and hit 3 of 4 shots beyond the arc. If you don’t guard Thunder Dan, he will make you pay. Still. (And he serves up a fine burger to boot.)
Best Mike D’Antoni Impression: To East team coach Julius Irving, who seemed to have little use for some of his reserves, particularly Zach Levi (Chuck) and James Denton (Desperate Housewives).
Hardest Theoretical Question: Who would win a celebrity smile-off between Magic Johnson, Curly Neal and Rick Fox? It’s a tough one, but I have to lean toward Neal, the legendary Globetrotter. He’s pure happiness in a red warm-up suit. I found his smile infectious when I was 7 years old, and it got to me again Friday night. Basketball could not ask for better ambassadors.