King James Reigns Supreme in Houston

The NBA’s best players were on display last weekend at the annual All-Star Game, held this year in Houston. Unlike most exhibition games, however, this game featured non-stop action and a fantastic finish.

After seeing him in the All-Star Game, it’s hard to imagine that Cleveland Cavaliers guard LeBron James just turned 21 years old. Although he should be a junior in college right now, he is instead dominating the world’s best basketball players. Pacing his team with 29 points, James led the East squad to a dramatic 122-120 comeback victory in one of the best All-Star Games in recent history. With his performance, James became the youngest All-Star MVP, an award that his play undoubtedly warranted.

James’ fiercest competition in the game came from his counterpart on the West, hometown hero and Houston Rockets guard Tracy McGrady. McGrady, a fellow college-skipping swingman, certainly did not disappoint his home fans in Houston, lighting up the scoreboard with 36 points, an incredible total in All-Star action. However, his great performance came up short, when he failed to make the game-tying shot, a jumper that was heavily contested by James.

This year’s game provided a welcome change from most All-Star Games. In general, most of these exhibitions fail to live up to their hype. Simply taking a group of talented players and throwing them together usually looks better on paper than in reality. The teams usually lack chemistry, leading to games that feature great individual skill, but little teamwork or defense.

The Pro Bowl, for example, is one of the biggest jokes in major professional sports. It is a great honor to be named to the team, but the actual game is an embarrassment for everyone involved. Football is a sport that requires significant practice time: offenses are complex, and even the most basic game plans require learning routes, blocking schemes and positioning. Expecting players, even the best in the world, to all be on the same page after just a few practices is unrealistic. Throw in doctored rules such as limited defenses, and the game looks more like an organized practice. Additionally, players are often unwilling to go all out, fearing injury (and rightly so). Having an honorary team is great, but actually playing the game is taking it too far.

Basketball, fortunately, is a game that easily lends itself to an All-Star Game. Even if there is extremely limited practice time, it is enough of an individual sport that the contest still retains some semblance of an actual game. It provides great excitement and action, as the nearly non-existent defense always leads to high scoring affairs. With the athleticism and skill of the players involved, All-Star Games are entertaining from a fan’s perspective. Plus, the players seem to really enjoy it too.

The NBA All-Star Game has provided many great memories. From Magic Johnson to Larry Bird, Michael Jordan to LeBron James, it is a stage where the greatest players in the world showcase their talents. Sure, the games may often lack the competitiveness of a meaningful game, but it is an exhibition. It is an opportunity to view the best in the world on the same court at the same time. As a fan, it is an opportunity that is hard to pass up. Next year’s contest should have even more flair, as the stars take their skills to Las Vegas.