2020 NBA All-Star Game

It was great.

Jim Rome
February 17, 2020 - 9:38 am
James Harden and Kyle Lowry

USA Today

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The NBA All-Star Game was yesterday and if I’m starting the show by talking about the national anthem, that’s never a good thing. And usually a sign of worse things to come. It’s a notoriously hard song and everyone is going to do it differently. That’s the point. If we just wanted a carbon copy anthem every time, we could just hit play on a tape recorder before every game. 

It’s also a pretty tired take to just come in the next day and clown the national anthem. So I’m not going to do that. I will say that I am aware that the anthem was performed yesterday. And I’m aware that it was different.

As Questlove tweeted: “I’m not watching the all-star game but my phone is ringing off the hook. My guess is someone did a weird Star Spangled?”

That someone was Chaka Khan. And I’m not going to call it weird, I’m just going to say it was a Chaka Khan version of the anthem. They say when you sing a song, you should make it your own, and Chaka did just that. 

And yes, that was just an excerpt and if you were putting money down on the anthem, I have two hopes for you: that you took the over and that you seek help, because betting on the anthem length at the NBA All-Star Game is a cry for help.

You can dislike that version of the anthem, I’m going support you in that. But I’ll tell you what you won’t be doing – you won’t be comparing Chaka Khan to Fergie. Because those weren’t even in the same league. The Queen of Funk was doing a take on the anthem, Fergie was trying to take the anthem to bed.

Anyway, let’s play some basketball!

Because they actually still had time for a game after that anthem. And it was a game. Like seriously, and here are words that I’m not sure I’ve ever said before: that All-Star Game was good. I liked it. 

I liked just about everything about it, including Common’s pre-game introductions of the players. That was cool, right down to the fact that he somehow fit Giannis   

Antetokounmpo into a verse.

And no, I don’t care that it’s an approximate rhyme. That was a man’s game by Common. The easy way out would’ve been to go with The Greek Freak, but Common went the hard way and nailed it.

And then there was the game.

When they first announced the new rules for the game and the fourth quarter, I’ll be honest, I was really confused. There was a target number, there was a chasing number, there was an untimed quarter, there were all sorts of different language.

In other words, the league could not have done a worse job explaining the rules initially. And people were rushing in with their complaints about how it would ruin the game, like that really mattered. Like the sanctity of an All-Star game is something to really cherish and pass down from generation to generation.

As weird as the initial explanation was, it was never going to be as bad as Bud Selig making it count. Because it’s just an All-Star game and if it didn’t work, it wasn’t going to mean anything for the rest of the season.

But even better, it did work. The Elam Ending was pretty damn good. Because once everyone realized that all it meant was that the winner had to get to 24 points more than the leading team’s total after the third quarter, which was one of a number of tributes to Kobe over the weekend, then everyone got it. It was essentially like a game to 11 or 21, like you’d play in pickup. 

We can talk about whether it should be able to end on free throws the way that it did, but that fourth quarter was really good and there was serious intensity, at both ends.

Giannis blocking LeBron.

And doing it again

LeBron locking up Giannis and then Giannis diving out of bounds to save the ball. 

It wasn’t just blocked shots, you had guys fighting over screens and denying entry passes. Denying entry passes?!? In an All-Star Game, are you kidding me? There are some regular season games were guys aren’t fighting through picks or denying entry passes and guys were doing it like crazy in an All-Star game. 

There was even a replay review of a block in an All-Star Game. And even that review was tense, which has to be a first.  

And you even had Kyle Lowry taking a charge in an All-Star Game. Correction, taking two charges in an All-Star Game. That has to be a new record.

There was this one.

And then this one with James Harden, with the game on the line. 

That is awesome. And of course, Lowry would be the guy to do it. Because that’s the kind of intensity that he brings to the game. Every game. Harden made the shot and that’s the shot that would’ve put Team LeBron at 157 and would’ve won the game for them. If Lowry doesn’t take that charge, the game is over. That was a game-saving charge. 

Until Anthony Davis ended it with a free throw.

Sure, it’s not great that it ended on a free throw, but don’t come in here and tell me that basketball games can’t end on a free throw. They do all the time. Either a free throw to win it or one to ice it. But I’m sure the league can tweak that for next year if they want.

Check out Giannis talking about it.

When was the last time you heard a player, or anyone, referring to any all-star game as being played with “a little bit of playoff intensity.”

That’s crazy. And even crazier, he’s right. That wasn’t a guy trying to sell the format on the league’s behalf. He didn’t have to. The results speak for themselves. And so did the players and coaches, who kept talking after the game about how intense it was.

That was great. Seriously. It was a great All-Star Game. The league make some changes, took some chances, and it paid off. Good luck topping that next year, Indy. Let me again say something, I’m not sure I’ve ever said before; and didn’t think I ever would. THAT WAS A DAMN GOOD ALL STAR GAME.