Stars, Rock- & All-
So, every full four-seasonal rotation, the two most depressing days of my year fall dangerously close to each other: Valentine’s Day and the release of The Village Voice’s annual Pazz & Jop poll. And as the release of this poll coincides with the announcement of the NBA all-star squads, it is all too tempting to draw comparisons (Kanye West=Ray Allen—entertaining golden boy, but not even close to Bird/Biggie or Jordan/Jay-Z status, Brian Wilson=Shaq—old guy with a surprising amount of gas left in the tank, leader of a former dynasty, Arcade Fire=Steve Nash—Nash and the lead singer of Arcade Fire (presumably) share the same haircut, Franz Ferdinand=Dirk—pretty cool European guys, Green Day=Grant Hill—mediocre now, but they are inextricably linked with all our teenage angsty days)
I’ll stop there, and leave the comments space for us to draw further comparisons. As BSDs (Bill Simmons Disciples) everywhere are coming to learn, it is quite easy to map NBA players on to Pop Culture Icons X, Y, and Z. And so I will spend the rest of this post bitching about the all-star selections.
First, selections that I LOVE: Gilbert Arenas, Rashard Lewis, Zydrunas Ilgauskas, and Shawn Marion. Arenas just has that “Why Not US” attitude that every Eastern Conference player (save a few Detroit/Indiana/Jersey-ites) has been lacking for the past few years. Right now, he is a better leader than supposed “franchise guys” that have been in the league five years longer than him. Lewis and Marion were in danger of getting snubbed just on the basis of team all-star quotas, but both of them have been playing out of their minds all season. And love it or hate it, Z-Ill is the third best C in the league, and the only guy who actually makes Lebron’s game better.
Now, the selections I HATE: Ben Wallace, Ginobili, Antawn Jamison. First off, I love what Jamison is doing for his team, but there is no better sign that the league has fallen off than seeing this guy as a coach’s selection. Seriously. Why don’t we just put Tim Thomas, Bobby Simmons, Wally Szcerbiak, and every other “pretty good scorer” on the squads as well. Ben Wallace: Easily one of my favorite players in the “L,” but it just is not his year. Plus, Rip and/or Chauncey if anyone should be repping the Pistons. And Ginobili…This is the sham of all shams. It is as if the voice of Bill Walton “The MIND of Tim Duncan, the HANDS of Manu Ginobili, the AWARENESS of Beno Udrih, the POISE of Tony Parker, the STAMINA of Tony Massenburg” was tape recorded and subliminally instilled within the heads of Western Conference coaches while they were sleeping. Ginobili’s name has been so omnipresent in the media this season it is as if the coaches were just expected to select him no matter what. Ever since he won the gold, he has been talked about as an all-star. All of this is somehow tied into the Howard Dean scream, in which the sheer overexposure of the issue forced us to make a decision based on this salient piece of information alone. The guy will be a career 15ppg/1.8spg-energy player and that’s about all. He’s the ‘00s version of Michael Cooper/Toni Kukoc/Dennis Johnson/insert great role player here…but he’s no all-star.
And some other thoughts:
SNUB O’ THE YEAR: Chris Webber. This guy’s performance so far has been equivalent to Jim Abbott winning 20 games in a season.
UNDERRATED STORY LINE O’ THE YEAR: Shaq vs. Kobe II. This is an even bigger stage than Round 1. I’m thinking that someone could get very seriously publicly embarrassed.
NATION O’ THE YEAR: China. Seriously, do any people have more team loyalty than these folks? Not only did they blast Yao Ming’s vote total out of the water, but this year they have also led us to a very interesting discovery. Exhibit A: Tracy McGrady has been voted on as an all-star starter when he has been clearly outplayed by Ray-Ray and Steve Nash. Exhibit B: Steve Francis failed to make the all-star team for the first time in three years (after starting the previous year for a superior conference!). I can only account for these findings by assuming that Yao’s homeland brethren have supported his teammates by extension, and that is just an incredible gesture of unity. Can Scott Padgett’s all-star days be far behind?