Monday, February 21, 2011

This past weekend's NBA all-star extravaganza in Los Angeles had a little bit of everything. In the celebrity game, Justin Beiber won MVP for the west squad finishing with eight points, four dimes, and one impressive NBA three-pointer. Just when everyone over fourteen was about to change the channel, Scottie Pippen rejected the Biebs, his feet still firmly planted on the hardwood. I was expecting the Biebster to go all space jam on us and lift vertically fifteen feet in the air stretching his arm like Mr.Fantastic to dunk the ball. Maybe Pippen is Bieber's kryptonite.

Saturday night was the much anticipated slam-dunk contest where the preemptive favorite Blake Griffin didn't disappoint. The donut man clinched the crown by dunking over a shiny silver Kia Optima, alley-opped from out of shape and overpaid teammate Baron Davis. The star-studded weekend reached its finale with the 60th annual all-star game.

For 99% of the players on the floor, this is a fun exhibition where they can mix And-One moves with lobs to themselves. This is the one time a year when the NBA's best play together and heated rivalries are be put on ice. The one player who competed like it was game seven of the Conference Finals was the Black Mamba, Kobe Bryant. He finished as the game's MVP with 37 points and 14 rebounds, tying Bob Pettit for the most all-star MVP's in NBA history with 4. For weeks now, Laker-land has been in panic mode about the recent string of bad losses.

Last night the Laker's struggles hit me like a mac truck. Kobe is in that 1% of the population who are different than everyone else. He's the type A personality, ambitious, aggressive, and highly competitive. He could be playing water basketball at a hotel in Jamaica and if there's a ball and a hoop, he will play the game like it's the NBA finals. The Kobe's, Jordan's and Tiger Woods of the world are all the same. They are just more intense and driven than the rest of us, workaholics to the nth degree, and singularly focused on the goal. This is what makes them the absolute best in their professions. Even Lebron James took the first half of the game off last night. His intensity only reached Bryant's level with a few minutes left, but it was too late. Kobe never lets his foot off the gas. From tip-off to the final buzzer, he pushes it to the limit.

They used to say that to motivate himself, Jordan would take a line from the paper and change it, twist it, and manipulate it into a negative comment for fuel. Kobe plays the same Jedi mind trick with himself every game. It almost seemed like when Charles Barkley would say he had lost a step, Kobe would jump two. He had three dunks last night that had us all flash back to the baby faced 22-year-old Bryant.

The Lakers recent road-trip has seen defeats to Orlando, Charlotte, and most recently the dreadful Cavaliers. They have been losing because most of the Laker players are the opposite of Kobe. Ron Artest and Lamar Odom are more concerned with reality shows and spraying Cologne on reporters than urgency for a regular season game. Kobe is an A-personality playing with B-personality types who are apathetic and disengaged. In Bryant's mind he doesn't understand how a professional athlete could take a night off. To him, every game and every play matters.

The laissez-faire attitude of these other important players doesn't jive with Kobe. We all can relate to how he feels in our own way. Who hasn't played in scrimmages with friends and gotten irritated with their constant trips to the water fountain or their need to answer mom's call about chicken or fish for dinner. The best piece of advice for the Zen Master Phil Jackson is this: Find the neuralizer Will Smith and Tommy Lee Jones used in Men in Black and tell his team they lost the NBA finals to the Celtics. If the Lakers current state of mind doesn't change soon they will be the one's going fishing come June.

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