The Western Conference beat the Eastern Conference, 143-138, in Sunday Night's NBA All-Star Game, its third consecutive win in the annual series.
But we know better than to analyze the final score. I mean, let's be honest: Do you remember who won last year's game? (It was the West.) Will you remember who won Sunday night when next February rolls around? (It was the West.) Will you care who wins next year's game the year after that? (It's probably gonna be the West.)
This is an exhibition game that exists primarily for sole, sheer entertainment value. And with that, in a star-driven league such as the NBA, we remember it more for the individual performances than the competition surrounding them.
Here are a couple winners and losers from Sunday's show:
Winner: Chris Paul
Let's start by stating the obvious: Chris Paul looked very, very good on Sunday.
Again, as alluded to above, most of what happens in the All-Star Game doesn't actually matter. The event is a contest only by definition; in most ways, it's more an exhibition for the fans than any sort of competitive venture.
But by virtue of the context around it, Chris Paul's performance felt important, crucial, real. It felt like something of genuine import.
Paul missed nine games in late January to early February, and the Los Angeles Clippers didn't fare so well in his nonattendance. The team went 3-6 with Paul out of the lineup, and though he's been back for five games, fans needed an emphatic statement about the state of his knee.
Loser: Chris Bosh
The collective schadenfreude being launched at Chris Bosh right now is overwhelming. In a lot of ways, though, it's also kind of deserved.
Bosh's public image was already treading on thin ice. He hasn't bounced back from the "contrived championship chasing" thing quite like LeBron this year, and his unwillingness to grab rebounds has earned him the dreaded label of "soft."
Bosh let his game do the talking on Sunday. He probably wishes he didn't.
Here's how the Associated Press wire recap described Bosh's performance (via ESPN.com):
Not everybody had it so easy. Chris Bosh shot two airballs in the first quarter and was booed, tossed up another in the second, and had Tony Parker dribble the ball through his legs on defense. He was even pulled down the stretch by his own coach, Erik Spoelstra, right after Bryant blew right by him for a layup.
They honestly might have been putting it lightly.
At the end of the day, this is "just an exhibition." And while he probably shouldn't have been in the starting lineup, few deny Chris Bosh deserved to be in Houston this week.
But after a night like this, it's much more fun to pretend Bosh is awful.
The timing for this playful contest couldn't have been much better, huh?
With media outlets jamming Michael Jordan's 50th birthday down our throats all week, recent talk has shifted, predictably, to the "greatest of all time" subject—a popular choice for just about anything MJ-, LeBron- or Kobe-related.
Only given the events of this and last season, the narrative is starting to change. Public consensus is slowly-but-markedly creeping into the Camp of LeBron, whose recent play is redefining what we know basketball players to be capable of.
But Kobe Bryant is having absolutely none of that.
Sweat and blood are rarely shed in All-Star contests, but Kobe Bryant was dead serious in the game's closing minutes. His countenance was that of a man playing in the finals, not an exhibition. And on some of the game's most salient possessions, he proved that he's still got some credence in the aforementioned argument.
Bryant stuffed two of LeBron's fourth-quarter shots, not quite embarrassing the King, but definitely re-asserting the presence of the old guard. Would it have meant more if Kobe was wearing purple and gold instead of red? Probably.
But given how invincible LeBron has looked of late—along with the absurd vincibility of the Lakers—it was pretty darn interesting to watch.
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