NBA All-Star Weekend

by by Aaron Cutler

Wallace Lewton, Ph.D. '08 in Comparative Literature, preparing a dissertation entitled "Limitless Balls: Updike, Márquez, Gombrowicz and the Role of Sport in 20th-century Fiction," interviewed during office hours with freshmen talking outside:

To the Spaniards it is basquetbal or baloncesto. To the Poles, koszykówka. Basketball, as the Americans call it, is a literary sport. It's a question of hermeneutics. Consider each offensive sequence as a sentence; he or she who develops the strongest group of sentences forms the most successful game. The sentences are placed directly in competition with one another, like books on bookshelves. One might raise a complaint with this metaphor on the grounds that while the game is a team effort, writing seems individual. To this I would point to a counterexample: NBA All-Star Weekend, occurring over the course of the next several days.

The weekend's events, broadcast on Turner Network Television and commentated upon through the erudite annotations of Ernest Johnson, Jr., Kenneth Smith and Charles Barkley, consist of activities like the fledgling freshmen players in contest with their sophomore counterparts, established veterans playing two-on-two with guest lecturer-celebrities and a bout of glorious albeit self-indulgent maneuvers called 'slam dunks.' These are the perspectival bread-and-circuses endeavors that one might think of from Roman times, what Marx wrote about when he discussed proletariat labor exploited by the bourgeoisie. None, though, compare with the All-Star Game on Sunday night.

The Game is a two-and-a-half-hour (sometimes longer) narrative in which the Randian figures whom we judge 'the best of the best' square off, though disregarded non-selections like Ray Allen might disagree with my categorization. The starters are voted in by the fans and grant pleasure to the populace through isolated yet culturally resonant crossovers and jams. Little to no teamwork is present; the sequence most typical to an All-Star game is one player, often a small forward or a guard, charging like Diomedes against the other team's five so that he may thrust the titular ball through the net. Some thematically fecund moments in past All-Star Games are Tracy McGrady's passing to himself off of the backboard and Shaquille O'Neal's attempting a three. At game's end, a sterling player-author is selected as its MVP. For my money, this year it will be Kobe Bryant.

Diamond Jim Brennan, interviewed at a cryogenics center near his home in Dallas, Texas:

I'm a gunslinger--the best you've ever seen. I been one ever since I was little, when my ma use'ta feed me bullets full o' milk. My partners all died at Little Big Horn. When I heard there were other gunslingers, I grew mighty confused.

Turns out this new crop o' gunslingers don't use bullets, just basketballs. 'Stead o' firin' into a man's heart in the dead o' night 'n watchin' his wife 'n babes cry for mercy, this new pack o' varmints stands outside the three-point line, not even man enough to drive to the rim. While you got your Eastern Conference gunslingers like Paul Pierce 'n Rip Hamilton, most o' the rascals are in my place, the Wild West. Thirty games left this season, 'n the conference's so packed that the 10th-best team ain't lost much more than the leader. The All-Star game's Sunday, 'n there'll be Western ball-packin' killers like Kobe Bryant 'n Allen Iverson playin'. You ain't seen this much shootin' since the Alamo.

The game'll be in New Orleans, a fine home for it considerin' the disasters that those folks've been through. It's also appropriate 'cause o' the New Orleans Hornets, holdin' one o' the West's best records at 36-15. They were poorer'n a church on Saturday last year, but when you're young 'n able-bodied you can turn things around. They got that old Europee'in varmint Peja Stojakovic, but they also got a great big forward in David West 'n a beaut of a point guard in Chris Paul. This'll be the first All-Star Game for the both of 'em, though West robbed Baron Davis 'n took his spot. Paul's averagin' 20-plus points 'n 10-plus assists. The scorin' point guard is the best kind o' gunslinger: he can fire at will 'n still have bullets to go 'round. Folks're fawnin' 'n cooin' over the surprisin' young Portland Trail Blazers, but they've been shot in the heart lately. The Hornets're for real. They've got their division lead over my hometown team, the Mavericks, who've proved 'emselves soft cowards in the playoffs the past couple o' years 'n so I don't trust 'em for nothin', not even fetchin' my spurs.

'N speakin' o' spurs, San Antonio has once again got themselves one o' the best records around. They're the defendin' champs, remember. They're the oldest team in the league but they're crafty, 'n they just got older 'n craftier by signin' ol' backup point guard Damon Stoudamire. There're a great many teams out there tryin' to get better than them fellas by makin' crafty trades. One o' the biggest uns, both literal 'n more poetry-like, came when the Los Angeles Lakers got theirselves Pau Gasol for a couple o' draft picks 'n a plaster bust o' Kwame Brown. Gasol's a seven-foot Spaniard who can't guard nobody but can getcha a 20 'n 10 in points 'n rebounds. The Utah Jazz stole sharpshootin' three-point man Kyle Korver from his home in Philadelphia, 'n the fast-runnin', fun-lovin' Golden State Warriors got a little older 'n slower by addin' washed-up Chris Webber.

The gordito burrito of 'em all's been them Phoenix Suns landin' Shaquille O'Neal, that 360-pound bag o' quicklime, from the Miami Heat for defendin', scorin', reboundin', runnin', discombobulatin' forward Shawn Marion. Phoenix, averagin' 110 points a game to lead the league, is the fastest team there is, but they're slowin' down with the hurtin' 36-years-old center. They think he'll make 'em tougher 'n help their chemistry. He may get 'em a few big, loud dunks to send coyote howls through the desert, but he can't defend for beans. Or jump for nachos. Or hit free throws for chocolate. Fact is, he's less like a man now 'n more like a 'tater. The Suns beat teams by forcin' 'em to play at their pace, 'n since Shaq's too big 'n slow to run they'll be playin' four-on-five on defense every night. T'ain't natural.

You'll have to excuse me. It's my turn in the freezer.

Sal Cescanino B'81, godfather to former Providence Mayor Vincent A. Cianci, Jr.'s children, interviewed at a construction site by the New Jersey Turnpike (edited for content):

Mother___ Jason Kidd.
When he came to the Nets six years ago, we were even more ___ excited to get him than we were to get rid of Stephon ___ Marbury. We went to the Finals twice and Kidd the great ___ point guard put up lots of triple-doubles. Man, he was ___. He can still do that ___, but he turns the ball over a lot, shoots 36 ___ percent from the field and the team is in the ___. Now he wants to be traded, though I doubt that the ___ Nets will have the stugots.

You ___ ___ ___ son of a ___ ___ ___ piece of ___ ___ ___ ___ ___ ___ ___ ___ ___ Vince Carter.
While the Nets go ___ themselves at ___ 23-30, the Boston ___ Celtics are kicking ___ and taking names. They're 41-9, the best ___ record in the ___ NBA. They traded for All-Stars Ray Allen and Kevin ___ Garnett over the summer, and it's paid off like ___ lucky sevens in a great game of cards. Their coach ___ Doc Rivers plays all three for 40 minutes every night, so they'll be too ___ tired to win in the Finals, but they'll humiliate the rest of the Eastern ___ Conference on the way there. And they're our ___ division rivals. Bunch of ___. It used to be, back when men were still ___ men, that you would go over to your rival's house and ___ break his kneecaps. KG hasn't played the last 9 games, so maybe they got Richard Jefferson to do it, but that still doesn't change the fact that the ___ Eastern Conference is a bunch of big sopping ___. ___.

Just look at the ___ All-Stars that they're sending to New Orleans. You got two guys from Boston, KG and Pierce, which is fine so long as they don't ___ hug. You got center Dwight Howard from the Orlando Magic, who is the strongest ___ guy I've ever seen. LeBron James could be only the fourth ___ guy in history to average 30 points, seven assists, seven rebounds and a tasty ___ or six after every home game, but his Cleveland team's ___ ___ and he has to do everything. Those are the good guys. The rest are ___.

Detroit and Washington are also sending a ___ bunch of ___ guys, but Detroit's choked against a lesser ___ team in the playoffs each year since Flip ___ Saunders started coaching them and this year Washington's in the ___ ___. Toronto's not ___ American, so Chris Bosh doesn't count. Atlanta, Charlotte, Philly, Milwaukee and Indy all ___ suck ___ ___, but there's a stupid ___ rule in place that says that the East has to send 8 of its 15 ___ teams to the playoffs, so you can't whack any of them. Miami's really ___ bad. They won the championship two years ago against a ___ ___ Dallas team, but ___ injuries, bad coaching and Ricky ___ Davis have combined to give them the worst ___ record in the ___ NBA. Watching Dwyane Wade now hurts. At least they ditched Shaq.
And don't get me started on the New York ___ Knicks.

AARON CUTLER B'08 recommends Brown Alumni Search.