LOS ANGELES -- In a town famous for folks flashing the pearly whites, and often disingenuously, there was a ring of authenticity this weekend because the All-Star basketball script played a lot like those smiles: perfect.
An industry town built on imagination and creativity saw a Clipper soar over a car for a dunk, and a Laker salvage a sloppy game by earning Most Valuable Player honors for a record-tying fourth time. In a flash, or roughly how long it took Rihanna to change into something a bit more, um, comfortable for the halftime performance, we learned when it comes to putting on a show, it's hard to Beat L.A.
Really, the last three days were quintessential California: so many stars lining Staples Center that an entire section was roped off for their bodyguards; a coming-out party within the party for a fresh face named Blake Griffin who was hailed as The Next Big Thang; and at the finish, Kobe Bryant lifting a trophy in the air.
It isn't often when an event is powerful enough to pre-empt a stirring and long-running saga -- the Melodrama, in this case -- but a refreshing weekend in Los Angeles managed to divert attention, ever so temporarily, from Carmelo Anthony and his whereabouts. You think that's easy? Well, thanks to Griffin and Kobe and teammates, there was something else to discuss, to debate, to marvel at. For that reason alone, the weekend was a smashing success, all would agree.
The conspiracy theorists will accuse the weekend of being rigged, that Griffin was permitted to use the prop to end all props in the dunk contest, that Kobe seemed too anxious to score 37 points and grab MVP honors for the West in a 148-143 victory. As Amar'e Stoudemire, throwing another log on that fire, said: "Kobe was not passing the ball. At all."
Well, OK, then. Since when did Hollywood ever produce anything believable, anyway?
The town took a shine to All-Star Weekend mainly because L.A. doesn't get sports gigs like this anymore, the kind that consume the city. The last Super Bowl left here 18 years go and it might take that long for L.A. to get another NFL team. There's no Final Four in the future, not without a domed stadium. As for the World Series, have you seen the Dodgers lately?
-- Shaun Powell
The game is played under normal NBA rules.
2010 (Dallas): Wade takes MVP honors before largest basketball crowd in history
Everything's not just bigger in Texas -- it's gigantic, colossal, and don't forget -- humongous. The NBA All-Star Game came to the Lone Star State and a basketball nation broke out as a world-record crowd of 108,713 filled up the futuristic edifice that is Cowboys Stadium to see the East squeeze out a 141-139 win over the West.
2009 (Phoenix): Back together, Shaq and Kobe share MVP honors
Teammates for three championships with the Lakers at the beginning of the decade, Kobe Bryant and Shaquille O'Neal teamed up once more to lead the Western Conference over the East 146-119. Bryant led all scorers with 27 points while Shaq added 17.
2008 (New Orleans): LeBron's MVP performance leads East to win
LeBron James earned MVP honors and nearly missed a triple-double (27 points, eight rebounds, nine assists) as the Eastern Conference downed the West 134-128.
2007 (Las Vegas): Kobe's 31 points gives West victory in Vegas
Kobe Bryant lit up the Las Vegas strip with 31 points to earn the MVP as the West romped past the East 153-132 at the first-ever All-Star game held outside an NBA city.
2006 (Houston): East stages late rally for comeback win over West
LeBron James fueled a second-half comeback and made the key defensive play as the East overcame a 21-point second-half deficit to win the All-Star Game. James was named MVP with 29 points.