The Big All-Star Entertainer
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SECAUCUS, N.J., Feb. 20, 2007-- Shaquille O’Neal needs to be in the All-Star Game.

Every year.

The fans got it right voting him a starter. So what if he only averages 13.5 points and 5.8 rebounds in the 13 games he’s played this season?

Shaq is to All-Star Weekend as Ari is to Entourage; he makes you want to watch.

The Sprite Slam Dunk can’t happen without The Daddy making his bug-eyed, slack-jawed “Man-I-Wish-I-Could-Do-That” face.

Practice at Jam Session shouldn’t count unless The Diesel is popping and locking and doing the worm.

The All-Star edition sneaker collection isn’t complete until Shaq unveils his remote control car/cell phone/slot machine shoe.

O’Neal started off Sunday, his 14th All-Star selection, with a few missed dunks that no one will remember because when he finally threw one down he grabbed T-Mac by the cranium and kissed him like a baby.

During a timeout in the third quarter Shaq showed up on the jumbotron and quoted a line from Braveheart, “They may take our lives, but they will never take our freedom!” and got the whole crowd laughing like they were at Def Comedy Jam.

The loudest the fans got the whole night was in the fourth quarter when Shaq brought the ball up the court and showed off his crossover on Mehmet Okur.

O’Neal’s final line was 10 points and six rebounds but judging him based on statistics is like judging a nice slab of chocolate cake by its calorie count.

The numbers might not be pretty but the overall experience can’t be beat.

And now, these are the 10 things I learned from five days in Las Vegas ...

1. Kapono can shoot

When you are shooting 56 percent from beyond the three-point arc during the regular season, you have to think that some of that marksmanship would carry over to the Foot Locker Three-Point Shootout.

That logic proved true on Saturday night as Jason Kapono won the shootout and tied a record by scoring 24 (out of a possible 30) in the final round to beat Agent Zero himself, Gilbert Arenas.

The funny thing is that Kapono played the underdog card all weekend. He told anybody who was willing to listen that he was just hoping to be respectable out there. Sure it was his first competition and there is something to be said for humility, but come on, underdog?

Kapono is on pace to beat Steve Kerr's the all-time single season three-point percentage of 52 percent set in 1995.

2. Told you Kobe would win MVP (sorta)

I predicted Kobe would win MVP this season, I just didn't necessarily think it would be All-Star MVP.

Kobe took home his second All-Star MVP thanks to 31 points, five rebounds, six assists and six steals.

Amare Stoudemire (29 points, nine rebounds) challenged him for the hardware but it was Kobe's 17 first-half points that propelled the West to an easy 153-132 victory.

Stoudemire did most of his damage in the second half when the game was already pretty much decided.

3. Perfect-Lee good Rookie-Sophomore game

There is domination, as in beating your little brother in video games, and then there is domination, as in beating your little brother in an age contest. One you're supposed to win, the other you can't lose.

The Knicks' David Lee displayed domination on Friday night as he shot 14-for-14 in the T-Mobile Rookie Challenge en route to 30 points, 11 rebounds and MVP honors.

The Sophomores hung 155 points on the helpless Rooks who "only" mustered 114.

Lee's wasn't the only sick stat line. Chris Paul had 16 points, 17 assists and nine(!) steals and Monta Ellis chipped in 28 points on 13-for-16 shooting to boost the Sophs to victory.

4. Agent Zero grounded

Gilbert Arenas had a heck of a time in Vegas.

But it didn't go entirely according to plan.

Arenas wanted to fly blimps all over the city announcing his arrival, but unfortunately the air traffic regulations set in Las Vegas don't allow for blimpy braggadocio.

Wouldn't be surprised if Hibachi updates his blog and says that he is going to try to go back to college and score 150 points on Air Force to get back at the FAA for thwarting his blimp idea.

5. Oh, the celebrities

Everybody I work with has their celebrity stories from the weekend and I'm having a hard time narrowing mine down and picking the best one.

Not sure if it was when David Hasselhoff appeared on the big screen during a timeout on Sunday and the guy interviewing him referred to him as "The Hoff" about six times and Hasselhoff didn't bat an eyelash or if it was Cameron Diaz downing a hot dog and beer in total down-to-earth Something About Mary style as she sat courtside talking to Eva Longoria and Jeremy Piven.

6. Michael Jordan, the Russian judge

MJ was one of the distinguished Sprite Slam Dunk judges (along with Dr. J, 'Nique, Kobe and Vince) and as expected, it took a lot to impress him.

Routinely a dunk would go down, the point placards would go up and then you'd see Jordan, at the far left of the judges' table, with his score flashing one-point less than any other of the judges.

He finally broke out a 10 for Gerald Green's table-leaping clincher that was the only 50-point dunk of the night and secured Green the crown.

Even if you thought Nate's crazy leg kick deserved a 10 (probably), or Green's off-the-side-of-the-backboard, head-above-the-rim (definitely), how can you argue with Jordan? The man wore a leather jacket and diamond hoop earring while the other judges were in suits. We all can learn from him and raise our standards.

7. Hall of Fame finalists

Phil Jackson, Chris Mullin and Adrian Dantley are the NBA names on the list of 15 finalists for the upcoming Basketball Hall of Fame induction class.

The nine rings coaching the Bulls and the Lakers sum up Jackson's case right away, but his impact to me is the trusting,laid-back approach of letting his teams play through their woes instead of frantically calling a timeout after a turnover or letting up a basket.

Mullin was a five-time All-Star and on the original Dream Team, but the best compliment I ever heard about him was one summer at Syracuse basketball camp when I asked his former teammate Billy Owens about him.

“You know how you think a guy is a good shooter if he makes 15 or 16 shots in a row?” Owens said. “Chris would go for 15 or 16 minutes without missing when he was shooting around.”

Dantley was an undersized power forward who scored nearly 20,000 points but, “never got off the ground,” according to my colleague Maurice Brooks. “He was all crafty up-and-unders.”

8. Vegas return?

I overheard one reporter go up to several players during Friday’s media availability session and ask: “Does the NBA deserve Las Vegas, or does Las Vegas deserve the NBA?”

Huh? What does that even mean?

While I don’t know a fair answer to that ambiguous question, I do know that Las Vegas proved to be a wonderful host for the NBA and All-Star 2007 … but that doesn’t mean that a new franchise will pop up on The Strip any time soon.

Some of the issues that David Stern addressed were that a new arena would be needed to support an NBA team and also NBA wagers would have to come off the sports betting books.

9. Barkley vs. Bavetta

Las Vegas has seen its share of one-on-one showdowns:

Marvin Hagler vs. Thomas Hearns, Oscar De La Hoya vs. Felix Trinidad and now 44-year old Charles Barkley vs. 67-year old Dick Bavetta.

Barkley won the comical competition by back peddling the last leg as he taunted Bavetta who nearly snatched the win from Chuck by diving for the finish line.

If the race wasn’t enough, Bavetta and Barkley shared a kiss to throw the whole stunt off the charts of the Over-The-Top Scale.

10. The Big Three of the NBA

As I made my way from press row to the media room after the game on Sunday I saw LeBron with his arms around Dwyane Wade and Carmelo looking up at Kobe at center court as Bryant was presented with the MVP trophy.

What struck me was how much of a unit they appeared to be. It was like the Rat Pack or something. I decided they need a collective nickname. I know there is BMW (Bron-Melo-Wade) already, which is decent, but they need something better.

Being that LeBron is already King James I was thinking they could go by something like "The Royal Family."

Got anything better?

Have a question or comment for The McTen or care to share what you learned this week? Get at me.