Oh, You Mean There Is Actually a Game During NBA All-Star Weekend? (Plus, Can You Name the Rappers in Our Courtside Photo?)
Photos By Craig Hlavaty
After a weekend of human gridlock at the Galleria, traffic snarls, bottles poppin' and all the parties you could handle, NBA All-Star Weekend in Houston came to a close on Sunday with the Western Conference defeating their Eastern foes 143-138, the Los Angeles Clippers' Chris Paul getting the game's MVP trophy.
Funny, last night's game seemed almost forgotten, a formality even, amongst all the bashes being thrown by promoters, liquor companies and rappers with deep pockets. Even a fun game like this, where nothing hinges on the outcome except bragging rights, the pomp and circumstance seemed silly. I was waiting for LeBron to hit Kobe in the head with a chair and challenge Kevin Durant to a cage match suspended high above the court.
The atmosphere around Toyota Center seemed somewhat deflated by Sunday afternoon. All of the insanity and red carpet affairs of Friday and Saturday nights were gone and all that was left was a hangover.
The vendors selling official ASG merch around the arena were drained from 24-hour days. Yes, those guys were open all day and night selling jackets, hats and shirts, with even the folks selling knockoffs by the ticket shop getting weary.
Across the street at Root Memorial Square, there were some sweaty, stressful pick-up basketball games going down the likes of which would not be seen in the Toyota Center that day. A few of the pro players had already shown up out at the courts to give out free tickets to the big game.
One twentysomething man, who calls himself Skates, was playing roundball while wearing one roller blade on his left foot and a sneaker on the right.
Skates -- he wouldn't give me his "non-skate" name -- has been blading since he was in elementary school, at one point even showing me his fourth-grade yearbook picture, which he easily produced out of his front pocket, in which he was wearing a skating tee.
"Skateboards take up too much space," he tells me when I ask if he boards too. He shows me his riding outfit, which looks to have been fashioned out of a discarded life preserver, and it is covered in pictures of President Obama, Jay-Z, Jimi Hendrix, Alicia Keys and Kanye West.
Inside the Toyota Center, merch booths were teeming with life. The girls were dressed to the nines. Jewelry, cleavage, that ass.
The regulation court was pushed to one edge of the arena to accommodate the WWE-style stage that would host musical acts Ne-Yo and Alicia Keys and the starting players, who popped out of the floor of the stage on cue. And score! That stage obscured the view of the proceedings from the media boxes during all the musical goings-on.
Chef Chris Shepherd of the critically adored Underbelly in Montrose was slinging his trademark Bayou City goodness in the Jack Daniels bar in the main concourse, along with Hugo Ortega of Hugo's.
Celebs sitting on the side of the court included Jay-Z and Beyoncé (natch), Spike Lee (who came dressed like Jack Nicholson's Joker), Bill Russell, Julius Erving, Pat Riley, Usain Bolt, Gabby Douglas, Diddy, Yao Ming, Rockets owner Les Alexander, Shaquille O'Neal, Drake, J. Cole and, yes, even tabloid lightnin' rod Chris Brown.
I watched Brown eat for most of the game, going from a fully loaded baked potato in the first quarter to a heaping helping of nachos in the third. The cameras of the arena, which loved all of the other celebs, never panned to Brown. Not even the visiting mascots from around the league would josh with him.
Something tells me that there would have been a run on beer and popcorn to throw at Brown once word got out about where he was sitting.
Chris Brown chowin' down.
Photo by Marco Torres
The game should have been called the Blake Griffin Slam Dunk Throwdown, with the Will Ferrell-lookalike knocking out at least ten before I stopped counting. Kobe Bryant and LeBron James couldn't stop smiling and giggling with one another most of the night.
Kyrie Irving of the Cleveland Cavaliers, 2012 NBA Rookie of the Year, kept proving that he will be a notable figure from here on out, too.
The Houston Rockets' own James Harden looked stereotypically cool with his mohawk and beard, looking 21st Century dapper as always running up and down the court, racking up 15 points, 6 rebounds and 3 assists during his time in the game.
Alicia Keys's halftime show included "Empire State of Mind," a great song, but about, you know, New York City.
All in all, the game was a good excuse for a bunch of parties to happen and for people to lose their everlovin' minds over the prospect of Waka Flocka Flame trying on jewelry a mile away from where you were standing.
But hey, at least the power didn't go out on half of the arena, and I only saw some horse cops go crazy once. It was probably from seeing their reflection in the side of Flo Rida's chrome Bugatti.
Okay, how many of these rappers can you name? (Answer on the Hair Balls Facebook page).
Photo by Marco Torres