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Saturday, December 25, 2004

A Very Kobe Christmas

It is Christmas Day in L.A. as the Miami Heat play the Los Angeles Lakers on ABC.

One might have thought Vince McMahon was promoting this basketball game the way ABC hyped it: The Return of Shaq-Fu to Exact Vengeance on His Nemesis Kobe! Today at 1:00!

During the pregame hype, Al Michaels and Hubie Brown played up the soap opera angle, then showed the entrance of Hollywood stars like Dustin Hoffman, Renee Zellweger, Larry David and Samuel L. Jackson.

During a tease for a halftime interview with Shaq, I could’ve sworn I heard the Diesel say “if you don’t like me, there must be something wrong with you.”

I like that. I’m going to adopt that as my new slogan.

During player introductions, Shaq was cheered loudly while Kobe stood and clapped for his former teammate.

Once the Heat were introduced, ABC tried to show the video package playing on the StaplesVision hanging over the court. For a second I thought I was watching Denver's local Altitude Sports and Entertainment Network, as the video playing in the arena came across on television as indecipherable flashes of light in a dark building.

I then realized that ABC was not broadcasting this game in HDTV. Even Altitude does that for Nuggets games, but ABC fails to break out the good cameras for SHAQ-FU’S RETURN FOR VENGEANCE!

What are you saving the High-Definition cameras for, guys? Poker? A new reality show?

In a surprising move, the Los Angeles public address announcer introduced the Lakers’ coach as Rudy Tomjanovich. I guess Kobe gave his approval for that designation today.

Al Michaels then hyped the ritual pre-tip-off handshake between each team as if he thinks Shaq just might pick Kobe up and pile drive him on the Laker’s logo at halfourt. Shaq did not.

ABC will replay the greeting between Shaq and Kobe - in slow motion, no less - about 719 times before the end of the game. (I lost count after the third commercial for Jennifer Garner’s new movie Elektra).

The greeting is no big deal. Kobe walks over to Shaq, they give each other a quick tap of the closed hand and a super quick pat on the back. Kind of. Then they both prepare for the opening tip. Michaels thinks it is a big deal that Shaq did not look Kobe in the eyes.

It's not.

It is easy to find a slight when you are looking for one. Just ask my ex-wife.

In the early going, the Lakers have Chris Mihm guarding Shaq. That’s like letting Woody Allen guard the Korean orphanage.

The Staples Center crowd started its first “Ko-Be! Ko-Be!” chant with 8:20 remaining in the first quarter as he hit his third three-pointer of the game.

ABC shows Nicole Kidman in the stands, then Sugar Ray Leonard sitting next to Sylvester Stallone. Sly is not looking good. I thought it was Frank Stallone until Al Michaels set me straight.

As the second quarter starts, Brian Grant is guarding Shaq. Shaq immediately scores easier than Bill Clinton at an Air-America after-party.

ABC, refusing to take the subtle route, plays the following songs as they go to commercials at different times throughout the game: “Breaking Up is Hard to Do” by Neil Sedaka, “Why Can’t We Be Friends?” by War, “The Way We Were” by Barbra Streisand and “Memory” by Barry Manilow. The songs are accompanied by clips of Shaq and Kobe playing together.

We have a Prince sighting in the stands. He’s a Minneapolis guy, shouldn’t he be at a Timberwolves’ game?

ABC played a few vignettes with different players about their Christmas memories. We learned from Laker Luke Walton that his dad and ABC announcer, Bill, used to wrap up boxes of promotional Power Bars he got for free to give as Christmas presents. Nice, Bill, nice.

Was that a glimpse of Joan and Melissa Rivers in the stands? It is hard to tell with the frequency they have plastic surgery. If it was them, ABC didn’t bother to point them out. The cameras was looking for real stars like Corey Haim and Danny Bonaduce.

At halftime, Heat forward Christian Laettner hits a shot at the buzzer. I had no idea Laettner still played. I thought he had retired years ago. As I look him up on NBA.com, I realize my error.

He had not retired, he was just playing in Washington.

At the halftime break, ABC courtside reporter Michelle Tafoya snags Kobe and asks him about the opening handshake while ABC replays the event on television. In slow motion. Again.

Kobe completely downplays the event like any person with a sense of proportion would do.

After three quarters, the Lakers lead 77-73.

ABC shows Lionel Richey in the stands. For some reason, Lionel is wearing a Gilligan hat. Snoop is also in the house. You know Snoop has the cultivatin' music that be captivatin' me. Snoop is hatless.

For those wondering at home, Al informs us that Jack Nicholson, for some reason, is not in the house. Wherever he is, however, he is wearing sunglasses and with a 98 pound woman 1/3 his age. Jack rocks.

Shaq fouled out of the game with the score tied at 91 and 2:15 remaining in regulation time.

ABC took the opportunity to replay the opening greeting. In slow motion. Again.

There has not been this much ado about nothing since Claudio and Hero conspired to get Benedick and Beatrice married. (This gratuitous and pretentious Shakespeare reference was brought to you by Dennis Miller, wherever he is. We now return to your regularly scheduled nonsense).

We have overtime! Dwyane (yes, that is how he spells his name) Wade misses an opportunity to win the game for Miami as time expires. At the end of regulation, it is 94 all.

In the overtime period, Kobe missed a last second shot to win it for the Lakers.

It's all good, though.

Shaq and Kobe both get to go home happy. Shaq’s team won, so he’s happy. Kobe scored a season high 42, so he’s happy.

Tafoya snagged Shaq after the game. Guess what she asked him. ABC showed the video. Again. In slow motion.

The viewers of this game have now seen the greeting video more than the Warren Commission saw the Zapruder film.

In response to Tafoya’s question about the handshake, Shaq said he “didn’t want to get caught up in all the nonsense you guys create.”

Nonsense? What nonsense?

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