West Rises Over East
L.A. Players Rule the Scene at All-Star Game
East Team's Joakim Noah from France, of the Chicago Bulls and West Team's Zach Randolph of the Memphis Grizzlies battle for a rebound during the first half of the NBA All-Star basketball game Sunday, Feb. 17, 2013, in Houston. (AP Photo/Pat Sullivan)
East Team's Chris Bosh of the Miami Heat guards West Team's Kevin Durant of the Oklahoma City Thunder during the first half of the NBA All-Star basketball game Sunday, Feb. 17, 2013, in Houston. (AP Photo/Eric Gay)
Houston — Kevin Durant scored 30 points, MVP Chris Paul had 20 points and 15 assists, and the Western Conference beat the East 143-138 last night in the NBA All-Star game.
Blake Griffin finished with 19 points and Kobe Bryant blocked LeBron James twice in the final minutes, joining Paul to turn the West’s victory into something of an L.A. story.
James scored 19 points but shot only 7 of 18 after having no shooting troubles during the latter part of the season’s first half. Carmelo Anthony led the East with 26 points and 12 rebounds.
The first dunk of the game came 16 seconds in, Paul throwing a pass to Clippers teammate Griffin as part of the West’s 7-0 start. The West led after each of the first three quarters, though was never ahead by more than eight points through three periods.
They finally pushed it into double figures early in the fourth fueled by former Oklahoma City teammates Russell Westbrook and James Harden, but couldn’t put it away until a late run behind the guys from the city of Los Angeles — who along with Lakers center Dwight Howard gave Los Angeles all but one of the West’s starting spots.
Paul hit two 3-pointers, Bryant made a layup, and his block of James led to Durant’s dunk that made it 136-126. Griffin had one last forceful dunk to help close it out, throwing a pass to himself off the backboard and climbing high in his neon green sneakers to slam it home and make it 142-134.
What If?: Michael Jordan wonders if he could have won nine titles. Bill Russell, under different circumstances, could’ve ended up winning none.
Two of basketball’s greatest champions discussed those aspects of their careers for programs that will air today on NBA TV. The programs are part of a three-hour block of specials featuring interviews with three Hall of Famers.
In One on One with Ahmad Rashad: Michael Jordan, Jordan talks about what could have happened had the Chicago Bulls stayed together. He retired again and Phil Jackson didn’t return after they won their sixth title in 1998.
“We have to live the rest of our lives with this idea of, wow we could have won seven, or we could have won eight, or we could have won nine,” said Jordan, who turned 50 yesterday. “We could have done all that.”
Russell did all that and more, winning an NBA-record 11 championships with the Boston Celtics. But in Mr. Russell’s House, he tells ESPN’s Bill Simmons that he never even would have been an NBA player if he was picked to play elsewhere.
“St. Louis was overwhelmingly racist,” Russell said. “If I would have been drafted by St. Louis, I wouldn’t be in the NBA. I would not have gone into the NBA.”
He also talks about an offer he had to come back after retiring with the Lakers — who already had Wilt Chamberlain playing for them.
“How would he feel playing backup center?” Russell said he asked owner Jack Kent Cooke.
The Jordan episode airs at 8 p.m. ET with the Russell special to follow.
The programming wraps up with Sir Charles at 50, featuring Charles Barkley as he turns 50 talking to Turner Sports colleague Ernie Johnson after his life.
Slam Dunk: When Michael Jordan edged Dominique Wilkins to win the 1988 slam dunk contest, many people thought Wilkins would have been the champion if the event had been anywhere but Chicago. Did Jordan?
“We talk about it all the time,” Wilkins said. “Mike and I are such great friends, great competitors, and he said, ‘Hey, if it was any other arena, it could have turned out different.’ ”
Wilkins was one of the NBA’s great dunkers, helping make the slam dunk contest the marquee event of All-Star weekend for many years. But his losses to Jordan and teammate Spud Webb were probably more famous than his victories — even if Wilkins wasn’t too sure he actually lost some of them.
“I did it five times. Won it four, got credit for two,” he said with a laugh.
He said players during his time never declined to participate and didn’t even care who won. Those days are gone now, with LeBron James never dunking and the field filled with such lower-level names Saturday that it received far less buzz than it did for so long.
Wilkins said when he competed, he heard fans used to buy tickets a year in advance for a chance to see the dunkers. And he believes that level of excitement can return.
“Go back to the old format, get all the top guys to get involved in it, and you’d have that same pandemonium, trust me,” he said.