All-Star weekend continues tonight with
the NBA slam dunk contest,
and it's hard to believe that a dozen years have passed since an 18-year old
Kobe Bryant graced the dunk contest stage with a young Brandy cheering him
on. The other participants that night in Cleveland were Michael Finley, Chris
Carr, Darvin Hamm, Bob Sura and Ray Allen. Looking at that field,
it's no wonder the NBA suspended the dunk contest the following year.
Kobe donned his Lakers shooting shirt
for the first round dunks – a one-handed reverse and a two-handed
double-clutch 180. For the final round, he discarded the warm up
and unveiled the winning dunk of the night. Sure, Kobe's had better slams in games, but this was good enough to secure the 97' title.
Kobe Bryant Pau Gasol Shaquille O'Neal Eddie Jones Cedric Ceballos Nick Van Exel Magic Johnson AC Green James Worthy Kareem Abdul-Jabbar Jamaal Wilkes Norm Nixon Gail Goodrich Jerry West Wilt Chamberlain Elgin Baylor Archie Clark Darrall Imhoff Rudy LaRusso Frank Selvy Hot Rod Hundley Dick Garmaker Larry Foust Vern Mikkelsen Clyde Lovellette Slater Martin Jim Pollard George Mikan
That's a lotta dudes. More fun numbers... Since they cranked up this bad boy back in '51, only five times have the Lakers not been represented. Moreover, this year will mark the 45th time the franchise has had multiple players on the Western Conference roster.
Quick question: Any names you're surprised not to see? The greatest Lakers never to represent the squad in an All Star tilt?
Found this clip surfing for vintage All Star highlights this morning. Obviously, I got a little sidetracked:
The footage, from Game of Death, gives a great illustration both of the kind of athlete Kareem was, and also the size of his world view. A couple years back, when Andy sat down with Kareem, the Cap talked about his relationship with the late martial arts icon:
AK: Did your friendship and training with Bruce Lee help you with your approach to basketball, either mentally or physically? KAJ:
Oh, definitely. Bruce, more or less, backed up what I had learned from
John Wooden. The whole thing about being prepared and understanding
your own skills. What you have to offer and what you don't have to
offer. Channeling to your approach to everything specific. It was just
an echo of John Wooden, from Hong Kong as opposed to Indiana. You have
to be committed. You have to be prepared. You have to be willing to
sacrifice to be totally prepared. To be in shape and understand the
nature of competition. And he wanted to do that.
AK: How did you guys meet? KAJ:
I studied a little martial arts between my sophomore and junior years
in New York. And when I came back out to L.A., I wanted to continue my
studies. So I went to a gentleman that was publishing a martial arts
magazine and I said, "Where can I go to study? I'm out there at UCLA."
And he said, "Bruce Lee lives out there." And I was a little put off,
because I had started the aikido, which is the Japanese style. And
Bruce did Chinese style, so I was gonna have to start over. But he
said, "No, no. Bruce is really unique, because it's an eclectic style.
You should go have a talk with him." I called him and he invited me
over to his house. We talked and immediately got be friends. And he
liked the fact that I was a trained athlete coming through the door. It
wasn't like I had to get in shape. And I was easily won over by the
logic and approach to his style. We were friends from that day on.
UPDATE: I think this comment from The D properly summarizes the Kareem/Bruce nexus:
Seriously, my brain cannot
comprehend the unbelievable coolness of Bruce Lee giving Kareem
jeet-kun-do lessons. I need to go lie down.
On every level, from improvements on the roster (Gasol for Kwame, Fish for Smush, Ariza for Mo Evans -- no disrespect to Mo, whom I like as a player), to growth from within (Bynum, Sasha, Farmar), to increased health (Mihm, Vlade), it's borderline shocking how fast they've gone from a fringe playoff team to a Finals favorite. As the Laker faithful bask in the early season glow, it's easy to forget that it wasn't too long ago that things weren't so rosy.
Every week, Lakers Blog HQ is inundated with letters and emails. Some are filled with praise, others criticism, some simply contain logistical questions about things like game times and parking (for the record, our rides rest in that long garage across from the Convention Center). But by far, the most overwhelming complaint centers on the consistent, some say systemic, lack of love given to the '95 squad, which finished third in the Pacific and made it to the second round of the playoffs behind Ced Ceballos, Nick Van Exel, and Vlade Divac.