I'm not much of a basketball fan, but what I was a little bit disturbed by what I saw of TNT's NBA all-star game coverage -- particularly the halftime show.
The NBA set aside halftime of the All-Star Game to pay tribute to Michael Jordan, perhaps the greatest basketball player not named "Magic Johnson," "Bill Russell" or "Larry Bird." Jordan is retiring this year -- this time he means it! -- after a memorable and distinguished career, so the NBA saw fit to pay tribute to his greatness and how it's distracted most fans from how predictable and dull pro basketball has become. And that's fine.
Myself, I wouldn't have picked Mariah Carey to perform at halftime, but that's just me. She did a solid enough job, though I found her decision to sing a number of hymns incorporating the name "Jordan" -- "When the Jordans Go Marching In," "Prepare Ye the Way of Jordan," "Lamb of Jordan," and perhaps most curiously, "Hark, the Wizard Jordan Dunks" -- to be a bit inappropriate. However, the oddness of Carey's musical choices was immediately forgotten when NBA Commissioner David Stern appeared on the court to unveil a giant golden bust of Michael Jordan. I guess that's a fairly benign retirement gift for such a wonderful basketball player, but that still doesn't explain why, after unveiling the graven image, Stern said, "Behold, the greatest of all gods, before whom all other deities tremble."
That clearly made some of the other players uncomfortable, as did Stern's command for them to "bow down and pay homage to our great and fearful master." Stern threatened those who didn't bow down with fines, and those who still refused were tackled at the knees and held to the ground. I'm pretty sure the players' union will lodge some sort of formal objection to that.
The halftime ceremony seemed to drag on a bit when Stern paraded 73 virgins in front of Jordan, who then spent a considerable amount of time weighing their worthiness before deciding whether they were acceptable or not. Really -- that seems like the sort of thing that could have waited until after the game.
Come to think of it, Stern's decree that all of the shots Jordan missed during the first half would be considered legal baskets seemed a bit generous, even for an exhibition game, as did the announcement that subsequent Jordan baskets would count for five points apiece. I suppose Stern's most outrageous rule change was the one that stipulated any player guarding Jordan would be taken out and stoned -- Allen Iverson, who apparently thought that word meant something else entirely, seemed quite surprised when he was dragged from the arena. Hopefully, someone sent something nice to his widow.
The halftime ceremony for Jordan seemed to change the entire tenor of the game. Take, for example, the incident late in the fourth quarter when analyst Mike Fratello suggested a younger player like Orlando's Tracy McGrady take the final shot instead of Jordan. His broadcast partner, Marv Albert, was heard to scream, "Blaspheming infidel!" which struck me as rather unprofessional, though Albert's subsequent decision to put Fratello to the sword seemed beyond his regular play-by-play duties.
All in all, it was just a strange evening. But like I said at the beginning, I don't really know a Jordandamned thing about basketball.
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