Monday, February 21, 2011

A postseason teaser: Kobe vs. LeBron

Kobe vs. LeBron was supposed to cure the hangover pro basketball endured in the wake of Michael Jordan's departure. Ever since he walked into the league calling himself "The King," the suspense was whether James could swipe the crown off Bryant's head, if ever.

Based on Sunday night's meeting — an exhibition, to be sure, and nothing like the competition we can expect in June — the answer remains "not yet." Better still, judging by the show a cast of supporting characters put on around them, it's far from the only drama the league has to offer.

The NBA goes back to the regular-season grind coming off its best All-Star game weekend in a while. The revelation of Friday night's celebrity game was that Justin Bieber could actually ball, not exactly an entry you'd expect to find on the resume of a small, skinny kid who grew up in hockey-mad Canada training to be a pop star.

On Saturday during the slam dunk contest, Blake Griffin, the Clippers' rookie sensation who should have run out of ways to surprise people long before now — he'd already dunked 140 times in the first half of the season — came up with a surprise anyway.

He jumped over the hood of a car to win the competition, a highlight that went viral almost immediately in every one of the more than 200 countries to which the weekend's events were being broadcast. The event drew 8.1 million viewers in the United States, the best in its 26-year history, and who-knows-how-many-more overseas, since viewers in even the most faraway markets didn't need subtitles to be thrilled by the sight of a man flying through the air.


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