People always talk about what’s on the their “bucket list.” Things they want to do or experience before they, as the phrase goes, “kick the bucket” and die. Go skydiving, drive a Shelby Mustang, visit the Taj Mahal. Okay, now I’m just giving you a synopsis of the motion picture with Jack and Morgan but whatever, you have to start a blog somewhere, right?
But then there’s a special bucket list constructed for sports media people, by sports media people (FSMPBSMP). Each and every one of us. And for most of us, somewhere on that list resides covering the NBA All-Star Game, something I’ve had the pleasure in doing for the second season in a row.
Regretfully, this year’s Saturday festivities – and its ultimate success – was missed thanks to US Airways’ prematurely precautionary safety measure to cancel my flight the morning of. As a result, I was left in the lonesome chambers of my apartment watching it on TV while drowning under crumbs of Cheez-Its.
That was until Bradley Beal lifted me off my dented couch seat, and well, the carpet hasn’t been vacuumed since.
How monstrous was that performance by Bradley Beal, though? Damn the fact he eventually lost, Steve Kerr and Reggie Miller STILL couldn’t stop talking about him even after Belinelli, or as @MrDCSports cleverly named him – Marv from Home Alone – took the crown.
No, I’m not being sour. Recharge your giggle motor if you think so. Marco was a savage and it took Bradley needing to wipe out every ball in his final rack just to force an extra final round. Steve and Reggie were continuously in awe of his form, his flow within the shot, the arch, everything.
I had the pleasure of landing a conversation with former Bullet and 3-point paragon Tim Legler at the airport before flying back home on Monday (yes I scratched that off my bucket list too). Like his TV comrades, Legs was praiseful of Beal, saying the NBA “needs more guys like him in the contest.”
“Like him,” meaning pure shooters, and Beal certainly has the mechanics to define him as such. I mean, he began formulating his shot around the same time he was part-time bred by Nelly. Nelly, a lifelong who would often walk Beal to school, was just inches behind Beal when the tying 3-ball sunk in the basket.
Now enter the main event and a defining moment for Wizards Nation, a class of fanism tormented by irrefutable failure and “But who a #Wizards fan tho” tweets filtering into their timeline.
How can you really define watching him strut into the NBA limelight with Washington across his chest? It felt like the years of withheld patience induced by the torment of bottomless failure had warped into a scrunching bundle and combusted away for that one moment.
But then, Wall and his dunk associates began freelancing dunks for the next 90 seconds all of a sudden our TV screens seemingly turned into the NBA 2K “Loading” bit. Let’s just say that new format was pretty lame and by the mercy of whichever deity forgave Michael Ruffin I hope Adam Silver isn’t still hip to it next season.
Nevertheless, when the night was over, John Wall had, in the words of one Kenny Smith, “brought the dunk contest back” after shaking the arena with his reverse jam overtop 6 feet of blue spandex draped in Wizards garb.
The ensuing celebratory Nae Nae dance with Paul George and G-Man capped it off and all was simply well in Wizards Nation.
‘Twas a good time for St. Louis and for #MommaBeal and her paid off diligence. For #MommaWall who FaceTime’d her son from a hospital after falling ill in North Carolina. For John Wall and his deploringly heavy heart and his resilience to bring home what his mother coveted. And for #WizardsTwitter. Holy shit did you guys deserve that.
For a night, nothing seemed #SoWizards. Nothing in our recent memory served as comparable to John Wall hoisting the “Dunker of the Night” trophy and grilling cameras with G-Man.
Nothing felt better than realizing this is what the NBA’s most promising backcourt needed for their young career leaps.
Nothing felt better than knowing only half of my bucket list item was crossed off and in a few hours I’d be joining all the backend fun.
All images are original photos taken and edited by @Me
As the wheels finally screeched against the runway at New Orleans’ Louis Armstrong airport, I realized there wouldn’t be much media availability (actually none at all) in the final hours leading up to the All-Star tip-off.
This was really about the extent of my midday coverage on Sunday: An All-Star John Wall poster propped up in the corner of the makeshift NBA Store at NBA Jam Session held inside the city’s convention center.
Kobe Bryant and new NBA commish Adam Silver did conduct pre-game pressers but I only cared enough to catch a jest of their remarks via eavesdropping conversations in the stadium elevator heading up to the media section. My main focus was John Wall in a kiwi green warm up and while I patiently waited for his presence courtside, I went ahead let my camera lens have a moment with the “the greatest shooter in the world,” according to Barack Obama.