A wise man once said, “If I ain’t startin’, I ain’t departin’.”
But that missive from former major league shortstop Garry Templeton regarding being relegated to All-Star Game reserve status is a sentiment not shared by all athletes, among them Shaquille O’Neal and Reggie Miller.
No, the two ex-NBA greats, who will be part of TNT’s coverage of the “2014 NBA All-Star Game” on Sunday, Feb. 16, relish the memories of their appearances in the league’s midseason showcase of its top players, and they say it was an honor to be chosen – no matter if it was as a starter or a reserve.
“The All-Star Game was good to me,” O’Neal, a TNT studio analyst who made 15 All-Star appearances and won three game MVP awards during a 19-year pro playing career, tells Zap2it. “I had to put myself in kid mode. What I mean by that is, when I was a kid, when you’re not playing basketball, everybody is at the All-Star Game, and you’ve seen them. You’ve seen Denzel‘s movie, you’ve seen Beyonce‘s videos, you’ve seen Jay-Z‘s royal castle. So for me, with all those people there, I wanted to give them the same enjoyment as they always gave me. So that’s why I tried to do a lot of extra silly stuff to make them remember me by. It was like an honor for me to perform in front of them, all the stuff that they did for me.”
“You want to play your best,” adds Miller, a five-time All-Star in 18 seasons who was inducted into the Basketball Hall of Fame in 2012; he will be doing analysis on the game telecast.
“You want to have fun with it. But most importantly you want to win because the winner gets a bigger check than the losing team,” he says, laughing.
The game’s 63rd edition, which takes place at New Orleans Arena in the Big Easy, features several first-time starters in Kyrie Irving of the Cleveland Cavaliers, Stephen Curry of the Golden State Warriors, the Indiana Pacers’ Paul George and Kevin Love of the Minnesota Timberwolves. They join ASG veterans LeBron James and Dwyane Wade of the Miami Heat, Blake Griffin of the Los Angeles Clippers, Carmelo Anthony of the New York Knicks, and Kevin Durant of the Oklahoma City Thunder.
“This game is made for Kevin Durant,” Miller says. “I mean, right now he’s, in my opinion, the MVP of the league. And (the All-Star Game is) a glorified pickup game. It’s a great Rucker-type game. So to have him on the West, to have LeBron on the East and have those two guys somewhat go at it, they’re the two premier players in our game.”
Ernie Johnson, who will host TNT’s studio show on All-Star Sunday, is also a Durant fan.
“I would pay good money to watch Kevin Durant right now,” he says. “I always loved watching LeBron, obviously, but Kevin Durant is playing on an incredible level right now. He just makes it look so easy and effortless and fluid.
“Steph Curry, too,” Johnson adds. “I mean, I can’t possibly be going down a list of guys who are fun to watch, and then all of a sudden you’ve named 15 guys. But just purely watching a guy shoot the ball is Steph, and I think sometimes it’s easier for the average fan to relate to somebody like that than to somebody who can hang in midair and do a 360 because they have no idea what that feels like. But we’ve all been out in the backyard and shot. And then to watch a guy do it that well, like Steph Curry, then you get a real appreciation for just how good he is.”
And the All-Star Game, according to Miller, is set up for point guards such as Curry, “because point guards dominate the game, and there’s a lot of fantastic young point guards. I mean, Kyrie Irving on the East squad, a fantastic young point guard, and Steph Curry. You know, to have those two young guys go at it, there’s the up-and-coming face of that point guard position, along with … Chris Paul (of the Clippers).”
“You don’t want a huge blowout,” says Miller, “because come fourth quarter, the last five to seven minutes, that’s when most of the starters are on the floor, and you really get a good, competitive game. So it’s those other 40-43 minutes that are in question, which are a lot of lobs, alley-oops, behind-the-back passes, a lot of fancy play.
“But if you have a competitive game going into the fourth,” he continues, “and especially the last five, six, seven minutes, then you’re going to get a really good game.”