With all due respect to Blake Griffin and his somewhat disappointing sponsored dunk over (the hood of) a car — a Kia, no less — I think my favorite thing to come out of last weekend was the very-late-Friday-night release of Kobe BryantÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s new Nike ad/short film, The Black Mamba.
Swallowed up in all the Carmelo Anthony hysteria was one of the smartest, funniest and most unique sneaker ad campaigns in quite some time. (Video after the jump)
ItÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s unbelievable that I canÃ¢â‚¬â„¢t enjoy a night in which the Knicks acquired a superstar ballplayer who IÃ¢â‚¬â„¢ve always liked, but tonightÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s events crystallize why I havenÃ¢â‚¬â„¢t been fully able to embrace their climb back to respectability the past few years.
And itÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s a perfect example of the flawed nature of being a fan: You simply canÃ¢â‚¬â„¢t control who owns the team, and thatÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s the single most important component of a winning franchise.
One of our favorite players at the Primetime Shootout this past weekend was Montrose Christian point guard Tyrone Johnson, who was sensational in outclassing Findlay PrepÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s Myck Kabongo in a Montrose rout.
Johnson, playing at home after transferring from Plainfield High School last year, played brilliantly on Saturday, tallying 25 points and eight assists as Montrose surprised everyone by bouncing back from an upset loss to Linden on Friday night with a 63-37 takedown of Findlay.
He was superb in general, but the lasting memory for everyone in attendance was JohnsonÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s ridiculous dunk in traffic over Findlay PrepÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s Amir Garrett, sending the crowd at Kean University to its feet with a raucous celebration.
Terry Rains of Blue Devil Nation and I caught up with Johnson following the game and talked to him about his dunk, his matchup with Kabongo, how he prepares for games and what heÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s working on before heading to Villanova next year.
One of my favorite things about high school basketball is discovering and subsequently following a talented player before he blows up. ItÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s almost like investing in a stock before it skyrockets in value, or going to see an underground rapper before he gets a deal.
Watching him against St. AnthonyÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s on Saturday, I became more and more impressed with Hotchkiss freshman point guard Makai Mason. Mason is a good shooter with nice handle, every pass he threw was a bounce pass, and he didnÃ¢â‚¬â„¢t appear daunted in the least in facing off with the No. 2 team in the nation. I honestly had to keep checking the program and asking people around me, Ã¢â‚¬Å“Are we sure this kidÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s a freshman?Ã¢â‚¬Â
Hotchkiss ended up losing a tightly contested game, 74-63, but Mason ended up with 12 points, 2 assists, 3 steals and 2 three-pointers. As he gets older and his body gets stronger, I expect to hear very big things about him — heÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s already very impressive and still has three years of high school to go.
Terry Rains of Blue Devil Nation and I caught up with Makai on Saturday and discussed what college and pro point guards he identifies with, his lofty expectations for his own game, and whether heÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s considering any schools at such an early stage.
I went to a good half-dozen St. Patrick games last season, primarily to watch Kyrie Irving and secondarily to see Michael Gilchrist. I ended up becoming a fan of the program in general, and besides the two players I mentioned, I grew to really like freshman Austin Colbert.
In particular, I watched him against Trenton Catholic in a game Gilchrist missed with an injury, and Colbert was a force off the bench, scoring 11 points as St. PatÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s didnÃ¢â‚¬â„¢t miss a beat. After that game, I talked to Austin for a few minutes and found him to be very gracious with a terrific temperament. (He even put up with me asking him if I could see his St. PatÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s Jordans.)
Colbert hasnÃ¢â‚¬â„¢t put up big numbers this season as a sophomore, but it doesnÃ¢â‚¬â„¢t mean heÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s slipping at all — heÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s still a top 10 sophomore in America on most lists — itÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s more that he fits a role within the regimented system of the absolutely loaded No. 1 team in the country. We were, however, disappointed not to see very much of Austin against St. Thomas More on Sunday, mostly sitting in favor of freshman Dakari Johnson, who had the requisite size to bang with No. 1 Junior Andre Drummond. AustinÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s time will come.
Terry Rains of Blue Devil Nation and I caught up with Austin on Saturday night and talked about what colleges are on his list, his experiences in St. PatrickÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s game vs. Winter Park and Austin Rivers, playing with Michael Gilchrist, and what his goals are for the rest of the year.
Terry Rains and I went back to Kean University for the Primetime Shootout on Sunday, joined by John Calipari and a few other notables. World Wide Wes was there acting secretive and saying hello to literally everyone that walked by.
Here are our thoughts on Findlay PrepÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s bounceback game, and the No. 1 team in the nation against the No. 1 player in the nation:
From the first time I went to the Primetime Shootout — a young up-and-comer named LeBron James scored 52 points in Trenton — I was hooked. The tournament has always lured some of the best teams in the country, and itÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s a great opportunity to get a handle on players you end up seeing at major college programs or in the pros.
(The tournament has hosted A-listers like Dwight Howard, Josh Smith, Kevin Durant and Carmelo Anthony in the past. IÃ¢â‚¬â„¢ve personally seen Luol Deng, Nolan Smith, Ty Lawson, Trevor Ariza and Sebastian Telfair.)
The Mega Group did a great job as usual organizing the Shootout, attracting not only a cadre of top teams, but a host of notables at courtside: The infamous World Wide Wes, Kentucky czar John Calipari, Murder Inc producer Irv Gotti, and former NBA players Ron Harper and NJ prep legend Dajuan Wagner.
I was joined on Saturday and Sunday by Terry Rains, a contributor to SportsAngle and Blue Devil Nation. WeÃ¢â‚¬â„¢ll have some video interviews in the next day or so, but for now, here are some of our thoughts, starting with Saturday:
Kobe Bryant sat on stage at Foot Locker on 34th Street in New York City on Friday night, his congenial nature thinly veiling his inherent razor-sharp focus, which had been on full display at Madison Square Garden just an hour beforehand.
Make no mistake: Though Kobe was relaxed and enjoying himself while entertaining and inspiring his young fans, his drive to succeed in all aspects of his career was on full display at Foot Locker UnlockedÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s event to promote the release of the Nike Kobe VI Supreme/Rice.
I had to pick up a friend in Jersey City before the Super Bowl, so I was a little late getting to the restaurant at which my friends were watching the game. I actually missed the first quarter, which is fine with me as I wasnÃ¢â‚¬â„¢t a fan of either participant in the game, and three quarters was plenty of buildup for last nightÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s Glee episode.
As I drove past numerous food and liquor establishments, I looked in windows and saw the game in every single one. I also saw it through the curtains of houses while listening to it on the radio. There are certain times you know pretty much everyone in America is doing the same thing, and the Super Bowl is probably the foremost among those times.
If I understood the ratings correctly, over 70 percent of American televisions were tuned to the game. ItÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s the whole package — the advertisements, the food, the halftime nonsense, an excuse to throw a party, the need to fit in. If you like football, obviously the game itself is a draw, but if you donÃ¢â‚¬â„¢t, you still need to know who wins for the sake of history and pop culture. ItÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s sort of like a Presidential election.
And I got to thinkingÃ¢â‚¬Â¦
What happens if it all disappears?
Note — With the videos below, you might want to use headphones. The audio came in a bit low.
In response to Ed RandallÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s question on Tuesday night about potentially adding another Wild Card team to the playoff scenario, Sandy Alderson furrowed his brow and said, Ã¢â‚¬Å“Well, I havenÃ¢â‚¬â„¢t actually given it much thoughtÃ¢â‚¬Â¦Ã¢â‚¬Â
He paused, and a wry smile crept in at the corners of the MetsÃ¢â‚¬â„¢ new general managerÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s mouth.
Ã¢â‚¬Å“Given our situation, I think IÃ¢â‚¬â„¢d be in favor of it.Ã¢â‚¬Â Fifty or so baseball fans nodded and chuckled.