All-Star Sunday: Kobe and Love style the game

Benjamin Polk —  February 21, 2011 — 12 Comments

Photo by Andre Maraux

The All-Star Game was made for Kobe Bryant. Playoff and regular-season NBA play brings with it certain constraints: defenses of post-millennial complexity; structured, ball-movement oriented offenses; the good taste and common sense prohibitions against shooting every time one touches the ball. But in the All-Star context, Kobe’s miraculous skills can run wild and free, can exist in their purest form. Nobody, not even Michael Jordan, KB’s stylistic forefather, has ever manipulated the high post so gracefully; nobody could ever make a missed fadeaway three look quite so beautiful. And in the All-Star Game, if it looks awesome, it is awesome. Without the regular season’s restrictive communitarian morality, Kobe is free to perform his sublime dance.

At the same time, even as Kobe benefits from the game’s freedoms, his burning competitiveness and the focussed intention that graces all of his movements stands out from and gives meaning to what is otherwise a pretty languid, un-compelling spectacle. He just seems more attuned, more composed, more on purpose than any other player on the floor. In the All-Star Game, Kobe Bryant really does look like the greatest basketball player in the world.

Kevin Love has other ways of disrupting the normal flow of All-Star complacency. On both ends of the floor, Love seemed aimless and out of place, lost in the space between all of that isolated, unfettered performance. But when  shots would go up on the glass, Love managed to create a space of his own signature intensity. That he generally lost these boards to his longer and more athletic colleagues (Russell Westbrook, in particular, vaulted over Love’s back with some tremendous verve) did not change the fact that, at those moments alone, the game took on Kevin’s lusty aura.

Nevertheless, it became clear on Sunday that Love is not actually meant for the All-Star Game. This is not to say that he should not be mentioned along with the best players in the biz, but simply that the most prized skills in this game–virtuosic ballhandling and body control, supreme vertical athleticism, Kobe skills, in other words–are simply not in Love’s bag.  As I pointed out on Thursday, Kevin does his best work carving out space within the structure and flow of a game, finding niches between the action’s conventional patterns. And so, in a game with no structure and no pattern, in which sheer individual spectacularity trumps everything, Kevin, despite those frantic seconds on the glass and his many humming outlet passes, was not much more than a bystander.

Benjamin Polk

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12 responses to All-Star Sunday: Kobe and Love style the game

  1. How can you say Love wasnt worthy of being in the all star game? Look at his stats. He is haveing a once and 30 year type season. Could it possibly be that Love is only 22 years old and grew up watching most of these players as a kid? Maybe just a bit nervous being in the national spotlight on his first all star game? No Kevin Love is not going to “awww” you with his fade aways like Kobe does and make spectacular athletic plays like Griffin. He is not that kind of player. He is a blue collar, rough and tough player with more heart than most. And he is damn good at what he does. His game reminds me of Charles barkely minus the monster dunks. Big, bulky kinda chunky guy that can rebound and shoot. I havent even mention the fact he was on the gold winning summer team with basically all the superstars of the league, had a big season at UCLA, was in the McDonalds all star high school game, and was the 5th overall pick in his draft. QUIT HATING FOR REAL DUDE!

  2. whatever, yer a love hater. hes only 22. hes getting better and better and he belongs in the all-star game just as much as duncan,ginobili, allen, pierce. forget you. id like to know who wrote this. by the way, kobe doesnt even compare to MJ.

  3. You might have noticed that I actually did say (and have said a few times before) that, based on the merits of his play, Love deserved to to be in the game. This piece was just stating that Love’s game doesn’t fit well with the way the actual All-Star game is played. Not sure it qualifies as “hating” (though I admit that at this point I have no idea what “hating” actually means) to point out that Kevin Love is not among the the most spectacular or aesthetically pleasing players in the world.

  4. Yeah, you kind of missed what he was saying, Shawn. Read before you rant, bro.

  5. I think you’re being unfair. He only played 12 minutes in the game. I think it took me longer to read your article than Kevin was on the floor last sunday. Kinda hard to catch the “flow” of the game coming into it late and not playing much. Its way easier to sit on a computer and break down almost every second he was on the floor……all 12 mins of it. This article screams that you are desperate to find something to write about. Lets be realistic, you are comparing Love to Kobe when there are very few players EVER you can compare him too. Kobe is showtime even in regular games, Love is not. Somehow you were disapointed he didnt catch an allyoop or maybe you felt Love was “holding” Kobe back. As far as “hating”, unless youve been under a rock for the last 15 years, you should know what it means. Its called slang Ben. Go look it up online in the dictionary of slang. LOL Honestly I cant even believe you made that remark. You made my evening. Thanks! :)

  6. Hey Shawn, as per your helpful suggestion plus friendly smiley widget, I looked up “hating” in the Urban Slang Dictionary (I didn’t realize it was an “urban” word; no wonder I don’t know it!!!!:()) It says: “1) When one puts down the success or fortune of others due to jealousy. 2) To engage in ridicule and mockery for amusement.”

    You’re right, I should stop hating. I never realized how jealous I was of Kevin Love, and that my criticism of his weaknesses as a player all grew from that jealousy. How’s this: Kevin Love is the best player in the world. His game has no flaws. He looked awesome in the All-Star Game.

    Much better.

  7. You actually had to look it up? Priceless. Yes that term is more used in the cities and suburbs. Not out in corn eating country. I am guessing that is where you are from? And the term hating is used anytime you are saying negative things about anyone. It dont have to pertain to jealousy. Take notice sir, that the “hating” reference was the only thing you replied too. You obviously have nothing to say about the rest of my post because you know I am right. Cant argue with the facts , but I will argue your opinion. The Kobe/Jordan comparison shows just how much you truly know about basketball. Yes Kobe is very good at Fade aways and what not, but he is not great. Jordan was great and Jordan brought more than just scoring. He also played Defense putting up about 8 rebounds a game go with 6 assists and 2+ steals a game. Thats about his career average. ( I didnt look it up but im in the ballpark) Jordan is the greatest and Kobe is not as good as Jordan in any catagory or stat. So you can continue to “mock” the hating comment, but according to the urban dictionary you posted, mockery is hating, and that is what you are doing by continuing to bring up hating. Crazy how that works eh?

  8. I agree with Ben completely on this. I was at the game, and it was clear that Love’s talents, which are great, don’t really fit in with the style of the all-star game. He has an old school type game, like Tim Duncan, and the all-star game really devolves into a showcase for athletic ability, not team-oriented basketball.

  9. I dont think Shawn was arguing that he didnt play well in the game. I think he is questioning of how you can conclude that after only 12 minutes of playing time. I agree. How can you?

  10. http://faither-howlatthemoon.blogspot.com/2011/02/and-another-thing.html…….I think I had this covered.

    All Star game….circus…..performers….acrobats….clowns

    You wouldn’t really find any bitingly witty political satire there.

    Okay that analogy sucks…but you get my drift.

  11. I’m not surprised that it took Shawn more than 12 minutes to read this.

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