“Unable to participate and not here today, from the Los Angeles Lakers, Shaquille O’Neal”: 1997 NBA All-Star Game Introductions (Part One)

“Unable to participate and not here today, from the Los Angeles Lakers, Shaquille O’Neal”: 1997 NBA All-Star Game Introductions (Part One)

WHAT: 1997 NBA All-Star Game Introductions – Western Conference

WHEN: February 9, 1997

WHERE: Gund Arena in Cleveland, Ohio

WHO: The world’s finest professional basketball players convene for their annual exhibition of DUNKZ

MY PERSONAL EXPERIENCE: You know those awesomely cool people sportscasters reference during a game when they say “If you’re scoring at home”? That was me…..and depending on the game still is. But 11-year old Brett would score just about anything that was on TV. Some of my greatest hits included basketball games, baseball games………and episodes of the Price is Right (the incriminating evidence still exists in notebooks confined at Chateau Gates. Remember Emily Gates, for better or worse!). So of course I looked forward to the primo opportunity to score games filled with no defense, 24 players and buckets on buckets. Nothing would stop me, not even a carbon monoxide detector going off, as was the case for this game.  No, I didn’t stay in the house but we did make it over to our neighbor’s house, where I made my way to a 10-inch bedroom TV, notebook in hand. I promise I had friends.

 

All-Star games are meaningless. You’ve surely heard this refrain many times over and there is merit to be had in this viewpoint. There’s usually players that would rather be anywhere else in the world, the game play is shoddy at best and significance is shoehorned in when no one was asking for it. (This time it counts!)

But alas! Even with these very substantiated claims all-star games still give us great joys in both the pure enjoyment and ridiculousness that is sport. Whether it’s home run derbies where balls are mysteriously travelling 765 feet, or liquored up kickers or Damon Jones’ coat forever, I say keep these unnecessary exhibitions around.

damon-jones-coat-o
Your Cleveland Cavaliers coaching staff. Wouldn’t have it any other way.

I admittedly have the softest spot for NBA All-Star Weekend. I take it all in. The stupid celebrity game. The Rookie-Sophomore, U.S.-World, whatever game they’re calling it that barely resembles the sport of basketball. Everything Saturday night (Bring back the Shooting Stars competition!). And then there’s the Sunday game. Again, something that barely resembles basketball but usually fun to see the last 5 minutes when they really start trying (Isn’t that just like the real NBA? Dohohohoho). But forget game play. Today we’re talking about the introductions.

The All-Star game introductions have taken on a life of their own in recent years, largely thanks to Shaq’s appearance with the Jabbawockeez, which surprisingly holds up more than I thought it would. But rewind 20 years ago and while the intros are certainly more subdued, at the end of the day it’s still large grown men trying to act cool while being awkwardly introduced to a large group of people. I picked 1997 because it’s a clean 20 years ago, it felt like the league was just starting to reach a turning point (not necessarily in a good way), and it took place on the lovely shores of Lake Erie. So let’s go to the Gund and meet the gentlemen that made up the finest players in the world and I’ll share my fondest memories of them. I’ll start with the Western Conference, give you some time to stew on it and come back next week with the Eastern Conference.

0:01

Alright I lied. While the intros are certainly more subdued, at the end of the day it’s still large grown men trying to act cool while being awkwardly introduced to a large group of people AND THE MUSIC IS VERY DIFFERENT. This mix continues for the duration of the clip and I don’t really know how to describe it. I was going to say it should have been the Danny DeVito alien character music in a mythical Space Jam video game but apparently there was a Space Jam video game that I somehow neglected its existence despite the look of its undeniably fantastic game play. I have regrets.

0:35-0:48

Mitch Richmond

m-richmond

I admittedly don’t have much on Mitch Richmond other than my brother always vouched for him. Although apparently he was on the cover of NBA Live 97 , cousin of the most underrated basketball video game of all time, NBA Live ’95. I might just recap some old YouTube video of this game at some point to honor its greatness. If only I could recap the time I beat Kyle Rowland with a 3/4 shot at the buzzer that almost resulted in fisticuffs.

0:49-1:05

Latrell Sprewell

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I’ll just leave this be, and enjoy this clip of Latrell calmly shaking the coaches hands.

1:06-1:18

Eddie Jones

ejones

 

Alright I’m lacking here I don’t have much with Eddie either other than his 1.000 3 pointer percentage against the Cavs will be difficult to be topped. Don’t fact check me on that it’s true.

1:19-1:34

Tom Gugliotta

tgugliotta

 

Googs! Fun fact: If you got a pack of basketball cards from 1992-2000 93% of those packs included a Gugliotta card. Not so fun fact: He almost died on the team bus when he took too much “sleep aid” supplement. Yikes. To end on a positive note apparently today he just plays a whole mess of golf while enjoying the $80 million he earned while playing. And he once took this picture with KG and Starbury.

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1:35-1:50

Chris Gatling

cgatling

 

Ohhhh Chris Gatling. All-Star? I’ll admit I raised my eyebrows on this one. I used to think Gatling was just one of many players I personally enjoyed on a 2000-20001 Cavs team that finished a gentleman’s 30-52. Who am I to deny Wesley Person and Trajan Langdon? Well either way good for Chris Gatling because things in his post-career have uhhh gone not well.

1:50-2:07

Detlef Schrempf

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Detlef! “Excellent all-around play” is an accurate compliment for someone that had a top 5 TV cameo appearance of all-time in a top 5 episode of Parks and Recreation. And he could ball! 51% from 3 one season and didn’t really get to shoot that much. Think of what a weapon he would be in today’s league. I’ve long worshiped at the altar of Dirk Nowitzki but this might be the true German basketball hero.Then again Dirk is a Twitter MVP. Don’t make me pick between my children.

2:08-2:23

Kevin Garnett

kg

I always have had the biggest love-hate relationship with KG. You couldn’t help but love to watch him as he was coming up. In high school art class we had to keep a sketch book and I definitely had a sketch of mean Timberwolves KG that I thought was a lot better than it was. Another gem somewhere in the bowels of Chateau Gates. But then KG had all of his fake tough moments, he goes to Boston and QUITE FRANKLY, any man that is an enemy of Tim Duncan is an enemy of mine. The lesson as always is Long Live Tim Duncan.

2:24-2:30

Shaquille O’Neal

shaq-97

As you can already tell, I really enjoyed the Shaq still shot to note his absence like he is in the “In Memoriam” tribute at the Academy Awards. I know Shaq was actually injured but I like to think he was preparing for his important role in Good Burger or getting this picture taken with a panda that has been on my computer for years for some reason. Why is it on my computer? Rainy day I guess?

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2:31-2:41

Clyde Drexler

clyde-drexler

Clyde the Glide coming out with some shoulders that could cut glass. But we’re not here to talk about how Clyde’s Swiss Army shoulders, we’re here to talk video games. A Super Nintendo game prominently involving Clyde Drexler I had fond memories of was Bulls vs. Blazers.

bulls-blazers

Proof that they made video games out of literally anything at that time. If only they made a Connecticut-Butler XBox game. Anyways, we dug up our old Super Nintendo at Chateau Gates a few years ago and I thought to myself, “I’ll pop in Bulls vs. Blazers, it’s awesome.” Well, judge for yourself. Technology advancement is not the enemy.

2:42-2:55

Charles Barkley

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What hasn’t already been said about Chuck, so full credit to him for keeping the same wardrobe for 20 years.

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2:58-3:14

Gary Payton

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I never really got much into Payton other than to say that with his trash talking prowess he would have been a NBA Twitter legend in today’s game. But since it’s the Sonics, story time! Our family went on a western U.S. trip in the summer of 1997 that no one can still rationally talk about. Let’s just say it was over 2 weeks long and took multiple vehicles (RIP, white rental van that broke down in a monsoon). Maybe in a few years we can offer our story to a documentarian but until that day the scars are still too fresh.

About halfway through the trip we were in Seattle and were outside a mall where a crowd was gathering. My mom and brother were back at the hotel resting after he had fallen into a concrete fountain earlier in the day (I told you) so the rest of us had some extra time. We asked some people what was going on and they said Sonics forward Sam Perkins was making an appearance. Perkins’ agent gets on the mic and claims he has no idea what is going to happen, even saying he might announce his retirement. So we decided to wait around. And wait. And wait. My dad wants us to get going but we’ve stuck it out this long, we’re seeing Sam Perkins, dammit (We were pretty young so I’d like to think we didn’t say dammit but there’s a pretty good chance we did). Perkins finally shows up. In a limo. Yes, a limo. Surely this is a momentous occasion. He approaches the mic. And announces that he is starting an annual community cookout known as “The Big Smooth Cookout”. I’ve never seen a large crowd of people disperse so quickly. On multiple occasions I’ve tried Googling if this cookout ever came to fruition but to no avail. Hopefully it was a real good time.

3:15-3:26

John Stockton

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John Stockton runs out because of course. I feel like John Stockton was made to be the subject of a 1990’s PFTCommenter. The all-time leader in assists and steals but his finest moment will be him walking around Barcelona when he was on the Dream Team because he knew no one would recognize him.

3:27-3:40

Hakeem Olajuwon

hakeem

Hakeem coming out in the Houston Rockets commemorative pajama collection. It’s important to be comfortable. But Hakeem doesn’t get near the credit he deserves, especially for his complete dismantling of the Spurs after he lost out on the MVP to David Robinson in 1995. Anytime everyone else is talking in hushed tones about you it’s Keyser Soze level.

3:41-3:53

Karl Malone

karl-malone

Just think, Karl Malone was only a few short months away from retiring after he got “The Mailman doesn’t deliver on Sundays” dropped on him after missing crucial free throws in the Finals. Wait, he didn’t retire? Surely he should have after getting that dunked on like that. At least he would go on to a lucrative career with Diamond Dallas Page

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3:54-4:08

Shawn Kemp

shawn-kemp

Count me among those that got starry-eyed at the prospect of Shawn Kemp coming to the Cavs the season after this one. Now, obviously everyone looks back on the Shawn Kemp Cavs years as an abject disaster and it’s difficult to argue against that. HOWEVAH, I still don’t blame them for making the move because they probably would have ended up in about the same place anyways. The Cavs had been middling in about the same spot for years and years and didn’t have the one true star to push them over the hump. They were basically today’s Atlanta Hawks. Decent, but do you ever see them *really* contending for a title? It was kind of in the similar vein to the Browns taking Johnny Manziel and hey th……

That wraps up the Western Conference, come back next week when I look at the Eastern Conference all-stars and I see if I can buy Christian Laettner’s warmup jacket.

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