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Now that NBA All-Star weekend is behind us, the home stretch of the season is set to kick off today. Before getting into what will happen as teams jockey for playoff position, let’s look back at the winners and losers of All-Star weekend in Houston:

Loser – My Ears

Ke$ha, Ne-Yo, Alicia Keys. Bad, Worse, the Worst. John Legend was fine singing the National Anthem, but I’d say he was cancelled out by the actress who sang Oh, Canada. Pretty sure Drake was the only one who enjoyed that.

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To be honest, I am a big Alicia Keys fan. She has given many great live performances, but she’s on a losing streak right now. I’d say her biggest problems were: singing a song about New York at an arena in Houston, the acoustics, her Hammer pants, and the choreography. That’s a lot to overcome. And I don’t even hate Girl on Fire like – apparently – the rest of Twitter does.

Winner – Damaris Lewis…do yourself a favor

I had no idea who Damaris Lewis was before this weekend. But after this, I did some Googling. The 37 consecutive tweets down my timeline asking who she was tell me I’m not alone.

Turns out Lewis is an accomplished model and dancer who has been in a few things we’ve heard of. Not that I really care, because she’s hot.

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Loser – Craig Sager’s suit…again

Been saying this for decades. But they’re always…so…hideous.

Craig Sager

Loser – James “Grounded Flight” White

I got this one 100% wrong. I have watched White make incredible dunks FROM THE FREE THROW LINE in dunk contests for years. I was excited when he signed with the Knicks this season solely because of the possibility that he might enter the dunk contest.

Then he did nothing worthy of a picture for this post.

While White blamed his flaccid performance on the special basketballs used for the contest, I have to think his nerves got to him. White can obviously still jump. He actually went long on a couple attempts. In the end, White was a flop. Terrence Ross was good though. I give the contest a C overall.

Winner – Kyrie Irving

The entire All-Star weekend is geared for a player like Irving. He’s a second-year player that’s becoming a star on a non-marquee team. The purpose of ASW is to give players like this a platform to win new fans and broaden their appeal. Irving definitely took advantage.

 On Friday, Kyrie took Brandon Knight’s soul with a crossover/jumper that somehow caused Knight to fall while jumping. I had no idea this was possible before I saw it live. As a Pistons fan, a part of me died as Knight managed to fall on his back. The basketball fan in me was excited, especially as Knight tried (unsuccessfully) to heal his bruised ego by going back at Irving.

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The next day, Irving caught fire in the three-point contest, winning with an impressive 23 points in the final round over the Red Mamba, Matt Bonner.

Finally, Irving played in the main showcase, Sunday’s All-Star Game. Usually, the game is a fast break and three-point exhibition until the middle of the fourth quarter. If the game is close at the end, the intensity turns up as pride takes over and the stars are actually trying to win. I was surprised to see Irving out there during “serious” play blending right in with the best players in the league. He held his own, finishing with 15 points and four assists, and showed he’ll be the best point guard in the league before too long.

Loser – Kobe Bryant

Allow me to explain.

Once Sunday’s game turned to “serious” play in the fourth quarter, Kobe announced that he would guard LeBron James for the remainder of the game. kobe-blocks-lebron-2013-all-star-game[1]He was praised during the broadcast and in print afterwards for “taking the challenge,” and making some impressive defensive stops, helping to secure victory for the West.

I witnessed a moral victory for Bryant that highlighted how lopsided the Kobe/LeBron debate is today. It was clear to me that a hyped-up Kobe was playing a throttled-down LeBron in the final minutes of that game. The blocks and steal certainly helped seal victory, but I came away from the game feeling that Kobe cared too much and LeBron didn’t care at all. Adding hollowness to the “duel” that Kobe clearly won.

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I was reminded of the game in Miami when, after losing to the Heat, Kobe stayed behind for hours shooting in the gym jumpers in the arena.  That was false hustle: trying to show the world how much he cared while masking the reality that Kobe’s will to win can’t close the widening talent gap between him and LeBron. I saw it on Sunday, and I’m sure, if you cornered him, Kobe would admit the same.

That’s my All-Star Weekend report. What caught your eye, SBM Sports Fans? Who else was a winner or loser? Is any player’s future brighter than Kyrie Irving? Did you enjoy the performance by Alicia Keys? How do you handicap the never ending Kobe vs. LeBron debate today?

Hit the comments and let me know!