Heat-Lakers OT game actually lives up to heavy Kobe-Shaq hype


I TOOK TIME out from a long day of napping and overeating to watch the super-hyped showdown of Kobe Bryant and Shaquille O'Neal yesterday, and I've got only one thing to say.

I'm glad ABC didn't try to milk the moment.

There was the pre-game Shaq interview (which revealed nothing), the prerecorded halftime Shaq interview (when he told us what a classy guy he is), the pre-game Kobe interview (which revealed nothing) and the live Kobe halftime interview (during which I realized that I was more interested in watching Michele Tafoya breathe than listening to another word from either one of these guys).

There was the double commercial break buildup to the introduction of the starting lineups, which fortunately included the exciting promo for an all-new season of Alias. From where I'm sitting, you can never go wrong with Jennifer Garner in a prep school uniform, so I was willing to wait for Shaq's 37-second ovation at the Staples Center.

The suspense continued to build as the two teams took the floor and Kobe met Shaq on court for the first time since they were bounced out of the Finals last season by the Detroit Pistons.

Talk about an unfulfilling moment. Kobe approached Shaq, whose response was - to quote my hero Tom Waits - colder than a ticket-taker's smile at the Bijou Theater. No hug. No acknowledgement. Nothing but a perfunctory elbow-bump, pat-on-the-butt, brush-by that left me wishing for one more of those exciting public service announcement cutaways featuring NBA stars doing charitable work and not beating the pulp out of the fans in Detroit.

Of course, it didn't end with the tip-off. The network spiced up the broadcast with an L.A. soap opera vignette featuring highlights of the friction between Kobe and Shaq and Kobe and Phil Jackson and Kobe and Karl Malone. There also was a "Great Hollywood Breakups" piece that compared the Kobe/Shaq divorce with Tom and Nicole, Demi and Bruce and, well, you get the idea.

I'll give Shaq and Kobe this much. They came to play. Kobe had 14 points in the first five minutes of the game and went on to score a season-high 42. Shaq's afternoon began and ended with Kobe, blocking Bryant's first shot, then fouling out with 2:15 left when Kobe drove the lane with the game tied at 91-91.

O'Neal finished with 24 points and 11 rebounds, then took a parting shot at Kobe after the Heat pulled out the 104-102, overtime win.

"We just come out to win," he said. "We don't come out here to score 50 or 60 points and prove anything to anybody."

Guess that's what you have to say when the guy you dislike most in the world outscores you by 18 points.

Can't wait for Kobe-Shaq II.

Maybe someone can explain to me what the Dodgers were thinking. They let Adrian Beltre go after he delivered one of the best offensive performances in history for a third baseman, ostensibly because the $65 million price tag was too high, then they panic because they lost all that offense and give injury-prone J.D. Drew $55 million over five years.

This should have been the first free-agent contract that was contingent on the player passing a physical and the general manager (Paul DePodesta) undergoing a psychological evaluation.

In case anyone was wondering, I got a lint roller for Christmas. Yeah, one of those things where you pull off the cover paper and it's like rolling a big tape ball on your dark clothes to remove all the lint and dog hair.

Got to say it works great. I've been testing it on my dog, which used to be a Dalmatian.

My teenaged daughter got a book of Spanish literature - in Spanish - which ought to tell you who got the brains in the family. I think she's trying to hit me up for some more Christmas cash, because she has taken to referring to me as "El Guapo."

Loosely translated, that means "the handsome one." I couldn't agree more, and it's quite an improvement over my other ridiculous nickname. (See birth certificate.)

Contact Peter Schmuck at peter.schmuck@baltsun.com.

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