NBA All-Star Pre-Game Coverage Not a Slam Dunk

Greg StarddardContributor IIIFebruary 20, 2011

LOS ANGELES, CA - FEBRUARY 20:  Tim Duncan #21 of the San Antonio Spurs and the Western Conference and Dwight Howard #12 of the Orlando Magic and the Eastern Conference go after the opening jump to start the 2011 NBA All-Star Game at Staples Center on February 20, 2011 in Los Angeles, California. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and or using this photograph, User is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement.  (Photo by Noel Vasquez/Getty Images)
Noel Vasquez/Getty Images

It's always uncomfortable to watch celebrities attempting to interview sports figures. And it's equally nauseating as sports figures try to quiz celebrities. Talk about a fish out of water. That's what it felt like watching the NBA All-Star Pre-Game coverage on NBA-TV and TNT.  Maria Menounos, Rick Fox, Nick Cannon, uninterested players and a television set built for pre-schoolers provided some of the worst television sports coverage in recent memory.

It's never a good idea to put an on-air television personality in an awkward position.  As the ole saying goes: The camera never blinks. And because it didn't blink Sunday evening, we saw everything. First of all, who's idea was it to put Menounos on the red, oh excuse me, the magenta carpet, to interview NBA players?

She's an entertainment reporter, not a sports journalist, and that distinction was clear during her pre-game interviews. Menounos made it obvious she's a Boston girl and adores the Celtics. I get that, but I don't get why she was there. She seemed almost speechless and quite ga-ga as she interviewed Ray Allen, KG, Rondo, and Paul Pierce. Her questions had nothing to do with the game, the season or anything relevant for that matter.  She was basically a gushing female with a microphone, meeting four of her sports idols. 

Heck, they could have plucked any Celtic fan from the audience to do the interviews. Horrible. But hey, it wasn't her fault.  She was given the assignment, and somewhere in some satellite truck in the Staples Center parking lot, there was an executive producer bragging about how great it was. One problem—it wasn't. There are plenty of sports journalists who could have and should have been on the carpet asking relevant, fun, and interesting questions. Menounos does a fantastic job for Entertainment Tonight, Extra, or wherever, but she was clearly out of her element on the NBA All Star Pre-Game coverage. If the executive producers for NBA-TV and TNT Sports are reading this: Next time find a sports reporter  to do the pre-game interviews. 

Which brings me to the flip side of this argument. Playing the game does not necessarily qualify you to ask the questions. Rick Fox, the handsome B-List actor and former Los Angeles Laker and Boston Celtic, interviewed former players during pre-game coverage. He sort of co-hosted with Nick Cannon. He's known in some circles as Mr. Mariah Carey and host of a very popular MTV show called Wild 'N Out. More on Nicky in a moment. 

Fox on the other hand would have been better served in uniform during the all star game, even though he's retired. He and his co-host attempted to interview the Heatles.  One problem. The Heatles were missing D-Wade.  He was running late for the "live" show.  Someone please explain to D-Wade what "live" means in television. Fox, with his sports background, should have known what to ask LeBron and Chris Bosh as they awaited their missing comrade.

But Foxy looked a little tentative. The questions didn't flow and quite honestly, he looked a little nervous and unprepared. Why? Because he's not a journalist, TV host, or interviewer. And it showed. I must admit I was a little disappointed because he played the game for so many years, but he didn't seem to know what to ask LeBron and Bosh. Missed opportunity. Bad television.

On the other hand, Mr. Carey was his usual goofy self. He delivered to his target audience perfectly. LeBron and Bosh tried to play along, but neither seemed to get the joke. Mr. Carey, with no journalism or sports reporting background, kind of laughed his way through what appeared to be an interview. But that's what he does. That's his schtick.  Neither should have been on a stage with microphones interviewing NBA Superstars. 

By the way, the interview got even more awkward when D-Wade finally arrived. He jogged out on the stage to a smattering of applause. Yo, D-Wade, this ain't Miami. It's L.A. baby, and only Kobe can arrive late and make the crowd go crazy. But to his credit, at least he showed up late and only had to endure a couple of minutes of terrible interviews. I'm not asking for 60 Minutes here, but at least a few pertinent queries from the person holding the mike. 

The evening was topped off with five grown men sitting on a television set constructed for my five-year-old niece. C'mon TNT!! You've got Kevin McHale, Charles Barkley, Chris Webber, Kenny Smith, and Ernie Johnson squeezed onto a set like a sausage casing. McHale, Webber and Chuck are big dudes. It looked like they were kneeling. That's how small the set was. The budget at TNT can't be that tiny. Spend a few bucks on a set that's big enough for professional basketball players. Here's a tip: They're tall. They might need a lot of leg room.

If you're an NBA player, at least act like you want to be there. Give the fans what they ask for. They're only paying a hundred bucks a ticket to see you play. You know what I mean? Tim Duncan was asked by an interviewer if he was participating in a lot of the all star festivities. His response: No. He was also asked if he went to the slam dunk competition. His response: No. And finally he was asked if he took part in any of the activities.  His response: No, I spent time with my family this weekend. Thanks Timmy. Sorry for bothering you. Can't you pretend to have a good time at all star weekend? Perhaps some kid was hoping to catch a glimpse of you at one of the events. Another interviewer asked Rondo if there was anyone he was looking forward to seeing as dozens of celebrities converged on La-La Land for the various functions. His response: No. I'm not kidding.  I'm not making this stuff up.

From the crappy pre-game TV reporting, to players acting as though they were being inconvenienced by attending the all star festivities, one has to wonder if the networks and the league need to go back to the drawing board. Maybe it's time for some fresh ideas and a new approach to the television coverage.