PHOENIX -- If there's one thing you can take away from this year's NBA All-Star Weekend, it's never bet against Kevin Durant. A day after scoring a record 46 points and winning the MVP in the Rookie Challenge, Durant came from behind to win the much-talked about H-O-R-S-E competition prior to All-Star Saturday Night.
Durant, who was one letter away from being eliminated early in the competition, ended up outlasting Joe Johnson before knocking off O.J. Mayo, who once had no letters to his name when Durant was on the brink of elimination.
While the competition wasn't as good (creative shots were few and far between) or as bad (there were a few highlights such as Mayo hitting a shot from the stands), it was a perfect example of a company not knowing when enough was enough in terms of corporate sponsorship. I mean, did they really need to spell out G-E-I-C-O instead of H-O-R-S-E? Wasn't it enough that they were playing H-O-R-S-E presented by Geico and had the Geico Gecko plastered on the basket?
As TNT announcer Ernie Johnson noted before the game, "Who didn't grow up playing a nice game of Geico in the background? Well, today we're calling it Horse presented by Geico.” Well, if we're being technical here, they really were playing Geico presented by Geico as the only Horse that made an appearance was the toy horse Durant got for winning the competition.
"This is my first horse," said Durant while holding the toy, er, award. "This is going right up with my other trophies."
Here are some other thoughts from the competition, as I stood courtside under the TNT booth:
** Joe Johnson was the only reason this event was even remotely exciting early on. While Durant and Mayo were content shooting safe outside shots, Johnson consistently thought outside the box, shooting from the raised TNT set behind the basket, taking a shot while sitting in front of a computer at the scorer's table and attempting a lay-up while spinning the ball on his finger. Then again, he missed all those shots, so maybe that wasn't best strategy for winning -- but it certainly made things exciting.
** During the first commercial break a TNT producer, noticing the guys were taking safe shots, said, "Get as creative as you want. Don't worry, we'll follow you. You can go anywhere you want.” Durant, who started off cold, laughed at the advice and said, "I got to make a shot first."
** As interesting as it was to stage the event outside during the day, it really deserves to be a part of the official events of All-Star Saturday Night, beginning next year. I mean, does anyone really care about the Shooting Stars or Skills Challenge competitions? The one thing missing from holding the H-O-R-S-E competition outside was the interaction between the players and their peers. It would be interesting to see the All-Stars at courtside giving advice to the three competitors -- as they do in the dunk contest -- instead of Kenny Smith and Chris Webber screaming ideas from the announcer's table.