Players sing 'happy birthday' to Russell, more than a game, etc.

Players sing 'happy birthday' to Russell, more than a game, etc.
February 17, 2014, 8:15 am
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For the entire arena, and even the legends that were at the game to show that much respect is . . . it says a lot about him as a player and as a person.
Blake Griffin on Bill Russell

NEW ORLEANS – Though the game provided many highlights for fans around the world, those in attendance at Smoothie King Arena on Sunday will take a particular memory away from the NBA All-Star Game.

The sellout crowd (14,727), with Magic Johnson in the role of conductor, joined in singing "Happy Birthday" to Bill Russell, who turned 80 last Tuesday.

"This was by far one of the most memorable All-Star Weekends and All-Star Games, honoring Bill Russell, Magic and those guys getting the whole arena to sing," Carmelo Anthony said.

All 24 players, 12 from each team, then formed a line to greet Russell with a handshake or an embrace or both.

"That was very cool," Blake Griffin said. "He's obviously one of the greatest players to play the game. Most decorated. All those championships and the type of leader he was. For the entire arena, and even the legends that were at the game to show that much respect is . . . it says a lot about him as a player and as a person."

[RELATED: Stephen Curry survives All-Star debut]

Russell, who matriculated to USF after graduating from McClymonds High in Oakland, is acknowledged as the ultimate winner in American team sports. He owns an Olympics gold medal, two NCAA Championship rings and 11 NBA title rings.

Lakers star Kobe Bryant held a pregame news conference during which he was asked to name his personal Mount Rushmore of the NBA. He named Larry Bird, Michael Jordan, Magic and Russell.

NOT JUST GAME BUT ALSO A SHOW: More than any other All-Star Game in American team sports, the NBA's is, well, an extravaganza.


It's almost as if the game is a sideshow, as entertainers are rolled out to deliver music as fans crowd onto the floor for the pregame and halftime ceremonies.

Among those taking stage before the game were hip-hop stars Pharrell Williams, Snoop Lion (aka Snoop Dogg), Nelly and Busta Rhymes. Player introductions follow.

"It was a sight to see," Warriors star Stephen Curry said. "To be on that stage and walk past those performers, they put o a great show. To have that many big-time names around you, and represent your conference, that was something I've wanted for a long time. Hopefully, it's the first of many.

[REWIND: Curry upset in All-Star three-point shootout]

"But I don't think I'll ever forget my first time and where it was and how I felt."

A SCORER SCORES: Three-time scoring champ Kevin Durant scored 38 points, tying Griffin for game scoring honors. It's nothing new for the Thunder forward.

"When I get on the court, I'm not one of those guys that can just cruise and not worry about the game," Durant said. "I have to go out there and play the way I play.

"And tonight was fun. CP (Chris Paul) and Steph, those guys got everybody involved. And it was great to be a part of. It was a blessing to be an All-Star. I'm never taking this for granted."

Durant's scoring average through five All-Stars is 30.6 points, the highest in All-Star history.

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