With due apologies to all the tennis fans out there, we’re really curious to see how young Nick goes in the NBA All-Star celebrity game.
Sure, it’s a trifle, but a trifle can taste good. And if he does participate in the event next February in New Orleans (terrific town – yet another good reason for him to attend), it might answer a nagging question in the never-ending Kyrgios flame wars: is he good enough at basketball to justify his obsession with it?
Of course, a celebrity game is hardly the best forum to determine his hoops quality, but if he does stand out from the pack of ex-high-school players-turned-B-listers, it would weirdly make his disdain for tennis more palatable.
Admittedly, he has a pretty low bar to clear. At the last All-Star weekend in Toronto, Milos Raonic and Eugenie Bouchard suited up for the Team Canada celebs. Let’s just say they made a good choice with tennis. Other athletes who participated as a lark have had mixed results: Usain Bolt’s fast-break dunks were impressive, but don’t ask him to do much else with the ball, while Floyd Mayweather was, well, really small.
The real trick with this game is to look like you can play without trying way too hard (alas, there’s some celeb who gets caught out every year). Comedian Kevin Hart became notorious for trying to make this his own personal showcase; a still-teenaged Justin Bieber, before the image change, won a wholly undeserved MVP in 2011 because the fans vote for the award.
Kyrgios should be aware of one thing: Australia has a point of pride to uphold in this game, thanks to Arne Duncan. It’s not too often a high-ranking government official figures in these events, but Duncan, the former US Secretary of Education and Chicago hoops buddy of Barack Obama, was a standout.
While it might have surprised the viewing public, segments of Aussie hoops fans knew very well – Duncan played professional basketball in the NBL for the old Eastside Melbourne Spectres in the late ’80s and early ’90s. Even as he was pushing 50 years old, Duncan was so much better than some of the other celebs on the floor, it was laughable.
So there’s a challenge for our vexing tennis star. The game might also shed some insight on another element of the Kyrgios enigma: if he throws a tantrum on this other court, we’ll know the behavioural stuff isn’t limited to the sport that pays his salary.