PHOENIX (AP) -Leave it to Shaquille O'Neal to upstage everyone else at the NBA All-Star Game.
Shaq got into a playful mood during the pregame introductions. He came out wearing a cape and a white mask that was reminiscent of the outfit from Phantom Of The Opera. He then whipped off the cape and engaged in some fancy dance moves with a group of dancers, drawing some oohs and aahs from the sellout crowd at US Airways Center.
Once Shaq entered the game in the first quarter, he continued his antics, pulling off moves uncharacteristic of those during the regular season. For example, he would get the ball on the perimeter, make some shake-and-bake moves, then dribble toward the basket like a point guard. Normally, he just camps under the basket and waits for the down-low pass.
ird period on a video displayed on the big screen in the arena. In a segment with NBA players trying to lip-synch to popular songs, O'Neal did his brief version of Caribbean Queen in a playful manner.
At the end, Shaq was selected as co-MVP, along with Kobe Bryant.
LEGENDS ABOUND: The building was filled with legendary athletes and performers, including one actually named Legend - singer John Legend, who performed during halftime. Legend was joined by another vocal performer, Juanes, and the Florim Choir.
Among the notables in attendance were former heavyweight champion Muhammad Ali, who drew the biggest ovation of the night; singers Beyonce and Jay Z; the Rev. Jesse Jackson; Maria Shriver; and sports stars George Gervin, Scottie Pippen, Alonzo Mourning, Terrell Owens, and Bill Russell, who was presented with a 75th birthday cake shortly before halftime.
RING CEREMONY: Some members of the men's and women's U.S. teams that won gold medals during the Olympic Games at Beijing last year were presented with their rings during a halftime ceremony.
The members of the men's team collecting their rings were Kobe Bryant, LeBron James, Dwyane Wade, Dwight Howard, Chris Paul and Chris Bosh. The women were Lisa Leslie and Tina Thompson.
rd Grant Hill, sang ``O Canada'' before the to the game. Last year's American Idol winner, Jordin Sparks, a native Arizonan, sang ``The Star Spangled Banner.''
MCCAIN ADDRESSES KIDS: Sen. John McCain met with 20 boys and girls selected by the NBA to the 2009 Junior NBA/WNBA national teams before the NBA All-Star Game on Sunday night.
One of their first questions: who's your favorite Phoenix Sun?
``I love them all, but I have not seen anybody take control of a basketball game as consistently as Steve Nash does,'' said the Phoenix Republican and former presidential candidate, who often attends games at U.S. Airways Center. ``I've never seen anybody, when the game is on the line, to take control of a game and win the game, and obviously that's what it's all about. So he's my favorite with the Suns. But I don't think I've seen anybody with the talent of Amare Stoudemire.''
The youths were chosen for their basketball, education and community achievements. McCain appeared with his wife, Cindy, and was introduced by Bob Lanier, a special assistant to commissioner David Stern.
McCain stressed sportsmanship in a 10-minute question-and-answer session.
of all Americans,'' said McCain, who lost the presidential election to Barack Obama in November. ``And I think that's how we have to treat our opponents. We play as hard as we can, we work as hard as we can. We do everything that we can, but when the game is over, then show the respect and sportsmanship and support, in this case.''
McCain was looking forward to attending the All-Star Game but also wanted to catch the game between No. 18 Arizona State and USC in nearby Tempe, which was also Sunday night.
``I have it recorded and I'll watch it when I get home,'' McCain said.
SUPER SATURDAY: The dethroning of Superman drew super ratings for TNT.
Saturday's All-Star night coverage on the network earned the largest viewing audience in the 24-year history of the event, according to preliminary national ratings.
The events drew more than 5.8 million viewers, up 12 percent from last year. The best previous year was in 2002, when there were 5.24 million total viewers.
The 3.5 national rating was an increase of 11 percent from the 3.1 last year in New Orleans.
The All-Star Saturday night events were highlighted by the slam dunk contest, when New York's Nate Robinson, calling himself ``Krypto-Nate,'' beat 2008 champion Dwight Howard, who donned a Superman cape for the second straight year.
SHAQ SURPRISE: Trey James got to see Shaquille O'Neal on his 8th birthday. Better yet, he got a bigger surprise: The chance to see his father for the first time in two years.
O'Neal competed against Air Force Sgt. Anthony James in a game of NBA LIVE 09 via webcam on Sunday from the All-Star Jam Session. James played from the USO Warrior center in Germany, where he is stationed now after 1 1/2 years in Iraq.
EA Sports, maker of the video game, and the Pro vs. GI Joe organization teamed up to make the surprise video reunion happen. Trey James was flown from his home in Cocoa Beach, Fla., along with Anthony James' sister, Janice Peters, to watch the competition along with 50 U.S. soldiers.
WISH UPON A STAR: Chicago's Derrick Rose played in the rookie challenge on Friday night and won the skills challenge on Saturday night, capping his victory with a reverse double-pump dunk.
Rose is hoping that next year he can move up to All-Star weekend's main event on Sunday night.
``Oh, man, I really can't wait,'' he said. ``Of course the season isn't over with, but next year - this summer, I'll work harder, work on my weaknesses and just go hard throughout the whole summer, because playing in the big game is real important to me. One day I wish that I could be playing in it.''
the only person looking forward to the 2010 All-Star Game. The countdown has begun in Dallas.
The next All-Star Game will be Feb. 14, 2010 in the new Dallas Cowboys stadium. The Cowboys and Dallas Mavericks are teaming up to host the event in the $1.1 billion facility in nearby Arlington.
The game is expected to set the record for the largest crowd ever to watch an NBA game, shattering the mark of 44,735 set at the 1989 All-Star Game at another Texas football stadium, the Houston Astrodome.

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