|Justin Bieber scored eight points and was named the MVP of the Celebrity All-Star Game|
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-- It was arguably the most anticipated performance in celebrity game history. A few thousand people packed Center Court at All-Star Jam Session on Friday and many more watched at home to catch a glimpse of teenage hoops sensation Justin Bieber.
Bieber, who turns 17 next month, will be eligible for the 2013 NBA Draft. At this point, it's too early to project when or if he would be selected but, whatever happens, the 2011 BBVA All-Star Celebrity Game provided the first opportunity to see Bieber against a higher level of basketball competition.
Representing the West, Bieber went up against Hall of Famer Scottie Pippen, First Team All-WNBA star Tamika Catchings and Common, who led the New Jersey Nets to an NBA championship -- in a movie.
It wasn't Pippen, Catchings or Common who was voted by fans as the MVP on Friday, though. It was Bieber, who scored eight points on 3-for-11 shooting in defeat, as the East beat the West 54-49.
"He played pretty well," said Pippen, "but he has an ugly shot."
No actual NBA scouts or general managers were seen at the game. But sources with knowledge of the situation say that many of them may have been watching on ESPN, or possibly TiVo'ing the game to watch later.
East coach Bill Simmons, who has expressed interest in being an NBA general manager, says he was "impressed" by Bieber's resilience in the face of an antagonistic Michael Rapaport.
"He kept coming back," Simmons said. "He wasn't afraid."
Bieber's jumper looked a little shaky on Friday, but it was clear that he brings a host of intangibles to the game. He's light on his feet, plays with Kevin Garnett-like intensity -- on display when he gave Catchings a shove after she stole the ball from him in the fourth quarter -- and he has great hair.
The hair has served him well in his other passion, as a mildly successful singing star who has apparently gained the following of some number of teen girls around the world.
Former Golden State Warriors general manager Chris Mullin, who scored five points for the East, thinks that intensity could serve an NBA team well.
"He's got a nice little game," Mullin said of Bieber, "but more importantly, he's got great passion. It looked like he loves the game."
Though he's never logged a minute in the NBA, Bieber's singing career has made him fairly popular, so he would help any team that drafted him with marketing and ticket sales. Maybe even more than Jeremy Lin with the Warriors.
Still, unless he goes through a growth spurt in the next two years, Bieber would struggle in the NBA defending bigger guards. He was asked before the game about his "height disadvantage," but the humble star deflected any attention towards his team's success.
"Hopefully, we'll win," Bieber told ESPN.
Pippen prevented that from happening, leading all scorers with 17 points on 6-for-8 shooting. Also on display on Friday was typical Eastern Conference defense, with the West being held to just 49 points on 56 possessions.
The East led by as many as 10 points before Romeo Miller led a West comeback in the fourth quarter. The West had two opportunities to tie in the closing minute, but both Bieber and Jalen Rose missed threes, and the East closed the game out at the free throw line.
Bieber was a minus-10 in 25 minutes of action, so the West was technically a better team with him on the bench. But the youngest player in the game was clearly trying to get his teammates involved from the start. He assisted on the West's first two baskets and finished with a game-high four dimes.
Because he doesn't play any organized basketball outside of celebrity games like this one, it will be difficult for Bieber to improve his Draft stock over the next two years. So he may remain somewhat of a mystery to scouts and executives.
But come 2013, the intangibles that he brings to the table may be too much to pass up.