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THE STARTING FIVE
Short and sweet, with a strong self-deprecating quip about the Finals sweep and a cameo by "The LeBrons," still the most creative athlete-centric marketing campaign going.
High School Musical 3:
The Daniel Gibson of this lineup. A hilarious send-up of the cheesy TV movies. (Yes, I've seen them. Yes, my lil' cousins made me. And no, I no longer enjoy spending time with them.) James telling Zac Effron's character that he'll "have sex with your girlfriend," a reference to the nude photo scandal was an envelope pusher, though not quite Joe Montana's "I'm going upstairs."
Michael Cage in spandex? Admitting to eating "whole chickens"? Solid. Gold.
Read to Achieve:
Solid concept, and the Dwyane Wade quip was a great jab at the ring-less host, but James was upstaged by Jason Sudeikis' production assistant and the one-on-one climax shot a blank. And where were the kids at? Think Manning's United Way classic: Sit 'em down and read something awesomely nasty. Unlike, say, the script.
Decent, but more of a "garbage-time" sketch.
Lyle Kane Show:
The BJ line was risqué, and James' Todd required a comedic stretch, but we've come a long way since "Wayne's World."
High School Counselor:
Conceptually strong -- James is the first prep-to-pro NBAer to host -- but three guys seated in an office? Funny, like Tim Duncan.
Forget what you've heard:
The castmembers are funny, on and off camera. And James' comedic timing and deadpan are money. The problem? It's not so much that James played himself in three of seven sketches, but that James was reined in. Like Damon Jones, James was asked merely to hit his open jumpers. Was it the writers, or the host's good-guy nature? SNL's writers ask their hosts for input in determining no-go topics. Where's the crooked ref? A quip about James' under-performing Cavaliers teammates? Or a reference to James' nail-biting habit? "No," James told me of the latter "That would've been funny though."
THE FINAL SCORE:
LeBron James 9, SNL 6 (and long live Andy Samberg!)