All the will-he-or-won’t-he chatter was rendered moot Thursday when the NBA announced that Kobe Bryant would not play in the All-Star game because of a sprained left ankle.
The Lakers guard will be replaced by Dallas veteran Jason Kidd, further diminishing the appeal of a weekend in which Southern California fans had hoped Bryant would lead the West All-Stars to victory and Blake Griffin would dunk on some second-year player’s head.
Well, there’s always Lakers guard Shannon Brown competing in the dunk contest.
Bryant has missed the Lakers’ last three games and did not speak with reporters about his All-Star status after sitting out a victory over Utah on Wednesday. The upside is that Bryant will have had 10 days’ rest by the time the Lakers play Tuesday against Golden State.
It will be the first All-Star game Bryant has missed since the 1999 lockout and the first time he has not participated in a game that has been played since his rookie season in 1997. Bryant was co-most valuable player of the game last season with Shaquille O’Neal.
Philadelphia 76ers guard Allen Iverson also will miss Sunday’s All-Star game for personal reasons and will be replaced by the New York Knicks’ David Lee.
Brown has a chance to become the first Laker to win the dunk contest since Bryant did so in 1997. Lakers forward Pau Gasol will play as a reserve for the West.
The Clippers had hoped Griffin would represent them in the rookie challenge, but the No. 1 draft pick has been out all season because of a fractured kneecap that has postponed his NBA debut -- barring some further unforeseen misfortune -- until next season.
In the meantime, Clippers fans can root for first-time All-Star center Chris Kaman and shooting guard Eric Gordon, who will play for the sophomore team in the rookie challenge Friday and compete in a halftime dunk contest against Toronto’s DeMar DeRozan.
The winner of the halftime dunk-in will go up against Brown, Charlotte’s Gerald Wallace and defending dunk contest champion Nate Robinson of the New York Knicks on Saturday.
Gordon said he probably would have Kaman feed him passes as he tries to beat DeRozan, the former USC standout who won the McDonald’s All-American dunk contest two years ago.
“He’s a really good dunker and he’s proved that in other all-star games,” Gordon said.
Golden State rookie Stephen Curry could be a sentimental favorite to win the three-point shootout Saturday.
His father, Dell, twice participated in the event. Curry had quite a tuneup Wednesday when he made seven of 11 three-pointers during a blowout victory over the Clippers. Miami’s Daequan Cook is the defending three-point shootout champion.
As if there weren’t enough playground fun to be had during the All-Star game Sunday, there will be a game of old-fashioned H-O-R-S-E on Saturday. Defending champion Kevin Durant will try to hold off Boston’s Rajon Rondo and Sacramento’s Omri Casspi while seeing who can make the silliest shot.
And then there is the main event, which Kaman said he considered “like half an All-Star game” because he is a replacement for injured Portland guard Brandon Roy.
Kaman will play for a West team that will be vying for its third victory in four years.
One local who probably won’t be tuning in is Phil Jackson. The Lakers coach apparently had his fill of the festivities last year when he coached the West.
“I’ll be driving, walking, cooking . . . [get] a massage, facial, have my fingernails and toenails done,” Jackson said. “A haircut probably too.”
Times staff writer Mike Bresnahan contributed to this report.