PHOENIX (AP) -- 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."
McCain also praised Suns center Shaquille O'Neal for his efforts in law enforcement.
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.
"I went through a pretty tough game for a couple of years myself and didn't win, but I'd also like to point out that the person who did win deserves the support 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.
President Obama offered similar thoughts in a taped halftime message. He urged fans to "prepare a care package for a soldier, read to a child or fix up a local basketball court so the next generation can play and grow."
"Those of us who grew up playing basketball, whether on the playgrounds in the city or on a farm in the heartland, are grateful to the game for the lessons it teaches us about life," said Obama, an avid hoops player. "Lessons like respect is something won by what you do, not what you're born with. You can talk a good game all you want, but when it matters, you'd better back it up."
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 Coco Beach, Fla., along with Anthony James' sister, Janice Peters, to watch the competition along with 50 U.S. soldiers.
Peters said the hope is that Anthony James will return home in May.
FINGERS CROSSED:@ East coach Mike Brown of Cleveland was excited to coach LeBron James in the All-Star Game.
He tried not to think about the possibility of his superstar getting hurt in the game.
"It's always in the back of your mind, any time anybody from any team goes down, you do worry about it," Brown said. "It's something that you have no control over. You've just got to go have fun, and if you try to think too much about it, next thing you know something happens."
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."
DEEP IN THE HEART:@ Rose isn't 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, and it will be staged 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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