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Dan Devine

Area busboy destroys LeBron and Barkley at Pop-a-Shot

Everyone loves an underdog. Whether we're watching the ragtag rinkrats of Minnesota's District 5 or the corruption-abhorring chief of Washington, D.C.'s "The District," we fans and viewers prize nothing so much as the opportunity to open our hearts to all-pluck-no-quit competitors who refuse to believe they're licked.

Our spirits soar as we watch these lil' engines just keep chug-chug-chugging along, even though the tracks they travel seem destined for a senses-shattering stop at the red-brick wall of a superior force (e.g., the Hawks, crooked cops). Then, against all odds, they break through, and our hearts fill till they're set to burst.

This is why it was so much fun to watch Ricardo Reyes whip the everlovin' stuffing out of LeBron James(notes) and Charles Barkley at Pop-a-Shot in the same week.

The two titanic takedowns came on ABC's "Jimmy Kimmel Live! Game Night" broadcasts, shown prior to Games 1 and 2 of the NBA Finals for Eastern and Central viewers (and after the games on the West Coast). After comic tip-offs pitting the 5-foot-7 Reyes and his far-taller pro-baller counterparts, James and Barkley won the right to shoot first and put up a number that the man I think we can safely call "America's Busboy" would have to match. Reyes is a Pop-a-Shot savant whom Kimmel says he discovered at West Hollywood restaurant Barney's Beanery, where the 41-year-old works as a busboy.

Last Thursday night, Reyes stepped to the line and dismantled the NBA's reigning Most Valuable Player, who seemed to freeze up during the mano-a-mano confrontation. (Divided concentration could also have been a factor, Kimmel noted in his play-by-play: "It seems like maybe [LeBron's] mind is on other things, like packing. Moving, perhaps ... Maybe it's that enormous watch that's slowing him down.")

[Photos: View a slideshow of LeBron James in action]

After notching 42 points in 30 seconds, James gave way to Ricardo, who WENT. OFF. Even with the King — a notoriously poor sport, it should be noted — doing his level best to distract the busboy, Reyes stayed focused en route to a 72-42 shellacking. The loss was, without question, the most embarrassing thing to happen to LeBron James over the past month. (Oh, wait.)

Then, before Sunday night's Game 2 between the Boston Celtics and Los Angeles Lakers, Kimmel presented Ricardo with another challenge: "He conquered King James. Can he vanquish Sir Charles?"

Employing a point-guard-esque right-handed floater, Barkley got off to a sharper start than LeBron and finished with 51 points. But despite the looming Round Mound of Rebound's suggestion that his opponent's "sphincter [was] tightening up," Reyes proceeded to get buckets like Gus Johnson was calling the action, torching the Chuckster to the tune of an 85-spot. Basically, Charles was the Toronto Raptors and Ricardo Reyes was the busboy version of a four-points better Kobe Bryant(notes). It was that real.

It's a Cinderella story for the ages, except the role of Cinderella is being played by a 41-year-old bald man with an uncanny knack for repeating his delivery. You've got to wonder who Kimmel's got lined up to challenge Reyes next. With the NBA Finals shifting back to Boston for Game 3, I'd like to suggest Larry Bird. It would tear the fabric of the space-time continuum if the Legend walked onto the set and told a busboy that he was shooting for second.

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