A fun weekend without the Warriors dominating
The NBA’s most talented individuals came together in Charlotte, North Carolina this year for the NBA All-Star Weekend. Like last year, this year’s festivities included the Celebrity Game, Rising Stars Challenge, Skills Challenge, 3-Point Contest, Slam Dunk Contest and the actual All-Star Game itself.
This year’s Celebrity Game featured a less than star-studded cast of players. The Home Team featured players from Carolina, including former Panthers wide receiver Steve Smith Sr., Mike Colter of Netflix’s “Luke Cage,” television personality Dr. Oz, singer Chris Daughtry and actor JB Smoove. The Away Team consisted of celebrities from elsewhere. Some notable participants were NBA legend Ray Allen, rapper Quavo and singer Bad Bunny. Compared to years past, the participants were underwhelming, but the game was still entertaining. The Away Team, led by Quavo’s 27 points, made a remarkable comeback in the final minutes of the game. The Home Team managed to hold on, winning 82-80. Comedian and influencer Famous Los was awarded MVP for his 22-point performance.
Rising Stars Challenge
In the fifth installment of the World vs. USA Rising Stars Challenge, Team USA proved to be too much for Team World to handle. Team World, which had won the contest in two straight years, was led by Philadelphia 76ers guard/forward Ben Simmons. He accumulated 28 points while only missing 3 shots out of 17. Chicago Bulls power forward Lauri Markkanen was the only other member of Team World to score over 20 points. Team USA had a more rounded attack, with both Los Angelos Lakers forward Kyle Kuzma and Celtics forward Jayson Tatum scoring 30 points or more. Sacramento Kings point guard De’Aaron Fox also chipped in a game-high 16 assists. The final score was 161-144, and Kyle Kuzma was awarded MVP for his 35-point outing.
This year, the Skills Challenge just might have been the most exciting event during All-Star Weekend. In this competition, the players compete head-to-head in an obstacle course of sorts, which requires them to dribble between cones, complete a tight window pass, score a layup and make a 3-point shot. Each round came down to the 3-point shot at the end. In the final round, Atlanta Hawks point guard Trae Young and Celtics forward Jayson Tatum faced off. Both players went through the course flawlessly, but Young’s speed gave him the edge. When it came down to the 3-point shot, Young misfired, and Tatum banked in a half-court shot to claim the trophy.
The NBA has been evolving constantly, and it’s been putting more emphasis on the 3-point shot year after year. This year, 10 of the NBA’s best shooters competed, including some modern sharpshooters as well as marksmen of past years, such as Dallas Mavericks power forward Dirk Nowitzki. The final round boiled down to Kings shooting guard Buddy Hield, Brooklyn Nets shooting guard Joe Harris and Golden State Warriors point guard Stephen Curry. Harris put the pressure on early, scoring 26 points. Hield failed to come close, only scoring 19, and Curry came close but was ultimately one “money ball” short.
Slam Dunk Contest
I hate to say it, but the Slam Dunk Contest was, once again, not a slam dunk. Maybe we’ve been spoiled with past contests, but this year’s contest failed to meet the fans’ sky-high expectations. This year’s participants were Charlotte Hornets small forward Miles Bridges, Hawks power forward John Collins, New York Knicks point guard Dennis Smith Jr. and Oklahoma State Thunder shooting guard Hamidou Diallo. Diallo would end up winning the contest, with the highlight being a honey dip dunk over former NBA All-Star Shaquille O’Neal. If a player can leap over a 7-foot-1-inch man and still fail to impress, then I think it’s about time to lower expectations.
This was the second All-Star Game in a row in which the teams were selected by team captains. This year, the captains were Lakers forward LeBron James and Milwaukee Bucks forward Giannis Antetokounmpo. One new feature in this year’s game was the addition of two presumably retiring NBA legends to the game. League commissioner Adam Silver gave Miami Heat shooting guard Dwyane Wade and Nowitzki two special roster spots to honor everything they’ve done for the game.
Antetokounmpo led the game with 38 points, but that wasn’t enough to defeat Team LeBron. James and company emerged victorious by a final score of 178-164. Kevin Durant was named MVP. He topped Team LeBron’s roster in scoring with 31 points.