New is always a good thing because it shows change over time. This year, new and strange mixed together to form an All-Star weekend like no other.
Since 1951, the NBA All-star weekend has become a very eventful time for the league’s best players, celebrities and even fans all over the world. The NBA kicks off this special weekend during mid-February or the beginning of March, depending on when the league year begins.
Over the course of time, new contests where implemented for fans to watch and players to participate in to get a break from the grit and grind of the regular season. Some of the contests include the Rising Stars Challenge, Three-point contest, the Slam Dunk contest and the All-Star game.
Fans can only reminisce of Michael Jordan’s free-throw dunk back in the ’80s to Kobe Bryant’s last All-star game performance just a few years ago.
Twitter and other social media sites blew up in 2016 when Orlando Magic forward, Aaron Gordon, and now Chicago Bulls guard, Zach Lavine, put on a dunk performance that was on for the ages.
But what if I told you that the stars who shined brightest this past weekend were afterthoughts once before? This is arguably one of the first years of the weekend that every winner of an award was a dark horse of their respective contest.
The first of many festivities kicked-off on Friday with the celebrity game that housed big names playing on the hardwood. Since the events took place in Los Angeles, the brightest stars had to show up and some showed out.
Teams were divided into Clippers versus Lakers who are both the state’s pro basketball squads. Some notable participants in the game were NBA great Paul Pierce, Jamie Foxx, WNBA star Candace Parker, Justin Bieber and Golfer Bubba Watson.
The game ended with Team Clippers defeating Team Lakers 75-66. The MVP was Quavo of the rap group Migos. Before entering the game, Quavo was actively displaying his basketball skills on Twitter while appearing on ESPN to announce that he would participate. He scored 19 points in the contest.
Unlike Quavo, the underdogs performed extremely well. Nets guard Spencer Dinwiddie, Suns guard Devin Booker, and Utah guard Donovan Mitchell won each of their respective contest.
Dinwiddie brought the trophy back to Brooklyn, winning the Rising-Stars Skills Challenge and defeating Bulls Lauri Markkanen in the final round. The highly anticipated three-point contest was as advertised with some of the best flamethrowers in the field such as Klay Thompson, Paul George and previous winner Eric Gordon.
Booker came out and fired on all cylinders. Literally. The sharpshooter drilled 28 of the possible 34 points to down his counterparts. This is the same guy who scorched a Celtics team last year for 70 points in a single game.
The last contest of Saturday happened to be the historical-produced Slam Dunk Contest. The NBA’s best acrobats suited up for millions in attendance to show off their creative dunks. The participants included Cavaliers Larry Nance Jr., Pacers Victor Oladipo, Utah’s Donovan Mitchell and Maverick’s Dennis Smith.
Smith was the favorite in some NBA circles due to his athleticism displayed in college, but that was not the case. Smith was bounced after the first round of play. Nance Jr. returned to the past, wearing his father’s old Suns jersey who won the first NBA dunk contest in 1984.
He attempted the same dunk as his father previously did back in the day, but it was not enough to keep Mitchell out of the contest. Mitchell’s contest-sealing dunk was a return to the past but just a little more recent.
Mitchell paid homage to Vince Carter by wearing his Raptor’s jersey and attempting his 360 dunk which was done by Carter in the 2000 dunk contest. The creativity of the dunk ultimately landed Mitchell a perfect score (50) on the dunk. He went on the claim the award.
Sunday night was the icing in the cake, barely. The NBA All-star game featured the best players in the league such as Stephen Curry, Kevin Durant and Lebron James, but this year was totally different in two strange ways.
First, the NBA decided to select Fergie, singer for the Black-Eyed Peas, as the singer for the National Anthem. It did not go well as players, media and celebrities in attendance chuckled throughout the performance.
Furthermore, Fergie received harsh backlash from fans, trending with nearly 200,000 tweets about the performance.
Then, the new “streetball” format was introduced with fans wondering how it would work.
The format allowed the top two vote getters leading up to All Star weekend a shot at putting together the best pick up teams maybe ever. James led the way with about 2.6 million fan votes, while Curry followed with nearly 2.4 million.
These two were declared captains with Lebron getting the first pick of the field that was voted in by fans and media members. The best way to be the best is by picking the best. According to James, he picked Durant first. Durant is arguably and widely-regarded as the second-best player on the planet behind James.
Money was also at stake during the game with the winning team receiving $350,000 for the charity of the captain’s choice, while the losing team received $100,000.
Complaints arose over the course of the past few years as players wouldn’t give maximum effort and play organized team ball. Some of the players have previously stated that they do not want to risk injury. This year was not the case.
Team Lebron and Team Curry gave the fans exactly what they wanted. Dunking, high-volume scoring, actual defensive stances and even coaching was involved throughout the game.
In the waning moments, Team Curry gave up an eight-point lead. Team Lebron capitalized by scoring the point while getting to the free-throw line. The game ended with Team Lebron edging Team Curry 148-145.
Lebron James was named MVP, notching 29 points, 10 rebounds and eight assists in the game. Curry did not have a game we are accustomed to seeing during the season, scoring 11 points and dishing out five assists.
Yes, All-Star weekend was a bit better than its previous years, but that’s a sign that the NBA is moving in the right direction. The format was successful as I thought it would be, but next time the league should televise the player draft. It would generate enormous ratings for the league and media outlets everywhere.
Written by Prince Robinson Jr., Staff Writer. Photo courtesy of MGN Online.
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