An exciting NBA All-Star Weekend was capped by a 157-155 victory for Team LeBron over Team Giannis
Most of the sports world was focused on Chicago for the last three days as the NBA held its annual All-Star Weekend. We saw a new Slam Dunk contest champion, a new three point champion, and a new format for the NBA All-Star game that gave us one of the most exciting basketball match-ups of the season!
The action started on Valentine’s Day with the 2020 All-Star Celebrity Game. ESPN personalities Michael Wilbon (Pardon the Interruption) and Stephen A. Smith went head-to-head as coaches of the Celebrity Game. There was some playful trash talking by Stephen A before the game, but Team Wilbon was able to silence the chatter as they topped Team Stephen A. by a final score of 62-47. The rapper and activist known as Common was the catalyst for the Team Wilbon victory. The Chicago-born entertainer was named the game’s MVP as he recorded 10 points, 5 rebounds, 3 assists, and four steals. Common’s MVP performance was a truly great moment for a city that has prided itself on basketball for so many years.
After the celebrities played, we got down to some real NBA action! Later that night, the Rising Stars game was played as Team USA faced off against Team World. The Knicks’ RJ Barrett, who was born in Canada, led Team World with 27 points while also tallying five assists. However, that would not be enough as Team USA would end up winning the game 151-131. Charlotte’s Miles Bridges was named the game’s Most Valuable Player with 20 points, five rebounds, five assists, and three steals. Zion Williamson also came to play as the former Duke big man recorded 18 points in the game.
Saturday was the truly spectacular day of the weekend. We saw a new 3 point champion, a new slam dunk champion, and a new NBA skills champion crowned that evening. The Miami Heat’s all-star big man, Bam Adebayo, beat Indiana’s Domontas Sabonis to win the Skills Challenge Competition. After that, Buddy Hield took home the hardware in the three-point contest. The former Oklahoma guard scored 27 points in the final round of the three point shooting competition to sneak past Phoenix’s Devin Booker who was only able to put up 26 points in the final round. Lastly, we had the NBA Slam Dunk Contest, which was one of the best we have seen in years. Dwight Howard made a return to the competition, and Milwaukee’s Pat Connaughton used one of his dunks to honor the classic 90s basketball movie, “White Men Can’t Jump.” However, the event came down to former NBA dunk contest standout Aaron Gordon and Miami Heat newcomer Derrick Jones Jr. Despite putting up six straight 50 point scores on his way to the final round, it was DJJ who took home the crown after he put up four straight 50s and a 48 on his final dunk of the night. This event did not come without controversy though. In a press conference after the contest, Aaron Gordon said, “We’re here to do four dunks. It should be the best out of four dunks. I did four straight 50s — five straight 50s. It’s over. It’s a wrap. Let’s go home.” ESPN also reported that Gordon will not participate in the Dunk Contest going forward. The Orlando big man was quoted as saying, “It’s a wrap. I feel like I should have two trophies. So it’s over for that.” Despite the controversy, Derrick Jones Jr. was still named the 2020 NBA Slam Dunk Champion in his first appearance, and he truly earned it in my opinion.
A weekend full of excitement ended with the 69th NBA All-Star game, which was arguably the best game in the history of the event. The game featured a new format, which led to so much attention and discussion on social media. The first three quarters of the game were played like a mini-game, with each team beginning the quarter tied at zero. The team that won the quarter would then receive $100,000 which would be donated to a Chicago-area children’s charity. Team LeBron won the first quarter matchup while Team Giannis won the second quarter. The 3rd quarter ended in a tie as both teams scored 41 points, so everything came down to the 4th quarter. The NBA added yet another twist to the game by changing the rules in the fourth. In an tribute to the late Kobe Bryant, the teams had to reach a score of 157 points, which was 24 points more than Team Giannis had at the start of the untimed quarter as they led 133-124. The winning team would be the first squad to hit 157 points on the evening. What ensued was a battle for the ages. Charges were called, blocks were made, and bodies were flying all over the court as both teams gave it all they got in a game that has no real impact on the NBA season. Eventually, Team LeBron took the lead in the game 156-155, when a personal foul was called on Kyle Lowry, which sent Chicago’s own Anthony Davis to the free throw line with a chance to ice the game. AD missed the first free throw, giving Team Giannis some hope for a miraculous comeback. However, the former number one overall pick would close things out as he made the second free throw giving Team LeBron the 157-155 victory.
Kawhi Leonard was recognized as the game’s MVP. In a new tradition, the MVP trophy was renamed the Kia NBA All-Star Game Kobe Bryant MVP Award, as the league once again honored the fallen icon. Leonard finished the game with 30 points on a night where he shot 61.1% from the field. The former NBA finals MVP also recorded seven rebounds and four assists. It truly was a weekend to remember for the NBA and a standard that will have to be lived up to for a very long time.