Charles Krumsiek ’20
This year’s NBA All-Star Weekend in Charlotte showed off the league’s biggest stars and started off with an exciting Rising Stars game on Friday night. The matchup of Team USA and Team World saw a massive offensive output, punctuated by Lakers star and game MVP Kyle Kuzma, who finished with 35 points. After consecutive wins by Team World and the addition of one of the league’s most exciting prospects, Luka Doncic, this game promised excitement. It delivered with a final score of 161-144 with Team USA coming out on top. Philadelphia 76ers’ star Ben Simmons and Lauri Markkanen of the Chicago Bulls stuffed the stat sheet, combining for 49 points, while the Boston Celtics’ Jayson Tatum and Atlanta Hawks’ Trae Young hit a combined 12 three-pointers and totaled 55 points on the night.
Saturday’s Skills Challenge, Three-Point Competition, and Dunk Contest followed the tone set by the Rising Stars game and delivered some incredible highlights. In the Skills Challenge, we were treated to a thrilling semi-final matchup between Trae Young and Luka Doncic, two names who will likely be paired throughout their careers as they were traded for each other on draft night last June. Young was able win and move on to a final matchup with Jayson Tatum. It appeared that Young would be able to waltz to a victory until Tatum’s half-court heave allowed him to pull off the upset victory.
This year’s Slam Dunk Contest produced three perfect scores of 50, highlighted by champion Hamidou Diallo of the Oklahoma City Thunder’s dunk over Shaquille O’Neal. Diallo punctuated the already impressive dunk by hanging from the rim by his elbow in a Vince Carter tribute. Dennis Smith Jr. received a generous perfect score with his dunk over Dwyane Wade, while rookie Miles Bridges’ 360 dunk wearing Larry Johnson’s jersey was one of the night’s most impressive feats.
The Three-Point Competition is always one of the night’s most exciting events and this year’s proved no different. Featuring both Curry brothers in their hometown of Charlotte, this event was highly anticipated as the league has been taking more and more threes. The finalists included Stephen Curry of the Golden State Warriors, Buddy Hield of the Sacramento Kings, and Joe Harris of the Brooklyn Nets. After hitting ten in a row to qualify for the final round, many were crowning Steph the champion. But even starting off nine-for-nine in the championship round wasn’t enough to top Harris’ perfect performance from the money ball rack. Harris, while not yet a household name, has made a ridiculous 47 percent of his threes this season and has been a staple in the Nets’ rise to playoff contention.
Now, we move onto the biggest event of the weekend: the actual All-Star game featuring Team Giannis and Team LeBron. While Giannis Antetokounmpo was widely mocked for his poor drafting abilities after taking his teammate Khris Middleton over one of the league’s best, Anthony Davis, with the first pick of the reserve round, and LeBron James was mocked for his clear recruitment goals with his team nearly entirely made up of impending free agents, this game still delivered a very exciting product. Only one year after the All-Star draft format was introduced, this year’s draft was televised and featured two special additions from the commissioner – Dwayne Wade and Dirk Nowitzki, two of the league’s greatest legends. Team Giannis jumped out to a 13-point lead ending the half with a lead of 95-82. Team LeBron roared back during the second half on the back of a 30-13 point run highlighted by Portland’s Damian Lillard showing off his limitless range, hitting a series of threes including a buzzerbeater from three-quarters of the court. The game was characterized by its many threes, as the teams combined to break the All-Star record of 54 with a jaw-dropping 62 made threes.
Team LeBron was able to rally back from their 18-point deficit to complete the comeback with a final score of 178-164. As usual, in a game which sees little, if any defense, the score of the game was astronomical, exceeding even the betting over/under mark of 315 points by nearly 30 points. Golden State’s Kevin Durant won MVP of the game with his 31 points leading his team by a wide margin. Giannis Antetokounmpo’s 38-point effort was in vain, but he and Steph Curry were able to connect for one of the best buckets of the game with a bounce-pass alley-oop.