All-Star Weekend Finally Awakes From its Hibernation
Over the last few years, NBA All-Star Weekend has been anything but entertaining. The dunk contests were no longer electrifying, the 3-point shootouts were…well, just shootouts, the skills challenge seemed forgotten, and the actual game? BORING. I breathe basketball and even I quit watching live, resorting myself to watching highlights of the weekend the following Monday while at work – the commentary was usually better.
But this year, the weekend seemed more exciting than I can remember in recent history. I’m not sure if it was the emotional energy from the Kobe Bryant tribute or the nostalgia evoked from Lupe Fiasco and Chance the Rapper hits reverberating throughout the arena, but I watched almost every event, with the exception of Friday – I had a more important Valentine’s Day celebration to tend to.
If I had to give an overall score. I’d say a solid 9.5/10 and here’s why:
1. The Skills Challenge: Let’s give it up for the BIG man winning it all. Bam Adebayo became the third big man to win the challenge since its inception in 2003. I personally think it’s a testament to how to league has evolved. The seven-footers aren’t just in the post shimmying – now they’re shooting 3’s with ease.
2. 3-point Shooting Contest: The addition of two extra shots, counting for 3 points each, 6 feet behind the 3-point line added some extra flair to the event. The contest hadn’t changed much since 1986, so this was a nice switch-up. Then, of course, you had the prolific shooting from Devin Booker and Buddy Hield. Even though Book said he wasn’t “angry” about not being an All-Star before replacing the injured Damian Lillard, he sure seemed tight all weekend.
3. The Dunk Contest: THE DUNK CONTEST IS BACK. Dwight Howard and Pat Connaughton were just a preliminary to the battle between Derrick Jones, Jr. and Aaron Gordon. Jones did just about every between-the-legs dunk possible while Gordon jumped over a modern-day Goliath without using his shoulders as a springboard. The contest ended in a conspiracy, however. Jones won by a point and Gordon went home trophy-less for the second time. Maybe Gordon should have won. I think it should’ve been a tie. Either way, I’m not sure Common, Candace Parker or the Black Panther should judge NBA dunk contests. Only dunkers should judge dunks.
4. The 69th All-Star game: I’ll admit I was skeptical about the rule changes for this year, but something had to be done. The game hadn’t been competitive in years. I mean, I’d seen better comp at the local 40-and-up YMCA league on Saturday mornings. The new format made the game much more competitive, and therefore more enjoyable to watch. The fourth quarter felt like an NBA playoff game: LeBron with the ball at the top of the key, Giannis guarding him. I think we got a glance at what June will look like.
1. Inside the NBA Roast: Two words: Gary Payton. The glove was not on his A-game and it showed. Amid his poorly written script you could hear the servers bussing tables in the background of the audience; yeah – it was that quiet. If the NBA brings the roast back, let’s hope they leave Gary Payton off the guest list.
2. The National Anthem: Chaka Khan is a legend; her hits are timeless. Unfortunately, her talent didn’t translate to her performance on Sunday. Not sure why artists attempt to jazz up the National Anthem during the All-Star game. Fergie’s attempt in 2018 turned her into a meme. I suspect a similar future for Chaka Khan.
Thank you, Adam Silver and the league office for making All-Star Weekend worth watching again. I’m available to judge the dunk contest in Indianapolis next year. Hit me up.