The NBA All-Star Game had its desired shake-up, with the 2018 edition at Staples Centre in Los Angeles providing the most exciting All-Star Game in recent years. In the main event, Team LeBron beat Team Stephen 148-145, as LeBron himself claimed the All-Star Game MVP. Some rising stars upstaged their established counterparts on All-Star Saturday, and the Rising Stars game on Friday also provided highlights.
All in all, it was a weekend that offered fans some more variety than the traditional format, adding another element to the usual mix of All-Star highlights.
It was the first year that the All-Star teams were drafted by a team captain instead of being split by conference. Despite questions leading into the event about whether it would work, the All-Star game was highly entertaining. Whether the raised level of competition was due to a concerted effort from players to raise the standard in the league’s showcase, or due to the schoolyard draft, signs of defense were sighted for the first time in years at an All-Star Game.
As for the game’s top performers, James took home the MVP Award for the third time in his career. It was a deserved honor for the league’s best player as he top scored with 29 points and was only two assists off a triple-double. He was the driving force behind his team’s comeback from 13 points down with six minutes remaining, tying the game at 144, putting them up 146-145, and then assisting the final field goal by Russell Westbrook.
Others that impressed included Joel Embiid (Team Stephen) and Kevin Durant (Team LeBron) both with 19 points, and Damian Lillard (Team Stephen) with 21 points.
The game was indeed high scoring, but it was nothing compared to the defense-free fiascos seen under the traditional East vs West format in recent years. If the NBA can get it right and televise the All-Star draft under this new version next season, Team Steph vs Team LeBron (or others once these two stars hang up the sneakers) is here to stay.
Donovan Mitchell’s (Utah Jazz) Vince Carter tribute won him a dunk contest that was part-competition, part-throwback. Mitchell’s dunks included catching a self-pass off a second backboard to windmill dunk, and a tribute to Darrell Griffith where he caught a lob to dunk it one handed. His dunks in the final included a tribute to Carter, where he did a 360 dunk going away from the basket, and a dunk where he caught a self-pass down low before a windmill finish.
Larry Nance Jr (Cleveland Cavaliers) also made the final, off the back of performing a tribute dunk to his father, who won the inaugural dunk contest. The dunk involved him cradling the ball and windmill dunking it behind him. Nance Jr’s other dunks included him catching a lob from his dad for a windmill dunk, and passing it to himself twice off the backboard in flight before dunking.
Victor Oladipo (Indiana Pacers) and Dennis Smith Jr (Dallas Mavericks) were the other competitors; Smith Jr had arguably the dunk of the night which involved him passing between his legs, while Oladipo enlisted the help of Black Panther actor Chadwick Boseman, who gave him a “Black Panther mask” to dunk in.
The tribute dunks were a sight to behold, and it was widely successful to see the next generation of NBA stars take center stage during this All-Star weekend staple. Words can't do some of these showreel dunks justice, however, so just see for yourself:
Speaking of All-Star weekend staples, Devin Booker (Phoenix Suns) won the three-point contest, scoring a record 28 points in the final round to beat out Klay Thompson (Golden State Warriors) and Tobias Harris (Detroit Pistons) who also made the final
There were plenty of highlights during the revamped All-Star weekend In addition to the usual array of All-Star offerings. The Rising Stars Challenge saw Team World beat Team USA 155-124. Bogdan Bogdanovic (Sacramento Kings) playing for Team World was the MVP, scoring 26 points and dishing out six assists.
Spencer Dinwiddie (Brooklyn Nets) won the Skills Challenge on Saturday night. In the final round, he beat Lauri Markannen (Chicago Bulls) who progressed from the Forwards Bracket. And in the celebrity game, Team Clippers prevailed over Team Lakers, while Migos’ rapper Quavo (Team Clippers) won the MVP award.
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