The NBA (National Basketball Association) All-Star Game is back in all its former glory. The buildup to the actual game didn’t go as well, but at least the game itself was competitive.
The first event of All-Star Weekend was the Skills Competition, where the competing players would go through an obstacle course of sorts, combining passing, shooting and dribbling skills to crown the most “skilled” player competing. The Brooklyn Nets’ Spencer Dinwiddie beat out the Chicago Bulls’ Lauri Markkanen in the finals of the competition to win the crown.
While it was a relatively boring event, the Skills Competition at least gave the audience a chance to see the taller players compete against shorter guards in a competition based on skill. It also gave us a look at some of the younger, more exciting players who could morph into stars once they hit their prime.
The 3-Point contest was much more exciting than the Skills Competition, but even then there were some performances that let the crown down (looking at you, Paul George). After it was all said and done, the Phoenix Suns’ Devin Booker ended up winning the long ball contest, and ended up breaking the contest record by scoring 28 points off of 20/25 shooting.
Booker’s performance highlighted an exciting finals of the competition, with the Golden State Warriors’ Klay Thompson coming in a close second with 25 points.
The Dunk Contest was supposed to be the highlight of the night, a showcase of creativity and skill that has captivated audiences worldwide in recent years. From Blake Griffin jumping over a car to the duel Aaron Gordon and Zach LaVine’s memorable duel, the competition has riveted us in past years.
This year was different, however. Donovan Mitchell from the Utah Jazz beat out the Cleveland Cavaliers’ Larry Nance Jr. in the finals of the competition to secure the title, but the contest lacked a lot of creativity and there was not a truly memorable dunk that people will remember. The main event of that night was shown up by Booker’s flamethrower performance in the 3-Point contest, and capped off what was a disappointing night for the All-Star Weekend.
Luckily for the NBA and its fans, the actual game itself finally returned to legitimacy and made up for a somewhat boring Dunk Contest and Skills Challenge. After years of high-scoring affairs where little to no defense was played and too many three point shots and dunks plagued the game, the players actually took it seriously.
The game was losing viewers because the games weren’t competitive, but everything changed this year. Team captain LeBron James had a steal in the first minute of the game, and that set the tone for the rest of the game. It let everyone know that this was a real basketball game, and effort had to be put forth.
It was a close game throughout, with Team LeBron beating Team Steph 148-145. Believe it or not, the game ended on a defensive play, with LeBron and Kevin Durant shutting down Steph Curry on the final possession.
The effort and defense was a welcomed sight for the fans, and it saved the game’s ratings. Maybe the increased competitiveness was related to the new format of the game.
The top vote getters in each conference (LeBron James in the East, Steph Curry in the West), and they picked their teams from the remaining pool of players, playground style. Whether or not that made the difference, all that matters is that the NBA All-Star Game was watchable for the first time in years.