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NBA All-star weekend for the ages By: Jeremy Johnson

NBA All-star weekend for the ages

By: Jeremy Johnson

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No one in America needs to be told that football is king. We consume football like the aliens in Independence Day consumed planets. The National Football League does not have an off season, and we can’t get enough, except when you talk about its All-Star game, the Pro-Bowl. To say that the Pro-Bowl needs an immediate and drastic overhaul would be an understatement. Essentially all the players do is play a glorified flag football game. The NHL had an All-Star game issue, and they fixed it by having their players play a 3-on-3 style tournament, with the best three players from each division competing. By adopting this new format the ice opened up, and made for a faster, more skill laden event that the fans love. Major League Baseball is a dinosaur that is resistant to change, and its All-Star game is like the NFL’s, extremely boring. Then there is the NBA All-Star weekend, which for years was the party event of the year. The celebrities would come out in droves, and they would celebrate with the most athletics and recognizable athletes on the planet. Yet, the product on the floor has been hit or miss for the past 25 years. Of course the spectacle that Vince Carter put on in 2000 will never be duplicated; it is one of the single most awe-inspiring performances ever witnessed. Then the comet that is Stephen Curry hit the scene, and started entering the 3-point contest, and as he is must see TV, folks started to pay attention. All of a sudden the marquee event, the slam dunk contest, had taken a back seat to the shooters. The star power and competition on the shooter’s side made it hard not to pay attention. Last year’s All-Star game brought the slam dunk contest back to the forefront with the world’s introduction to Zach Lavine. The green-eyed, baby faced, human pogo-stick electrified the All-Star game crowd with an effortless aerial assault. Combined with the star power of the Steph Curry, Clay Thompson, James Harden and J.J. Reddick 3-point Contest, and the emergence of Zach Lavine in the Slam- Dunk contest, this year’s All-Stars game was sure to deliver. We had no idea.

NBA All-Star weekend 2016, was held in Toronto, Canada this year, which was the first time the NBA All-Star game was held outside of US borders. The weekend kicked off on Friday with the BBVA Rising Stars Challenge, in which the internationally born NBA players play on the World Team, and the nationally born stars play for the USA Team. All of the participants are either first or second year players. The game was highlighted by the scoring prowess of some of the most promising young players in the game. Zach Lavine took home the game’s MVP honors.

All-Star Saturday was billed as the Steph Curry, Clay Thompson show. The sharp-shooting teammates are as dynamic a set of shooters as we have on the planet. To see them duel it out on such a special stage is great television. No one told Karl-Anthony Towns whose weekend it was. The big man put on a dazzling display in the skill competition, out-dueling the smaller and presumably more apt point guard Isaiah Thomas Jr. If this was the precursor to all that followed, we were definitely in for a great night.

Kevin Hart got in on the action as well, almost out shooting All-Star forward Draymond Green, in an impromptu 3-point shooting challenge. The real fireworks came in the final round of the real 3-point contest. Once the pretenders were weeded out, all that was left standing were dark horse Trevor Booker of the Phoenix Sun’s, and of course, The Splash Brothers. Clay and Curry went down to the wire, with Clay holding the final edge in a dram filled contest, by a score of 27-23.

Who is Aaron Gordon? Aaron Gordon might be the most famous contest runner-up of all-time. Zach Lavine and Aaron Gordon put on a show to rival the likes of MJ and Nique. The dunks that were performed had never been seen before, and if before Saturday evening if you thought the slam dunk contest was dead, were sadly mistaken. If these two guys can inspire more NBA players to step up to their unbelievable efforts, the contest should be in good hands.

The undisputed highlights of this weekend had to be the love and outpouring for the living legend that is Kobe Bryant. Before the season began Kobe announced that this would be the last season of his storied hall of fame career. All of the NBA’s elite were out in full force to pay tribute to The Black Mamba, who was the leading vote getter for the Western Conference All-Star team. Prior to the start of the game, the NBA put together a great video tribute to the man whose dedication to his craft is unmatched.

Once the game began the stars came out to play, and put on a show for the sold out Air Canada Centre. Paul George was incredible for the East All-Stars, and was one point away from tying the All-Star game record of 42 points, set by Wilt Chamberlain. The Western All-Stars were another best entirely, led by the monster known as Russell Westbrook, who once the game was done was named its MVP. Kobe Bryant was also serenaded by chants of his name once he was subbed out for the final time. The game stopped momentarily as he received a roaring standing ovation, which was warranted and well deserved. The game set records for points scored, and Paul George set an All-Star game record of 9 made 3-pointers.

Maybe it was Kobe, or The Splash Brother or even the duo of Zach Lavine and Aaron Gordon, but the NBA should be proud of the showing it had this weekend. The star power in one of its signature events, the 3-point contest was as strong a field as it has ever been, and if the dunk contest can merely hold its weight, then NBA All-Star weekend shouldn’t begin to suffer the same fate as the Pro-Bowl.

 

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