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Small Changes Create A more Competitive All Star Game

Photo: Chicago by Pedro Szeleky via Flickr 

From Feb. 14 through 16, the NBA’s best players came together under one roof to participate in All-Star Weekend.

This year’s events took place at the United Center in Chicago, home of the Bulls, and it was the first time that Chicago hosted the game since 1988.

The weekend started with the Celebrity game and the Rising Stars Challenge on Friday night. ESPN analysts Stephen A. Smith and Michael Wilbon were the coaches for the Celebrity game. The game was competitive and fun to watch throughout. The event featured notable celebrities such as Chance the Rapper, Kane Brown, Quavo, Common and Anthony “Spice” Adams. Team Wilbon defeated Team Smith by a final score of 62-47, with Common taking home the game’s MVP award. The Rising Stars game featured the NBA’s best up and coming players. The teams are split between players born in the United States and players born in the rest of the world. Participants included Luka Doncic, RJ Barrett and Deandre Ayton on Team World, while Team USA included young phenoms such as Zion Williamson, Trae Young and Ja Morant. Team USA rallied to overcome a slow start, and defeated Team World by a final score of 151-131.

The Skills Challenge, Dunk Contest and Three Point Competition all took place on Saturday night. Fans were provided with a spectacle and a great night of fun, friendly and competitive events to showcase the skills of the NBA’s best.

The Skills Challenge includes drills and races to test player’s shooting, passing and ball-handling skills. Eight players participated in the skills challenge, and a tournament is played to determine the winner. Players race against each other by dribbling between obstacles while running down the court. Following this, the players show off their passing skills, as well as their layup and three-point skills. The player to get through the obstacles, hit a layup and a three pointer first wins. Miami Heat center Bam Adebayo took home the crown after defeating Indiana Pacers center Domantas Sabonis in the final round.

The Dunk Contest featured Derrick Jones Jr., Aaron Gordon, Pat Connaughton and Dwight Howard. Jones and Gordon went neck and neck and provided fans with one of the best dunk contests in recent memory. Both players threw down some very impressive dunks and left fans in awe of their abilities. Derrick Jones Jr. was declared the winner in a close contest, but the decision did not come without controversy. Fans had mixed reviews about the judge’s decision, with many fans taking the side of Aaron Gordon and claiming that he was robbed of the title. This is not the first time that this has occurred, as he lost a close match to Zach Lavine in the 2016 contest.

Kings guard Buddy Hield won the Three Point Contest, edging out Suns star Devin Booker by a final round score of 27-26. Overall, Hield ended the competition with 54 points, and provided fans with an impressive showing of his shooting range and abilities.

The biggest event of the weekend, the 69th edition of the NBA All Star Game, took place on Sunday night. Both teams were handpicked by captains Lebron James, and Giannis Antetokounmpo. The night started with a tribute to the late, great Kobe Bryant, and his daughter Gianna, who both passed away tragically in a helicopter accident last month. Out of respect, and tribute to the Bryant family, Team Lebron wore number 2 for Gianna, while Team Giannis wore number 24 for Kobe. Between the two teams, 25 players were selected to play in the event, including 10 first time participants.

This year’s event included a new format in which the score reset after each quarter (excluding the fourth quarter) and the winner of each quarter won $100,000 to donate to a charity of their choice. The last quarter was played to a target score of 24 points. Team Giannis led the game 133-125, heading into the last frame, and so the target score for either team to win was 157. Team Lebron mounted an impressive comeback in the final frame, and defeated Team Giannis by a score of 157-155. Clippers superstar Kawhi Leonard took home the Kobe Bryant MVP award, after an impressive performance in which he contributed 30 points.

Fans were left very pleased as a result of the weekend’s events. The game was very competitive, which is a rarity in All-Star games nowadays. It was truly a weekend to remember for the National Basketball Association and now it is time for teams and fans to get ready for the second half of action — which is setting up to be a good one.

Erick Klambara is a first-year student majoring in media and cultures. EK924666@wcupa.edu

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