All Hands on Deck for NBA All-Star Weekend

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Jana Faour, Reviews Editor

Have you ever imagined an NBA game with LeBron James, Kawhi Leonard and Anthony Davis all playing on the same team? Well, that is the beauty of the National Basketball Association’s All-Star weekend. In a star-studded three-day event, basketball fans all over the world watched the stars battle it out for charity.

On Feb. 6, the day of NBA trade deadline, the two captains, each selected by the fans, began drafting for Team Giannis versus Team LeBron. LeBron James had the first pick in the draft of the starters and selected his Lakers teammate, Anthony Davis, with the first pick. Later in the evening, the reserves were chosen with Team Giannis selecting both All-Stars from the Miami Heat, Jimmy Butler and Bam Adebayo. After this, the course of the All-Star Game in Chicago was set with just a week to prepare.

On Friday, Feb. 14, the festivities began with the Celebrity All-Star Game. Celebrities were able to join in on the fun during All-Star weekend, competing in a game led by NBA Analysts Stephen A. Smith and Michael Wilbon. The game featured music superstars Quavo, Bad Bunny and Common – who won the Most Valuable Player award.

Later that night, the spotlight was put on the future of the league with the Rising Stars game. This game had the American players in Team USA go against foreign players in Team World. Our very own Miami Heat had two participants on Team USA; rookies Tyler Herro, who did not play due to injury, and Kendrick Nunn, who put a very impressive stat line of 16 points on 7-11 shooting.

“Being able to actually sit in the crowd and watch this event live made the experience so much better. The room’s atmosphere was indescribable, especially because I was sitting among some of the world’s best basketball players,” sophomore David Kuper said.

Practice and media day was held the next day on Saturday, Feb. 15. This was the first time both teams were able to practice and speak to the media about the weekend. Multiple news sites and social media influencers covered the event, taking turns in asking questions to each player about their personal lives, as well as the season so far.

Once the media left, the court was cleared and practice began with the introduction of the teams each charity was representing. The charities were selected by the captains and were from the local Chicago area. Team Giannis played for the After School Matters Foundation and Team LeBron played for the Chicago Scholars Foundation.

The Saturday Skills Challenges proceeded to test the personal skills of each player in the contests. Some of the league’s top performers took the court in 3 different events: the Taco Bell Skills Challenge, the Mountain Dew 3-Point Shootout and the AT&T Dunk Contest.

The first competition was the Skills Challenge, where players were put in a bracket-style tournament to see who could perform the best in a complicated course testing dribbling, passing, and scoring. Miami had their very own center, Bam Adebayo, in the competition as he shocked the world. In the first round, Adebayo beat 2018 Skills champion Spencer Dinwiddie, Toronto Raptors All-Star and 2019 Most Improved Player Pascal Siakam in the second round, and knocked the Indiana Pacers’ first-time All-Star Domantas Sabonis out in the final round. With this win, he became only the second Heat player in history to win the competition, after Heat legend and future Hall-of-Famer Dwyane Wade did it in 2006 and 2007.

All-Star Weekend was an amazing series of events for basketball. One new thing they implemented was a target score for the actual game. Team LeBron was targeted to score 157 points and they hit this target exactly. In past years, All-Star Games have gotten out of hand because no one plays defense. This year changed that, and now the league plans to implement target scores in the future,”

— sophomore Jasming Senel said

The next event was the 3-Point Shootout, which had a slight change because of its new sponsor, Mountain Dew. They added a 4-point zone which had players shoot 27 feet away from the basket, and further back from normal three-point line. In this event, the Heat had up and coming three-point assassin Duncan Robinson, who went third in the competition, totaling 19 points.

The event went down to the last shot between Devin Booker and Buddy Hield, who won by a score of 27, just one more point than Booker.

The Dunk Contest was the last contest that took place, which included four skilled athletes. Miami’s Derrick Jones Jr. took part in the contest for just the second time in his career.

In what traditionally are the last two rounds, the two highest scorers of the initial two rounds scored two perfect 50’s and were treated to an overtime Dunk-Off. After a few more dunks that left judge Dwyane Wade speechless, the end came abruptly after a controversial finish that had Aaron Gordon fall one point short of Derrick Jones Jr.’s winning score. The night was huge for Miami fans, as this is the first time they had a participant in all three events, winning two of the three

On Sunday, Feb. 16, the main event of the weekend put all attention on Chi-town, where Team LeBron took on Team Giannis. This year, the league introduced a new format that honored the late Kobe Bryant by reformatting the game and by setting a target score for the fourth quarter as a cumulative total of the scores from the first three quarters and adding 24, symbolic of Bryant’s jersey number.

The Most Valuable Player trophy was renamed the Kobe Bryant All-Star Game Most Valuable Player Award, which was later won by Kawhi Leonard of Team LeBron. The game at the start was fast-paced and exciting, with the first quarter ending in a score of 53-41 and Team LeBron taking home one thousand dollars for the Chicago Scholars. Team Giannis won the second quarter winning the same amount and tying up the competition. Then, Team Lebron came back in the lead, winning the third quarter and adding heat to the competition.

The game ended with a free throw from Anthony Davis, officially naming Team Lebron the winner of the All-Star game after reaching the target score of 157. The free throw caused controversy across the board, but then became a symbol for something much greater. Kobe Bryant’s first and last shots were free throws, giving the game much greater meaning.

The new format will change the game forever, rewarding each charity more than ever before. Team Giannis won 100,000 dollars for their charity, while Team LeBron won 400,000 dollars. The end of the game concluded the festivities for the weekend, leaving this All-Star weekend as one for the books. Now, teams are regrouping and preparing to rally for playoff runs and compete for a championship.