We are less than a fortnight away from perhaps the most entertaining All-Star events showcase in American sports. Yes, the National Basketball Association’s All-Star weekend will feature some of the most high paced, action packed, exhibition sporting events. Here, I will focus on the most popular events—the BBVA Compass Rising Stars challenge, the Taco Bell Skills Challenge, the JBL Three-Point Contest, the Verizon Slam Dunk Contest, and of course, the 66th NBA All-Star Game.
BBVA Compass Rising Stars Challenge
Team USA: Devin Booker, Malcolm Brogdon, Marquese Chriss, Brandon Ingram, Frank Kaminsky, Jahlil Okafor, D’Angelo Russell, Jonathon Simmons, Karl-Anthony Towns, Myles Turner
Team World: Joel Embiid, Danté Exum, Buddy Hield, Nikola Jokic, Trey Lyles, Emmanuel Mudiay, Jamal Murray, Kristaps Porzingis, Domantas Sabonis, Dario Saric
I love the rising stars challenge. Who wouldn’t want to see the superstars of tomorrow all on the same court? And when I say ‘superstars of tomorrow,’ that is especially true in this year’s game. You could argue that Karl-Anthony Towns and Kristaps Porzingis are already well on their way to superstar status. Guys like Malcolm Brogdon, Jonathon Simmons, Myles Turner, and Joel Embiid have contributed to their respective teams at an enormous and unexpected rate. Each and every one of these Rising Stars truly has the potential to have a long, successful, and decorated NBA career. With that being said, Team USA has much more fire power. They get the win, 134-117.
Taco Bell Skills Challenge
Devin Booker, DeMarucs Cousins, Anthony Davis, Joel Embiid, Gordon Hayward, Kristaps Porzingis, Isaiah Thomas, John Wall
If you ask me, guards (or smalls, as the NBA defines them in the challenge) have an advantage in the Skills Challenge, especially this year. Not to take anything away from Embiid or Boogie’s athleticism, but intuitively, John Wall and Isaiah Thomas are much quicker, better passers and shooters, and just overall more agile. Nonetheless, it will be very entertaining watching each of these guys fly through the skills course. My pick to win it—John Wall.
JBL Three-Point Contest
Eric Gordon, Kyrie Irving, Kyle Lowry, Wesley Matthews, C.J. McCollum, Klay Thompson, Kemba Walker, Nick Young
The Three-Point Contest showcases the best shooters the game has to offer (not Steph Curry though?) Curry competed in every Three-Point contest since 2013, but declined to participate this year. That’s his prerogative, but it is a shame that the greatest three-point shooter of all-time won’t be present. But I digress. This year’s lineup is still littered with wet three-point shooters, and really, any one of them could take the title. This may be the hardest one for anyone to pick, but I’m going to go with Kemba Walker. Walker has had a very good NBA career, and he’s easily having his best year this year. He’s putting up nearly 23 points per game, while shooting just over 45 percent from the field (40 percent from three). Walker will take down the defending champ, Klay Thompson, in an epic final round.
Verizon Slam Dunk Contest
Aaron Gordon, DeAndre Jordan, Glenn Robinson III, Derrick Jones Jr.
The Slam Dunk Contest is always the exclamation point on All-Star Weekend. However, this year’s lineup is not as appealing as it has been in the past. We know Aaron Gordon will amaze, and DeAndre Jordan will be nothing short of ferocious. But Glenn Robinson III and Derrick Jones Jr. were surprising picks. Not to say that they can’t throw it down and hang with the likes of Gordon, but I’m not sure if many people outside of Michigan or Indiana thought Robinson was dunk contest worthy, or that anyone who doesn’t closely follow the D-League thought that Jones would be at All-Star weekend. Now, in his defense, you should YouTube Jones’ D-League dunks because they are ridiculous. Gordon is the sexy pick here, but I’m going with DeAndre Jordan’s strength and pure power. He could give us a Dwight Superman Howard-like performance, for which we would be truly grateful.
The 66th NBA All-Star Game
Starters: Steph Curry, Anthony Davis, Kevin Durant, James Harden, Kawhi Leonard
Reserves: DeMarcus Cousins, Marc Gasol, Draymond Green, Gordon Hayward, DeAndre Jordan, Klay Thompson, Russell Westbrook
Starters: Giannis Antetokounmpo, Jimmy Butler, DeMar DeRozan, Kyrie Irving, LeBron James
Reserves: Paul George, Kevin Love, Kyle Lowry, Paul Millsap, Isaiah Thomas, Kemba Walker, John Wall
First off, how the @#$! is Russell Westbrook not a starter?! 30.1 points, 10.2 assists, 10.5 rebounds, 1.5 steals. As Stephan A. would say, THAT…THAT IS BLASPHEMOUS. The facts that Westbrook isn’t starting and Zaza Pachulia was almost named a starter are shining examples of what’s wrong with fan voting. Anyway, the All-Star Game. The NBA’s All-Star Game is in a league of its own. No defense? Who cares? On an entertainment platform, not a competitive one, this game is what everyone wants to see. And for those in Wisconsin, they will see their team represented for the first time since 2004, when the Greek Freak takes the court next to LeBron James, the only player to receive more votes than Giannis in the Eastern Conference. Giannis has already cemented himself as a cornerstone player in this league. But on February 19, he will be able to show the entire world why he will be one of the premier superstars in the NBA. Based on his statistical production and overwhelming popularity with fans, Giannis is likely in for a perennial trip to the All-Star game for the foreseeable future, and I can’t wait to see how much better he gets (if that’s even possible). However, even with Giannis and LeBron manning the wings, I think the West has just a bit more, and they will win their third straight, 162-155.