The NBA reached its unofficial halfway point last Friday with the beginning of All-Star Weekend. Unlike other professional sports, there are multiple events that the players participate in, namely the 3-Point Shootout, the “Shooting Stars” competition, the Skills Challenge, the All-Star game itself, and everyone’s favorite, the Slam Dunk Contest. Some of the biggest names in the league were on full display and there were definitely some surprise winners and losers.
Saturday’s first event, the “Shooting Stars”, was composed of four teams, each from a different region. Each team featured an NBA player, an NBA legend and a WNBA player. The teams had to make shots as quickly as possible from various positions around the court, concluding with a shot from half court. Team Westbrook — Russell Westbrook (Oklahoma City Thunder), Robert Horry (Legend), Maya Moore (Minnesota Lynx) — easily ousted Westbrook’s former teammate’s squad, Team Harden — James Harden (Houston Rockets), Sam Cassell (Legend), Tina Thompson (Seattle Storm) — in the first round, as they completed the course in an outstanding 29.5 seconds.
In the Eastern Conference, Team Bosh — Chris Bosh (Miami Heat), Dominique Wilkins (Legend), Swin Cash (Chicago Sky) — beat Team Lopez — Brook Lopez (Brooklyn Nets), Muggsy Bogues (Legend), Tamika Catchings (Indiana Fever) — with a time of 50 seconds to move on the final round. Bosh’s team started the course first, and they were highly unimpressive. They took 1:29 to complete the course, which was much worse than their first round time. It appeared as though Team Westbrook would easily take home the trophy, especially because they had over a minute to complete the final shot, the half court heave. However, they couldn’t get the shot to go down.
Westbrook almost made it himself on three separate occasions, but the ball rolled around the rim and fell out. With three seconds left, “Big Shot” Robert Horry had the last chance for Team Westbrook, but his shot clanked off the side of the rim, giving the victory to Team Bosh.
The next event was the Skills Challenge, an obstacle course of sorts, featuring shooting, passing and dribbling.
In the Eastern Conference, Brandon Knight (Detroit Pistons), Jrue Holiday (Philadelphia 76ers) and Jeff Teague (Atlanta Hawks) competed against each other in the first round. Teague struggled through the course, taking 49.4 seconds to finish, while the two rising stars Holiday and Knight blazed through the challenge (29.3 and 32.2 seconds, respectively). In the West, rookie Damian Lillard (Portland Trailblazers), Jeremy Lin (Houston Rockets), and reigning champion Tony Parker (San Antonio Spurs) competed for the other spot in the final round. Parker had a terrible showing, posting a time of 48.7 seconds. Lin had a fairly decent run, but Lillard ran away with the competition, as he never struggled with any of the obstacles. The final round featured the two young point guards, Holiday and Lillard. Holiday was moving through the course at a good pace until he came to the shot from the top of the key. There he struggled, taking multiple attempts and adding precious seconds to his already inflating time. It proved to be too much, and Lillard breezed through each trial and finished with a cool 29.8 seconds.
In the 3-Point Shootout, the West featured sharpshooter Stephen Curry (Golden State Warriors), Matt Bonner (San Antonio Spurs), and Ryan Anderson (New Orleans Hornets). Curry had a rough start and missed the majority of his first 10 shots. However, he started to heat up when he got to the third rack of balls and finished strong with a total score of 17. Ryan Anderson also had a good overall showing, posting a score of 18, but neither was good enough to beat Spurs big man Matt Bonner, who started the contest on fire and rode his fast start to a 19-point showing.
In the East, Paul George (Indiana Pacers), Steve Novak (New York Knicks) and Kyrie Irving (Cleveland Cavaliers) were the three competitors. George struggled through the entire competition, as he isn’t known to be a particularly good set shooter. Steve Novak, however, is considered by many to be the best pure shooter in the NBA and he did not disappoint, posting a score of 17. Kyrie Irving surprised everyone, as he finished the first round with 18 points, ousting Novak and moving on the final round. From the instant he started shooting in the second round, Irving was on fire. He fell 2 points short of tying a 3-point contest record, as he scored an incredible 23 points. Matt Bonner had a good round himself, scoring 20, but he was no match for the league’s newest superstar.
Finally, six of the most athletic high-fliers in the NBA took the stage for the Sprite Slam Dunk Contest. For the West, Eric Bledsoe (Los Angeles Clippers), Kenneth Faried (Denver Nuggets) and Jeremy Evans (Utah Jazz) competed, while Gerald Green (Indiana Pacers), Terrence Ross (Toronto Raptors) and James White (New York Knicks) represented the East. The first round was fairly uninspiring, with many missed attempts and minimum scores.
One of the more notable attempts was from Gerald Green. He tried to dunk the ball twice while in air, but he wasn’t able to complete the dunk in the allotted time. Jeremy Evans and Terrence Ross advanced past the first round and competed against each other in the championship. Evans started out the round by jumping over a covered portrait of himself performing the dunk. He revealed the painting after landing. Terrence Ross then successfully completed a beautiful reverse alley-oop from the side of the basket. Once again, Jeremy Evans took the court with a basketball in each hand and proceeded to dunk both in one attempt.
It was very impressive, but Ross’s last attempt ended up deciding the victor. Donning a vintage Vince Carter jersey, he jumped over one of the ball boys and put the ball through his legs, finishing with a powerful slam. Both competitors were highly impressive, and brought some excitement to an event that has been lacking in recent years, but Ross went above and beyond to bring home the 2013 crown.
The weekend closed with the main event, the All-Star Game. Western forward Kevin Durant (Oklahoma City Thunder) was on fire for the majority of the game, and he finished with 30 points, leading all scorers. The game was close throughout as the West never had a lead greater than 8 points until the fourth quarter. LeBron James (Miami Heat) finished the game with 19 points, but was blocked twice in the waning seconds of the game by Kobe Bryant (Los Angeles Lakers), which sealed the East’s fate. Chris Paul (Los Angeles Clippers) was voted MVP of the game for his outstanding performance. He had 15 assists and 4 steals to go along with 20 points.