The 2020 NBA All Star Weekend came to an end February 16th and for the most part was a complete success. Let’s start with the main event of the weekend, the All Star Game. Before we talk about the new format I want to give a quick mention to the incredible performances and tributes given to Kobe Bryant. Jennifer Hudson, Common, and Magic Johnson all gave emotional and touching tributes to Kobe all in their own style. Hudson sang, Common rapped, and Johnson spoke from the heart. They all gave Kobe a tribute he truly deserved.
After the emotional start to the game, Team Giannis faced off against Team Lebron in a brand new format that finally gave fans what they asked for. This is how the new format went:Each quarter was its own game with the winner of each quarter receiving a donation to charity. The score reset to 0-0 for the second and third quarters. The fourth quarter was basically a pickup game. The total score was kept track of throughout the game and posted for the fourth. The cumulative score of the leading team was added with 24, Kobe Bryant’s number, which gave the target score. Once a team reached the target score, 157 in this case, the game was over.
To clear up any confusion, Team Giannis was winning at the end of the third, 133-124. 24 was added to 133 giving a target score of 157. Along with adding 24 to the score to honor Kobe’s death, Team Giannis wore 24 for Kobe and Team Lebron wore 2 for Kobe’s daughter Gianna “Gigi” Bryant. The fourth quarter was also untimed and commercial free. Giannis Antetokounmpo said “The format is amazing”. He continued, “It makes you want to play hard and compete against one another. Each quarter you have the opportunity to win, and it makes it way more competitive.” I completely agree. Watching from afar you were able to tell this game meant more to them than it has in previous years. Not only because of the new format, but you can see they were playing for Kobe. The ending of each quarter almost gave off a playoff type intensity. You can tell that each team wanted to win for their charity. The fourth quarter was the answer to all changes that the fans and media wanted. Unlike the other quarters defensive intensity started from the moment the jump ball was won. The referees were actually calling fouls and players were arguing with referees as if it was the regular season or playoffs. It was great to see players arguing with each other, refs, and even pleading for replays. Physicality, even crept its way into the fourth. Embiid went to the post with Lebron twice, Lebron tried to post up Giannis, and Kyle Lowry even drew two charging fouls… IN AN ALL STAR GAME. The new format created the excitement and suspense that the exhibition game has been lacking for years. I couldn’t look away in the fourth, the only thing I disliked is that we had to wait until the last two minutes of each quarter, and the fourth, to see the intensity we did. I know players don’t want to get hurt. I know it’s tough to get players to play hard for 48 minutes in a game that doesn’t mean anything in terms of winning a championship. I just found myself losing interest in the beginning of the quarters. For the other parts of the weekend it couldn’t have gone better, aside from the celebrity game. The other events brought excitement and suspense from beginning to end. The Rising Stars game showed off just how much young talent the NBA has. It showed fans they have so much to look forward too for the next decade. Ja Morant, Zion Williamson, Luka Doncic, Trae Young, RJ Barrett, and many others stole the show. They gave even gave the fans a surprise dunk contest at the end of the fourth quarter.
Saturday night started off with the Skills Challenge. The contestants were headlined by Jayson Tatum and Spencer Dinwiddie, previous winners of the challenge. The challenge is usually decided by who can make an accurate pass and who can make a three point shot. This immediately led me to believe Domantas Sabonis and Bam Adebayo to be first round exist. They went up against quicker guards and small forwards who are used to handling the ball. I couldn’t have been more wrong. Sabonis and Abedayo were the two finalists and gave fans an thrilling final round. It ended with Abedayo hitting a three on his third three point shot attempt.
The Three Point Contest added two more shots which were six feet behind the three point line. The contest ended in dramatic fashion between Devin Booker and Buddy Hield. Booker scored 26 points in the final round. Buddy Hield made it a nail biting finish. He had 25 points going into his final shot and made it look effortless. The ball hit only net. The Dunk Contest ended with Aaron Gordon and Derrick Jones Jr. The two battled with ultimately Jones winning the event. Both participants were creative and it seemed evenly matched. Personally, I think Gordon got robbed. Jones was very good and showed he can dunk with the best of them, but he continued to do the same dunk in different ways. He was going between the legs, impressive, but was repetitive. Jones’ last dunk was very similar to Zach Lavine’s dunk which I didn’t think deserved a better score than Gordon jumping over a 7 foot 5 inch Tacko Fall.
All in all this year, each event all succeeded without much criticism. The weekend showed that the NBA is in fact listening to fans and trying to make the All Star spectacle that much more thrilling.