What a game! What a weekend! The 2020 NBA All-Star extravaganza bedazzled fans all over the world; and this was achieved primarily with the return of intensity and furious action in the hardcourt.
Before the new format All-Star Game commenced, the host city of Chicago treated fans with preliminary events that were a good omen of things to come.
Miami Heat’s Bam Adebayo won the 2020 Taco Bell Skills Challenge, edging out Domantas Sabonis as both seemed to have problems with the 3-pt shot, the final station in the multi-skills format. Last year’s halfcourt desperation heave which won the crown for Jayson Tatum over rookie sensation Trae Young still remains the top highlight image for the relatively new event.
In the Mountain Dew 3-Point Contest, Sacramento’s Buddy Hield narrowly edged Devin Booker with his very last basket, making this edition of the 3-Point competition one of the closest by far in recent memory. Only Larry Bird’s cold-blooded last shot to win the crown decades ago comes to mind as the bar of excellence for the event.
And then came the AT&T Slam Dunk Contest. The bar for elegance and creativity in flight had been the epic duel between Michael Jordan and Dominique Wilkins way back in 1988. Chicago had awarded the crown to its great hometown boy, MJ, despite numerous claims to the contrary. Nique’s supporters would cry hometown decision, and this would haunt Chicago to this very day.
This time around, it was Aaron Gordon who would suffer the same stinging loss as the crown was awarded to Miami’s Derrick Jones Jr after 2 extra rounds of awesome high-flying action. Gordon led the Finals qualifiers, but faltered in the Finals to Jones’ more creative repertoire. In the end, the crowd was treated to arguably the best dunk contest in league history.
Finally, the All-Star Game.
People had long lamented the transformation of the game into a ho-humm, no-defense, all-offense display with zero intensity on the court. This time around, as though to honor the competitive spirit of the late great Kobe Bryant, the NBA tweaked the format to ensure the continued interest of the players and whet the appetite of the fans. Kawhi Leonard captured the inaugural Kobe Bryant All-Star MVP award, and everyone seems to agree that the new format has fueled the best All-Star Game finish in years. And it was fitting that Chicago’s hometown pride, Anthony Davis, would nail the game-winning free throw, a great highlight to a thrilling fourth quarter that produced some slam-bang action worthy of a Game 7 in the NBA Finals.
The final score was 157 – 155 in favor of Team Lebron. Despite the high score, it was evident that players were giving their all – diving for loose balls, taking charges, providing help defense, chasing down opponents, making spectacular blocks, even screaming at and questioning the referees’ eyesights. We’re sure that Kobe Bryant, that consummate competitor, would have enjoyed every minute of it.
This time around, the game thrilled till the very end, as though in keeping with Kobe’s love for true competition. To the NBA family, a job well done! We look forward to watching next year in Indianapolis.
Cover pic courtesy of: ABS CBN News. Other pics courtesy of Sun Sentinel, Bullets Forever, Arizona Sports, Chicago Tribune, http://www.bleumag.com, Fox News, Orlando Pinstriped News, Clutch Points, CBS sports, Peachtree hoops, Bleacher Report and http://www.cnn.com.