This Year’s All-Star Weekend Will Be Remembered Forever

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Sanjana Dixit (2019-2020), Club Writer

All-Star Weekend: the ultimate heaven for National Basketball Association (NBA) fans. Throughout the weekend, the best players from around the NBA, chosen by the fans and media members, gather to compete. This year, there were questions about whether or not All-Star Weekend would happen. Eventually, the NBA decided to have a one-day event that encompassed the best aspects of All-Star Weekend on March 7th: the skills challenge, the three-point contest, the dunk challenge, and of course, the All-Star game. 

All-Star Weekend is especially fun for the fans because we have a say in who competes in the All-Star game. Every year, the fan vote is fun to watch as players who are loved by fans receive widespread acknowledgement. For example, last year, Lakers’ Alex Caruso was among the most-voted players to participate in the game, and even though he eventually did not make the cut because of the media vote, it was still meaningful to recognize his popularity.

Because the Nets’ Kevin Durant (from the Eastern Conference) and the Lakers’ LeBron James (from the Western Conference) led the vote count in their respective conferences, each had the opportunity to draft players for their team. The starters were decided by the media and fan vote. From the Western Conference, the starters were James, Stephen Curry of the Golden State Warriors, Luka Doncic of the Dallas Mavericks, Nikola Jokic of the Denver Nuggets, and Kawhi Leonard of the Clippers. From the Eastern Conference, the starters were Durant, Bradley Beal of the Washington Wizards, Giannis of the Milwaukee Bucks, Joel Embiid of the Philadelphia 76ers, and Kyrie Irving of the Brooklyn Nets. 

Each conference had reserves who would be rotated in and out of the game. The Eastern Conference reserves were James Harden of the Nets, Jayson Tatum and Jaylen Brown of the Celtics, Zach LaVine of the Chicago Bulls, Nikola Vucevic of the Orlando Magic, Julius Randle of the New York Knicks, and Ben Simmons of the 76ers. The Western Conference reserves were Anthony Davis of the Lakers, Paul George of the Clippers, Donovan Mitchell and Rudy Gobert of the Utah Jazz, Damian Lillard of the Portland Trail Blazers, Chris Paul of the Phoenix Suns, and Zion Williamson of the New Orleans Pelicans. Since Kevin Durant was not going to participate in the game due to injury, Domantas Sabonis of the Indiana Pacers took his place, which bumped Jayson Tatum to a starter. Similarly, Devin Booker of the Suns took the place of the injured Davis, but was also replaced eventually (due to injury) by Mike Conley of the Jazz.

Once James and Durant were selected from this pool of players, including the starters, the teams were set. Team LeBron was the clear favorite with this lineup: Antetokounmpo, Curry, Doncic, Jokic, Brown, George, Gobert, Lillard, Sabonis, and Simmons. Team Durant was still of elite caliber with Irving, Leonard, Tatum, Williamson, Harden, LaVine, Mitchell, Randle, Vucevic, Conley, and Joel Embiid.

An All-Star Weekend in a world with COVID was not without its drama. Embiid and Simmons of the 76ers could not participate in the game due to COVID protocols after receiving haircuts from someone who tested positive for the virus.

Before the game, the skills challenge and three-point contest occurred. This year, the skills challenge contestants were Sabonis, Paul, Doncic, Vucevic, Randle, and Robert Covington of the Trail Blazers. The skills challenge had 5 All-Star game competitors, which made it an event to look forward to. The favorites were Chris Paul and Luka Doncic, but they were early exits, as Sabonis ended up winning after victories against Randle, Doncic, and Vucevic. 

The three-point contest was exciting. The field of contestants was highlighted by superstars, many of whom competed in the following All-Star game. These included Steph Curry, Jayson Tatum, Mike Conley, Donovan Mitchell, Zach LaVine, and Jaylen Brown. After the first round of shooting, the final three were Curry, Conley, and Tatum. Curry pulled off a victory, decided by his last ball that allowed him to edge out Conley by one point.

While these events are always fun to watch, the All-Star game was the main attraction with the dunk contest, occurring during halftime. The dunk contest was not as flashy as it had been in years prior. The contestants were Anfernee Simons of the Trail Blazers, Obi Toppin of the Knicks, and Cassius Stanley of the Indiana Pacers. Toppin and Stanley had great dunks, and some believed Stanley’s last dunk was better than the winning dunk. Simons pulled out the victory, and the winning dunk was marked by him blowing a kiss to the rim as the ball swished through the net. 

The All-Star game was as fun as it always has been. This year, the winner of each separate quarter would have the opportunity to donate to charity. Although COVID has brought many changes to our world, some things never change: no one plays defense in the All-Star game. Giannis was throwing the ball down at any chance he got, and Curry and Lillard sank back-to-back half court shots at one point in the game. Tatum, Irving, and Beal showed up for Team Durant but were no match for the power of Giannis, Curry, and Lillard.

Lillard hit a decisive half court shot to win the game for Team LeBron, 170-150. In addition to this, Team LeBron won each separate quarter and donated 1.25 million to the Thurgood Marshall College Fund in the process. Giannis did not miss a single shot the entire game, going a perfect 16/16, and won the Kobe Bryant All-Star Game MVP award. 

All-Star Weekend will not be remembered as one that had spectacular dunks or a great game, but one that occurred right when NBA fans needed some joy from this tumultuous time period.