Another NBA All-Star weekend in the books, this time with some new formats and faces, which all worked for the most part.
Here at The Basketball Movement, we are all about everything basketball from the NBA on down. We previewed NBA All-Star Friday, Saturday, and Sunday nights to let you know what to look for. The NBA changed a couple things, but overall it was a great spectacle of the sport as usual.
As always, one great takeaway from the weekend was the presence of basketball royalty. From coverage by Reggie Miller, Shaquille O'neal, and more to courtside appearances by Jerry West, Julius Erving, Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, and Bill Russell, some of the greats were in attendance, including our own Rob Yanders.
The pageantry of the weekend is typically robust, but may have been a little too above-and-beyond with strange All-Star game intros and a national anthem that was shaky at best (sorry, Fergie).
Back to basketball...
The future of basketball is in good hands
The Basketball Movement tracks players from high school, to college, to the pros. We are very familiar with the pipeline that tells us how high the talent level is looking over the next few years. Some of this is already very apparent from what we saw from the young guys this weekend.
The Rising Stars U.S.A. vs. the World game featuring NBA rookie and sophomore players was a great show of the league's young talent. Joel Embiid participated though he was also a starter in the big Sunday night game. Rookie of the Year frontrunners Ben Simmons and Donovan Mitchell both quietly had efficient, well-rounded games.
The Sacramento Kings had a great showing with two of the top player in the game - Buddy Hield and the game's MVP, Bogdan Bogdanavic. It looks like their rebuild is coming along nicely. Kyle Kuzma of the Lakers and Jamal Murray of the Nuggets showed out too. The Celtics Jaylen Brown had the top stat line with 35 points and 10 boards.
The young talent did not stop on Friday, as they young guns were well represented over the next few events as well.
Skill and three-point competitions as good as ever
The skills competition did not have as many big names as we may have seen in the past, but was still highly entertaining. Spencer Dinwiddie of the Brooklyn Nets took the title by beating the Bulls sharpshooting rookie, Laurie Markkanen in the final round.
Since introducing post players into the event, the bigs had been undefeated, winning the last two years. The guards took it back in this one, despite the presence of All-Stars Joel Ebiid, Andre Drummond, and Al Horford.
The three-point shootout featured a stacked field of long-range snipers and was set up to be gold from the start. Last year's winner Eric Gordon of the Rockets couldn't escape the first round, while 2016 winner Klay Thompson advanced easily to the finals.
Devin Booker of the Phoenix Suns ousted the Warriors former champ in epic fashion, scoring a contest record 28 points on 20 of 25 shooting (of course money balls have not always been a thing). The three-point shot is alive and well in the NBA and we will only see shooting improve.
Oh, there was a slam dunk competition also
The 2016 slam dunk contest may have spoiled us. Zach Lavine and Aaron Gordon's high-flying masterpiece was easily one of the all-time greats in dunk contest history. A couple years later, the contest was entertaining, but struggled to live up to the lofty standards.
The bottom two participants only got one round to show their stuff, which is unfortunate, because Dennis Smith Jr. may have had the top dunk of the evening with his reverse, between-the-legs 360.
Larry Nance Jr. used his fathers influence to great effect by putting on his uniform for a throwback dunk. Nance' "Double-Tap" dunk was one of the most memorable from the contest.
Rookie Donovan Mitchell was filling in for the injured Aaron Gordon and won the whole thing. His first "Rec League" dunk was fun, but he mostly leaned on nostalgia the rest of the way over innovation.
The Vince Carter slam was an exact replica of the 2000 Vinsanity reverse 360 windmill. Nance was more innovative, so it was arguably a cheap way to earn the championship round scores.
SUNDAY SUNDAY SUNDAY
The Sunday night All-Star game was one of the best we have seen in years. The league ramped up the monetary incentives, though they were geared toward charity. The new format featured captain-picked squad for added intrigue.
The league wanted more defense/competitive basketball and the players certainly delivered. It was a down-to-the-wire contest with a defensive stop sealing the deal for team LeBron. Not even Stephen Curry could get a final shot off against a LeBron James/Kevin Durant double-team.
Highlights were frequent as usual, though the heightened defense also allowed fewer of the high-flying dunks fans might be used to. We saw well-rounded games from Damian Lillard, DeMar DeRozen, Kyrie Irving, and Joel Embiid.
A lot of players seem to be developing beef with Embiid, who has still not played 82 games total in his career. This seems to speak volumes for how intimidating a force he is becoming in the NBA.
LeBron James was the undisputed MVP. His 29-10-8 line was the most impressive in the contest. In a game in which the best of the NBA came to play, King James still stood out as the top player. Will we ever see LeBron get old and slow down? Probably, but it does not look like it will be soon.
Here's to the final stretch of the season
Talent old and new was on full display and the NBA is looking as strong as ever. It will be exciting to see these stars head back to their teams and gear up for what is looking to be a dramatic final portion of the season.
All stats per ESPN.com