AIC Students React To NBA All-Star Weekend

Javon Flynn

Eric Kilby
United Center, home of the 2020 NBA All-Star Weekend

The 69th NBA All-Star weekend was held in Chicago, Illinois on Friday, February 14-16, and it did not disappoint. Events such as the celebrity game, rising stars, the three-point contest, the Sprite slam dunk contest, and the highly anticipated All-Star game brought millions of viewers to their feet with unreal highlights and contests that went down to the wire.

Friday kicked off with the annual NBA celebrity game.  The game brought out big rappers and recording artists such as Common, Quavo of the rap group “Migos,” and Bad Bunny. Actors such as Hannibal Buress and LaRoyce Hawkins also participated. ESPN commentators Michael Wilbon and Stephen A. Smith coached the two teams. The final score was team Wilbon 62, and team Stephen A. 47.

The first night ended with the rising game. These teams are made up of first and second-year NBA players. ESPN reported that Team USA would feature top-tier rookies such as Zion Williamson of the New Orleans Pelicans and Ja Morant of the Memphis Grizzlies. Both men are in the running for rookie of the year, according to Team World had their own big names such as Dallas Mavericks Star forward Luka Dončić and RJ Barrett from the New York Knicks. 

Team USA blew away Team World by a landslide score of 151 to 131. Team USA had 8 of its 12 players scoring in double digits, with Golden State Warriors Rookie Eric Paschall leading all scorers with 23 points. RJ Barrett was the leading scorer for Team World with 27 points. Charlotte Hornets star Miles Bridges was named MVP.

Shamar Schand, a first-year Sports Management major, said, “That game was really a blessing to watch.” He felt it was the best rising stars game he has ever watched. “There were so many highlight plays,” he said, “I couldn’t take my eyes away from the TV screen.” 

The weekend continued on Saturday with the Taco Bell skills challenge, the MTN Dew 3-point contest, and the AT&T Slam Dunk contest.

The Taco Bell skills challenge featured players such as Brooklyn Nets point guard Spencer Dinwiddie, Toronto Raptors All-Star forward Pascal Siakam, Miami Heat All-Star big man Bam Adebayo, and Boston Celtics All-Star Jayson Tatum. Tatum was the defending 2019 Taco Bell skills challenge champion.

In the first round, Miami’s Bam Adebayo knocked out Brooklyn’s Spencer Dinwiddie. Adebayo then proceeded to the semi-finals where he eliminated Toronto’s Pascal Siakam. Adebayo would go on to win the challenge after defeating Indiana Pacers Star big man Domontas Sabonis in the final round.

The MTN Dew 3-point contest featured players like Davis Bertans of the Washington Wizards, Devin Booker of the Phoenix Suns, Devonte’ Graham of the Charlotte Hornets, Joe Harris of the Brooklyn Nets, Buddy Hield of the Sacramento Kings, Zach LaVine of the Chicago Bulls, Duncan Robinson of the Miami Heat, and Trae Young of the Atlanta Hawks. The contest saw Buddy Hield from the Sacramento Kings taking home the victory after edging out Phoenix’s All-star Devin Booker by a final score of 27 to 26 in the final round in a nail-biting finish.

The last event of what had been a spectacular Saturday was the Sprite Slam Dunk Contest. Participants included Pat Connaughton of the Milwaukee Bucks, Aaron Gordon of the Orlando Magic, Dwight Howard of the Los Angeles Lakers, and Derrick Jones Jr. of the Miami Heat.

Derrick Jones Jr. and Aaron Gordon faced off in the final. Each had received all 10s, 50 points total, for their previous dunks. The high flying Gordon was shocked when he was awarded a 47 after jumping over Boston Celtics big man Tacko Fall who stood at a record-breaking height of 7 feet 7 inches for his final dunk. Jones scored a 48 after a soaring tomahawk dunk; he would be crowned champion.

“My man got robbed again! For the second straight year,” said Albert Onivogui, a first-year business major. “He jumped over a dude who was damn near eight feet tall and he got a forty-seven. Are you serious?! I’m not saying that Derrick Jones Jr. didn’t deserve to win, because he showed out with his own jaw-dropping dunks. But I believe what Aaron Gordon did should have easily gotten him the win.”

Judges Dwyane Wade, Chadwick Boseman, and Bulls Hall of Famers all gave Gordon 9s rather than the 10s he was awarded for all of his previous dunks. According to sportswriter Adrian Wojnarowski, Gordon told media reporters that he was done with the dunk contest and felt he had been robbed for the second straight year.

The weekend was capped off with the 69th annual All-Star game. It was the first All-Star Game with a new format and was highly anticipated.

The teams played a mini-game in each of the first three quarters. The scores started at 0-0 in each of those periods and the winning team in each one earned $100,000 for their Chicago-area children’s charity. The final period would start with the totals each team had scored in the previous three quarters on the scoreboard. $200,000 was at stake for the final period.

Team LeBron played for Chicago Scholars and Team Giannis played for After School Matters. James’ team won the first quarter 53-41, Antetokoumpo’s team won the second quarter 51-30. The third quarter would end in a tie and that $100,000 carried over to the fourth, putting $300,000 total at stake in the final period.

The total score at the end of three quarters was Team Giannis 133, Team LeBron 124 going into the fourth quarter. The NBA decided to add a plot twist. The winner of the All-Star Game would be the team that added 24 points to whatever the leading total score was after three quarters. This was one of many tributes to Kobe Bryant, who wore number 24, during the weekend. That meant the target score was set at 157, as team Giannis had 133 points at the end of the third.

Darren Abate/Associated Press
Kawhi Leonard was the recipient of the first-ever Kobe Bryant All-Star MVP award

The game clock was off but the shot clock stayed on. Team LeBron would end up getting the victory with the final score 157 to 155. Kawhi Leonard of the Los Angeles Clippers took home the Kia All-Star Game Kobe Bryant MVP Award.

Sean Johnson, a first-year sports management major remarked, “The 2021 All-Star Game is said to be held in Indianapolis, Indiana but I don’t think there will ever be another game like the 2020 All-Star Game in Chicago. And it will go down as one of the most entertaining weekends in NBA history, no doubt.” He added, “I truly believe Kobe was somewhere in that arena, watching with the biggest smile on his face.”