Since it is a national holiday, let’s take a break from the stats and count down the top 10 worst moments from this year’s All-Star Weekend…
10. Out with the Old
As a Spurs fan myself, I hate to say it—but it was pretty weird not seeing Kobe Bryant on the court. Though he has been sidelined by injury for a majority of the season, Kobe’s global popularity was enough to earn him a 16th All-Star selection. In a game with little defense and a fourth quarter meltdown by the West, in which they blew an 18-point lead, I couldn’t help but notice the absence of the Black Mamba. We were able to get a glimpse of him during a brief, light-hearted interview during the game on Sunday, but it really just was not the same.
In addition, Tim Duncan, one of my personal associations with the term “All-Star”, did not qualify this year. It looks like the league and its fans are also starting to move on from the generation of players between the Jordan and the LeBron eras. In fact, the only participants of this year’s All-Star game who were active in the NBA during the Jordan days were: Tony Parker, Dirk Nowitzki, and Joe Johnson. This is not necessarily a bad thing, but it does put today’s game and style into perspective.
9. Rising Stars Challenge MVP Trophy Fail
The Rising Stars Challenge is one of the more exciting events during All-Star Weekend. It is a great place for the younger players, often on bad teams that do not have many nationally televised games, to showcase their talent to the world. I have no complaints with the game, especially with Drummond’s performance. But seriously, how does part of the trophy just fall off?
8. Sleeved Uniforms
Pictures are worth a thousand words. The Warriors have been one of the early adopters of the sleeved jersey, so I have had the opportunity to see these bad boys in person. It does not get better.
7. Spectacularly Bad Defense
Defense is not really a staple of the NBA All-Star game, but this year’s showing was record-settingly “bad”:
Most Overall Points Scored: Combined score of 318 points.
Most Threes Attempted: 17 by Kevin Durant (he only made 4 of his attempts).
Most Threes Made: 8 by Melo–he finished with 30 points (and no MVP honors).
Most Points Scored in a Half: 24 by Kyrie Irving, tying Glen Rice’s record from 1997.
Honorable mention goes to Blake Griffin who almost got the individual scoring record for an NBA All-Star Game. He finished with 38 points, behind the all-time leader Wilt Chamberlain who dropped 42 in 1962.
As bad as these stats look, this year’s All-Star game was quite entertaining. Though it was not a LBJ-KD duel (as advertised), there were some great moments by some of the best players in the game. The in-game dunks (especially by LeBron James and Blake Griffin) were a welcome addition, especially after the disappointment from the dunk contest the night before.
Lately, the Slam Dunk Competition has become a showcase for insane props and half-baked ideas rather than true creativity and athleticism. Ben McLemore, of Shaqramento, takes the cake in this year’s contest. Usually, when you get a guy like Shaq involved, fans are going to assume you have a spectacular dunk in store. In a contest where Harrison Barnes has already sucked all the energy out the arena, that is not how you finish.
I will let you be the judge of this interesting performance.
5. 3-Point Contest
Though the 3-point competition had a very exciting finish between Bradley Beal and Marco Belinelli in a tiebreaker round, there were some disappointments. This year’s winner managed to get the title despite throwing two air balls! In addition, even with a full “moneyball” rack this year (those shots counted for 2 points, while the others were just 1 point), overall scores were lower than in the past.
The worst performance in this event came from Joe Johnson, who finished with 11 points. The All-Star from the Brooklyn Nets was too methodical with his shots and did not finish all of his racks. He also chose to put his full “moneyball” rack on the right wing, despite only shooting 25% from this zone this season. Steph Curry, the favorite going into the event, was also a disappointment. He was eliminated in the first round, but he hopes to participate (and win) next time.
“As a shooter, you have to have that at least once,” Curry said. “Obviously, I’m a little disappointed that I didn’t win, but hopefully I’m allowed to come back.”
4. “NBA Style”
NBA players are notorious for some of the most ridiculous, “fashion-forward” outfits. Here are just some of the highlights from the weekend:
And then, there’s the shoes:
3. Sunday’s Opening Ceremony
The opening ceremony for the All-Star game was a microcosm for everything I dislike about the new wave of the NBA. It was less about the basketball and more about the fanfare and celebrities. I loved seeing Nelly and Snoop, but when the player introductions began, the basketball component of the night felt very out of place. I was even a bit insulted when the National Anthem was just acoustics, not accompanied by any singing. The whole time I was thinking that this was just some huge joke, but the punch line never came. And a minor detail: the sound was completely off. But hey, the fans were way more into it than they were the previous night. Maybe you just had to be there or it is just all relative?
Check out the full 20 minute performance for yourself!
2. Nick Cannon
As a 90s kid, I almost feel like I grew up with Nick Cannon. I am sad to say that All-Star Saturday Night made me wish that Mr. Mariah Carey were not part of my childhood. I did not think that it was possible to be such a bad emcee. I am pretty sure that he was reading off a teleprompter half the time, and he was not totally well versed in all the rules of the dunk contest. Whenever Cannon would ask a player a question about the event, I really thought that he was trolling us all. By the end, it was clear that he was just that bad. At least he got the endorsements right—there was a moment in which he just kept saying “Sprite” over and over again. Whoever Cannon’s agent is—hire him quick! The guy is clearly a genius if he is able to continue to book such high-profile gigs. Though, to his credit, the actual dunk contest made his performance feel much worse than it might have otherwise been…
1. Dunk Contest
No, Magic Johnson—the dunk contest is NOT back. The Slam Dunk Contest used to be one of the biggest highlights of All-Star Weekend. The latest edition of the contest in Smoothie King Center (home of the New Orleans Pelicans) will go down in the books as the worst in the history of the NBA. One of the lowest points of the weekend was when Kenny the Jet Smith had to point out that the dunkers had to be more excited than the fans.
So why was this year’s contest so bad? The new format had a lot to do with it. In order to convince some of the bigger names to participate in the future, the league decided to make the event a team affair—East versus West. Dunks have always been about the individual, so this was already a difficult adjustment for fans (and players, too, apparently). There was a two-round format that began with a “freestyle” portion, in which each team had 90 seconds to show off as many dunks as they could. There was a teamwork component to this. The second part of the contest was the “battle” round, which featured head-to-head matchups between individuals from each team. The first team to win three battles won the contest.
With the exception of Harrison Barnes, the caliber of the dunkers was not the actual problem. (Barnes is a great in-game dunker, but that does not always extend to a dunk contest.) Lillard actually had some beautiful dunks, showing us that little guys could have mad hops. Unfortunately, he was eliminated early. McLemore did not have enough to take on Wall one-on-one, and that meant the night was over for everyone. Though it did finish on a high note, there was no build up. It was just over. It did not feel like the participants were able to showcase their best dunks, and Ross definitely did not have a fair shot at defending his title.
In the past, whenever I would see President’s Day or Valentine’s Day on the calendar, I would get excited because it meant that NBA All-Star Weekend was around the corner. This year’s event in New Orleans was not all bad. All-Star Friday Night was very entertaining, even with the Rising Stars trophy mishap. And the main event was still fun to watch. Let’s hope that next year will be even better!