It’s the most gloriest time of year for the highlight-reel basketball fan as the NBA All-Star Game makes its way to Vivnit Arena in Utah.
Jordan Rising Stars
For those that don’t always take notice of the younger, less heralded, players in the NBA, the Jordan Rising Stars game is a perfect opportunity to check out the best first and second-year players in the league. For the second straight season, Rising Stars will take place as a three-game mini-tournament. Pau Gasol, Derron Williams and Joakim Noah will take control of the NBA contingent while Jason Terry brings with him a collection of the best young G-League talent fighting for their chance to crack the big time.
Place your bets on the Rising Stars Challenge… pic.twitter.com/cCF73iEDV3
— NBA University (@NBA_University) February 7, 2023
Gasol picked Paolo Bachero with the first pick of the draft, but Team Deron looks like they might be the team to beat early on.
Kia Skills Challenge
A nice little warm-up before we get to the main events of Day 2, three teams of three will pile up points across three rounds to determine a winner.
The Greak Freaks – Giannis, Thanasis and Alex – make up Team Antetokounmpo. They will take on the local favourites, Team Jazz (Jordan Clarkson, Colin Sexton and Walker Kessler), while Paolo Banchero, Jaden Ivy and Jabari Smith Jr. make up Team Rookies.
— #NBAAllStar (@NBAAllStar) February 19, 2023
AT&T Slam Dunk Contest
It’s not the greatest contestant list…
Players seem to be brushing the Slam Dunk Contest leaving four relative unknowns to battle it out and join the likes of Zach LaVine, John Wall, Blake Griffin, Nate Robinson, Dwight Howard, Jason Richardson and Vince Carter as winners over the last 20-odd seasons.
Kenyon Martin Jr., Mac McClung, Trey Murphy and Jericho Sims take centre stage with Jamal Crawford, Lisa Leslie, Karl Malone, Harold Miner and Dominique Wilkins at the judge’s table.
I've seen a lot of people that are disappointed Shaedon Sharpe dropped out of the Slam Dunk Contest. Just know that Jericho Sims will make tuning in on Saturday night well worth it
— Daily Knicks (@DailyKnicksFS) February 15, 2023
Who knows, perhaps the low expectations and element of the unknown help start to bring the Slam Dunk Contest back to what it once was?
Mac McClung certainly has the game to do that. Ignoring million-dollar offers from overseas, McClung recently signed a two-way NBA contract with the Philadelphia 76ers. He has a fan in Shaquille O’Neal, too.
“A guy that deserves to be in the league… Probably a little bit undersized… but the boy got them bunnies… Mac McClung will not miss a dunk… A guy that’s not even in the NBA is gonna win the Dunk Contest.”
It may not look like it on paper, but this Slam Dunk Contest has incredible potential.
NBA All-Star Game
The NBA has a reputation for being the best reality show on television. A hectic trade deadline only added to that reputation. Now, as if putting 30 of the best players in the league under one roof for a game wasn’t enough, they’ll be forced into a schoolyard-style team selection before the game.
Giannis Antetokounmpo and LeBron James will captain the two teams. Similar to past years, the two captains will play a leading role in selecting their teammates in a draft. However, this year it will occur just 30 minutes before tip-off.
— #NBAAllStar (@NBAAllStar) February 20, 2023
Teams haven’t been named, so there isn’t a lot to go on, but Team LeBron has been installed as $1.68 and -2.5 favourites ahead of the NBA All-Star Game. Where the pre-game confidence in James comes from is his ability to draft teams. He has been a captain in all five seasons since the new format was implemented and drafted his way to a 5-0 record.
James recently passed Kareem Abdul-Jabbar to become the leading point scorer in NBA history. With this, his 19th NBA All Star selection, James has tied Abdul-Jabbar for the most ever. He again received the most votes this year, so it will more than likely take an injury for The King not to break the record next year. In the meantime, though, he has another opportunity to add to his 22.9 points, 6.1 rebounds and 5.9 assists per game – decent numbers in relatively limited minutes.
I asked Darvin Ham if the idea of LeBron James sitting out until after All-Star break has been discussed. He struck that down: “No, I don’t think he’d allow us to do that.” Says the team is closely monitoring his foot day by day.
— Kyle Goon (@kylegoon) February 12, 2023
Things will change as teams are drafted. Who knows whether or not James picks the best team available, reaches for his guy Kyrie Irving early, or just says “screw it, let’s have some fun” and drafts a vibes-based team. However, history suggests he’s always one of the smartest basketball minds in the room and that he will draft a team that deserves to enter as favourites.