By Flint Wheeler
Overall this NBA past weekend was a success, but some aspects could have been better. The All-Star Game was competitive, but the dunk contest didn’t live up to the hype of previous years. The three-point contest was hot trash until Devin Booker went off in the final round. And All-Star Weekend as a whole was what most expected: a mosh pit featuring some of the biggest names in entertainment celebrating basketball excellence.
Even in most successes, there are winners and losers. Here are some of each from All-Star Weekend:
Winners: Adam Silver, Michele Roberts, Chris Paul, and the new format
The NBA desperately needed a way to fix the All-Star Game and make it more competitive. Enter Silver, Roberts, and Paul, who were able to bring their sides together for the best possible first step in the right direction.
As Silver told it, it was Paul, the president of the NBA Player’s Association, who reached out to him saying “we need to fix this” two years ago.
CP3 wasn’t voted into the All-Star Game this year, but if he was watching, the product was much, much better than past years. For starters, the final score of 148-145 was the lowest All-Star Game score since 2013. You know what that means? There was some defense being played.
With the exception of Jimmy Butler, who was voted an all-star reserve but chose not to play, players looked excited and wanted to compete. It was a far cry from past years where games lacked effort and intensity. In short: it’s everything fans and the league could have wanted.
Yes, the all-star draft should have been televised, and all signs are pointing to it being televised in the future. But the game itself was miles better than last year, thanks to three prominent voices of the league finding a solution to liven up the league’s marquee regular-season showcase.
Winners: Team LeBron
$250,000 of extra pocket change ain’t bad at all. That’s one reason LeBron was so giddy after the game’s final stop.
Being able to play with the best player on the planet — regardless of conference — is pretty fun, too.
Loser: The dunk contest
An injection of new blood was supposed to give the slam dunk contest new life in 2018. Instead, we saw missed dunk after missed dunk, and few attempts were dunks we’ve never seen before.
The most creative slam of the night was a reverse between-the-legs by Dennis Smith Jr., who was eliminated after two dunks because he earned a mere 39 on his first attempt.
Donovan Mitchell showed a little bit of creativity, but it wasn’t the best ending, and you can argue Mitchell didn’t deserve to win in the first place.
Winner: Devin Booker. Loser: Everyone else shooting threes.
Booker hit 20 shots for a record-setting 28 points in the three-point contest. His performance on the biggest stage of his career left no doubt in viewers’ minds that this kid is about to take flight in Phoenix. Unfortunately, we couldn’t say the same for everyone else. Paul George had a rough go at it to say the least:
So did Eric Gordon, the Rockets’ sniper who handily won the crown last season.
Loser: Stephen Curry, the GM
There was a ton of speculation before the game that Curry’s team had enough athleticism and three-point shooting to help offset some of the size of LeBron’s team. But with four players injured, including an all-star starter out, Team LeBron still came out victorious.
Gotta do better than that next time, Steph.
Fergie absolutely bombed the pre-game national anthem reciting. Need proof? Look at the faces of NBA players who were subjected to her vocals. I’m not sure what Fergie was singing before tip-off. The words sounded familiar, buuuuuuut that wasn’t the national anthem. She tried to put her own spin on it — and kudos to her for putting herself out there — but that was a big fail.
Winner: Boogie Cousins
DeMarcus Cousins was supposed to be an all-star starter on a loaded Team LeBron, but a torn Achilles wiped his season away. Anthony Davis paid homage to his fallen teammate by rocking a Cousins jersey while on the floor to start Sunday’s All-Star Game.
Boogie still had his moments, like pulling up for the Team LeBron photoshoot in a wheelchair. And telling his all-star teammate that if he wins MVP wearing a Cousins jersey, well, he didn’t really win MVP: Have a speedy recovery, Boogie. We miss you already.
Loser: Victor Oladipo
Oladipo was set to bring the house down in the slam dunk contest. He borrowed the Black Panther mask from Chadwick Boseman and was supposed to pull off a dunk that would have sent Staples Center into flames. But Oladipo missed his first dunk attempt, then settled for something well below average. Great thought, not-so great dunk. If only he did this in the dunk contest instead of the All-Star Game itself.