The best of the best came out to play at the Smoothie King Center this past weekend at the 66th Annual NBA All-Star Weekend in New Orleans, LA.
After no significant modification in North Carolina’s HB2 policies, the NBA announced in July that the festivities would no longer be hosted in Charlotte.
Despite the change in plans, the Big Easy proved it can host two high-profile events in one month with Mardi Gras just around the corner.
The weekend kicked off with the announcement of the 2017 Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame finalists. Potential frontrunners of the 15 named finalists include Chris Webber, Tracy McGrady, Tim Hardaway and Sidney Moncrief. Although household names of their era, none of these players ever earned a championship ring. Those to be enshrined among the basketball greats will be announced at the NCAA Men’s Final Four tournament this April.
Specialty events such as the Slam Dunk Contest, Skills Challenge and Three-Point Contest proved to be fan favorites yet again this year.
Indiana Pacers shooting guard Glenn Robinson III was crowned champion in the Slam Dunk Contest with a dunk rating of 94 in the final round.
In the skills challenge, Kristaps Porzingis of the New York Knicks narrowly defeated Gordon Hayward of the Utah Jazz in the demanding passing, shooting and ball-handling exercises.
Eric Gordon of the Houston Rockets took home the Three-Point Contest trophy at the end of a captivating tie-breaker with Cleveland Cavalier and All-Star point guard for the East, Kyrie Irving.
Per usual, Sunday night’s main event consisted of plenty of unguarded three-point shots, entertaining dunks and no defense whatsoever.
Coached by Steve Kerr of the Golden State Warriors, the West came out on top, claiming their sixth All-Star game title in seven attempts with a final score of 192-182. The starting lineup included Stephen Curry, James Harden, Kevin Durant, Kawhi Leonard and Anthony Davis.
The East was coached by Brad Stevens of the Boston Celtics and was represented by Kyrie Irving, DeMar DeRozan, Jimmy Butler, LeBron James and Giannis Antetokounmpo. This year, All-Star team voting consisted of a 50 percent fan vote, and a 50 percent media and player vote to curb potential rostering of social media favorites such as Zaza Pachulia.
As promised at the All-Star Media Day last Friday, hometown hero, Pelicans power forward Anthony Davis, clinched the All-Star Game MVP title.
Putting up 52 points for the West, “The Brow’s” performance surpassed NBA legend and 13 time All-Star Wilt Chamberlain’s previous record of 42 points in an All-Star game. However, Davis’s self-fulfilling prophecy did not steal the entire show.
Russell Westbrook, Oklahoma City point guard and NBA MVP hopeful, was perhaps the most memorable presence throughout the weekend on and off the court. He tied his 2015 All-Star fifth place point record despite the fact he was not elected to start for the West in this matchup.
Considering Westbrook has led the league in scoring and shooting and ranks third in rebounding for the current season alone, fans took to Twitter to express warranted discontent over the results of the voting.
Additionally, the Russell Westbrook–Kevin Durant soap opera continued throughout the event. Starting with All-Star Media Day, Westbrook answered any question that could potentially allude to Durant with a comment on New York Fashion Week.
Westbrook’s most riveting answer of all was presumably, “the new Gucci stuff is dope.” However, the tension took a brief hiatus when Kevin Durant lobbed to Russell Westbrook for an alley-oop. Could this be a sign of progress in this ongoing feud between two NBA greats? Only time will tell.