NBA All-Star Weekend has come and gone and what a weekend it was. All the best high-flying, dime-dropping, long-range firing basketball players in the world met in Charlotte to show off their talents. In terms of the major American sports, no league puts on an all-star show at the level of the NBA’s festivities. Here are a few highlights of the weekend:
Jayson Tatum wins the Skills Challenge
St. Louis’ own Jayson Tatum showed out in the Skills Challenge. The Celtics forward defeated Mike Conley Jr., Nikola Jokić and Trae Young to earn the crown. Tatum drained a half-court shot to seal the deal in dramatic fashion. It was one of the marquee moments for the weekend and proved that Tatum’s star is on the rise.
Speaking of rising stars, Tatum also dropped 30 points and 9 rebounds in the Rising Stars Challenge to help lead Team USA over Team World 161-144.
Beal scores 11 in the All-Star Game
Bradley Beal also represented the STL well on All-Star Weekend. Playing in his second-consecutive All-Star Game, Beal scored 11 points to help Team LeBron to a 178-164 victory over Team Giannis. During the game, the sharp-shooting Beal knocked down three three-pointers. However, his most exciting play was a sneaky, two-handed dunk over the Orlando Magic’s Nikola Vucevic.
Beal also spent All-Star Weekend working as a recruiter. According to The Athletic, the Wizards guard spent much of the weekend trying to lure a few of his fellow All-Stars to Washington. After all, John Wall is expected to miss a full year with his ruptured Achilles. That means the Wizards will have to find another star player to put around Beal if the Wizards want to see the playoffs anytime soon.
“It was really crazy,” Beal told The Athletic. “A lot of guys were coming to talk to me and asking me how I feel. The recruiting process is really going all right. It’s going all right. I’m trying. This is new for me. So, I’m definitely getting some ears and seeing where guys’ minds are at.”
Team Giannis’ memorable moments
While Team LeBron may have won the game, Team Giannis certainly led in the memorable moments department. The top three moments of the All-Star Game all came courtesy of the “Greek Freak’s” squad.
First, Steph Curry threw a one-handed, bounce pass alley oop that appeared as if it were intended for Jesus. The ball bounced several feet above the backboard, up to the level of the NBA shot clock. Giannis Antetokounmpo lept off two feet, stretched out his long arms and caught the ball with one hand as it re-entered the stratosphere and jammed it through the goal. The spectacular play brought players from both teams, and the entire crowd, to their feet in awe.
Next, 40-year-old Dirk Nowitzki drained three three-point shots for Team Giannis. Nowitzki and Dwyane Wade were special team roster additions by Commissioner Adam Silver. Both legends are expected to retire at the end of the season and it was a class move by Silver to add them to the All-Star roster.
Wade also had some highlight plays, including being on both the giving and receiving end of alley oops with former teammate LeBron James.
Lastly, as the final seconds ticked off the clock, Curry, the greatest shooter in the history of basketball pulled off a stunner. Curry went back to his bounce pass bag of tricks one more time. This time though, instead of bouncing an alley oop to Antetokounmpo, Curry threw himself an alley oop and flushed it with a nasty reverse, two-handed dunk.
Curry is not known as a high-flyer, but the dunk capped off another remarkable All-Star Weekend for the NBA.
Many people complain about the high-scoring of NBA All-Star games and lament the lack of defense. However, last season the league upped the winning bonus to $100K for each player on the winning team to improve the competitiveness of the game.
The last two All-Star Games have been very good. No, the teams are playing lock down defense, but the players are making a legitimate defensive effort most of the time. The one thing players are not willing to do is to try to block dunks. Why? It’s not worth the injury risk in an exhibition game.
But gone are the days of the Soul Train Line of NBA stars taking turns making spectacular, unguarded plays. Don’t get me wrong, there are plenty of long-range threes, off-the-backboard alley oops and other flashy plays that you don’t normally see in regular season games. That’s the point though.
It’s a game designed to highlight the spectacular abilities of the most-skilled and gravity-defying athletes in the world. I believe they’ve finally struck the perfect balance.
Kap cashes in
I can’t let the column end without saluting Colin Kaepernick for finally cashing in on his grievance against the NFL. Kaepernick and league reached a settlement in his case against the league for colluding to keep him unemployed due to his kneeling protest against police brutality.
While both sides signed confidentiality agreements, NFL team officials have speculated that the settlement fell in the range of $60-$80 million for the former San Francisco 49ers QB.
It’s unlikely that Kaepernick will ever play in the NFL again, though now that the case against the league if finally settled, there’s a sliver of hope.
Word on the street is that there is possible interest from the Carolina Panthers and New England Patriots on bringing Kaepernick in as a backup QB.
Like most other St. Louisans, I’ve been a proud Patriots hater since “Spygate.” I have to admit that if the Pats bring Kap back to the NFL, I’d probably forgive all sins and become a fan.
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