TORONTO –– It was David versus Goliath in the Taco Bell Skills Challenge, but the results didn’t align with scripture. In the event’s first bracket-style formatting that would inevitably pit a guard against a big man for the trophy, Karl-Anthony Towns won the event in dramatic fashion over Isaiah Thomas on All-Star Saturday from Toronto.
Thomas and CJ McCollum advanced past Jordan Clarkson and Emmanuel Mudiay, respectively, with ease in the first round, showing the dribbling, passing, and shooting skills that make them such dynamic playmakers. The interior players, meanwhile, struggled compared to their more diminutive peers – at least initially.
Draymond Green held an easy lead over Towns after the Minnesota Timberwolves rookie misfired on each of his chest passes, but the Golden State Warriors chameleon ultimately lost because he missed a pair of triples. Towns, on the other hand, drained his second try. Davis held a similar lead over Cousins after the Sacramento Kings star fumbled the dribble, but the long-ball doomed him, too.
The champion made lite work of McCollum in the small-man semifinals. Why? McCollum, one of the most electric ball handlers in basketball, lost his dribble while making his way through the obstacles. Towns defeated Cousins with even greater ease, setting the stage for a championship matchup with Thomas – who stands some 15 inches shorter than his competitor.
Both finalists raced through the first legs of the last round, prompting a full-court foot race for the layup and ensuing three-point try on the other end of the floor. But the jumper doomed Thomas and Towns when it mattered most, as both players needed more than three tries to connect. Towns got the first look at his fourth try, though, splashing it through the hoop before Thomas could to take home the crown.
Basketball, some say, is a game no longer meant for big men. But if the Skills Challenge – not to mention his remarkable rookie season, of course – is any indication, Towns will lead a pack of seven-foot somethings that continue shifting the shape of the sport for years to come.