What sets the NBA apart from other major sports that have All-Star events is that there is constant entertainment and events provided. The weekend ignites with a glimpse of the future stars of the league in the Rising Stars Challenge Friday night. All-Star Saturday night is perhaps the most entertaining venue throughout the whole weekend. The Shooting Stars Competition, Skills Challenge, Three-Point Shootout and the Slam Dunk Contest are all events that make up the night. All the parties, festivities and concerts Saturday night lead up to the game on Sunday.
The weekend is a global celebration for the game of basketball and there might not be a better host city than New Orleans. Here are 20 things to look forward to in The Big Easy.
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1. Slam Dunk Contest and the new format
I am glad the NBA is at least trying to revive this once exciting event. You can arguably say the dunk contest was more popular at one point than the ASG itself. I remember being eight years old at home watching Vince Carter put on one of the best dunking exhibitions of all time. Since that dunk contest, which is 14 years old now, the contest has been dull and just plain average some past years. (Seriously lost it when they gave Nate Robinson 14 attempts to complete one dunk a few years back.)
The bland action and the lack of real stars actually participating in the event hurt its value. I refused to watch Jeremy Evans and like all others, I want to see LeBron in the contest! Stop teasing up, ‘Bron. At least this year, he would’ve had some competition.
For the first time since 1988, there will be three All-Stars participating in the dunk contest, when Michael Jordan, Dominique Wilkins and Clyde Drexler headlined the event. This year’s participants–Paul George, John Wall, Damian Lillard, Ben McLemore, Harrison Barnes and defending champ Terrence Ross–gives the contest some hope this year.
The NBA decided to initiate a new format keep fans entertained and watching. The six participants will split into teams representing their conferences. (George, Wall and Ross for the East, and Lillard, McLemore and Barnes for the West.) First, each dunker will be given a 90-second freestyle round to complete as many dunks as they can. Then judges will select which conference wins the freestyle round for the chance to elect what conference dunks first or second in the battle round. The Battle Round will include a head-to-head dunk off between players from both conferences, as the judges select a winner. The loser is eliminated and the first team to win three battles will be declared the winner. It is kind of sad that one single player will not host up the trophy but fans do have the opportunity after the contest to vote for their dunker of the night.
2. Damian Lillard competing in a record five events
Damian Lillard is going to have a very busy All-Star Weekend, participating in a record five events–the Rising Stars Challenge, Skills Challenge, Three-Point Shootout, Slam Dunk Contest and the All-Star Game. On top of being overly ambitious, Lillard is also co-hosting a freestyle contest with producer Mannie Fresh based on his legendary #4Bar Fridays on Instagram.
Lillard has become one of the game’s most clutch players and has rejuvenated the Blazers, along with LaMarcus Aldridge, to make them a contending team this season. Participating in all these events is very bold. Let’s just hope he doesn’t burn out his great play this season for the Blazers.
3. The official stamp in the post-David Stern era–welcome Adam Silver
Not hearing David Stern say “Tonight you were the stars of stars” during the ASG MVP ceremony is going to feel weird, but the torch has been handed down to Silver, who has been in the business for two decades waiting for his chance. This is the first major event for Silver as the new commissioner and if all the events go well, Silver will look like a savior.
4. Welcome to the Smoothie King Center, home of your host, the New Orleans Pelicans
Weird name for an arena and a weirder team name, but New Orleans is a very promising city and has a lot to offer. Can you imagine a Game 7 Finals matchup at the Smoothie King Center? Nope, neither can I.
5. Rising Stars Challenge
Formerly known as the Rookie/Sophomore Game, the Rising Stars Challenge provides us with a look of the upcoming players in the league. Grant Hill and Chris Webber had the honors this year of drafting two teams.
Damian Lillard (Blazers)
Bradley Beal (Wizards)
Andre Drummond (Pistons)
Harrison Barnes (Warriors)
Terrence Jones (Rockets)
Giannis Anteokounmpo (Bucks)
Jonas Valaniunas (Raptors)
Dion Waiters (Cavaliers)
Miles Plumlee (Suns)
Anthony Davis (Pelicans)
Michael Carter-Williams (Sixers)
Tim Hardaway Jr. (Knicks)
Trey Burke (Jazz)
Jared Sullinger (Celtics)
Mason Plumlee (Nets)
Victor Oladipo (Magic)
Steven Adams (Thunder)
Kelly Olynk (Celtics)
The two rosters make up an exciting match to watch as the weekend gets started. Matchups to keep an eye on are last year’s Rookie of the Year Damian Lillard vs. current front-runner Michael Carter-Williams and the future of NBA big men: Andre Drummond vs. Anthony Davis.