2020 NBA All-Star Weekend
The Vince Carter honey-dip dunk in 2000. Shaq and Kobe splitting MVP honors in 2009. Larry Bird calling his 3-peat in the 3PT contest in 1988. The MVP performance from Allen Iverson on 2001, arguably the most competitive All-Star Game ever played.
These are just some of the many iconic moments that NBA All-Star Weekend has produced over the years. It is a chance for the best players in the game to be celebrated by fans across the world. In 2020, Chicago’s United Center will host the best weekend during the NBA regular season from Feb. 14th-16th.
This year the game will be a little more emotional than usual. Among many other things that defined the greatness of the late Kobe Bryant, he was also a 4x NBA All-Star Game MVP and the 1997 Slam Dunk Contest Champion. A mere exhibition to a number of All-Stars, Bryant looked at this game as one more night to get a chance to go out and compete against the best, and beat the best.
The NBA world is still in shock about Bryant’s death and the death of his daughter at age 41 and 13 respectively, but the league will not let this opportunity pass by without honoring the two of them one more time. Team Giannis will wear No. 24 to honor Kobe, while Team LeBron will be wearing No. 2 to honor his daughter a Gianna, who was a star in the making.
Rising Stars Challenge
On Friday night, the festivities kick off with a game featuring the best rookie and second-year players in the NBA known as the Rising Stars Challenge. The teams are broken down in to USA vs. the World, and the action is always NASCAR fast. This year, two second year players headline their respective teams. Luka Doncic, a starter for the Western Conference All-Stars, is the premiere player on Team World. Trae Young, a starter for the Eastern Conference All-Stars will the headline the talented team representing the USA.
Other players to watch on World include Shai Gilgeous-Alexander (19.5 PPG, 6.3 RPG), RJ Barrett (14.1 PPG) and DeAndre Ayton (17.9 PPG, 11.9 RPG). On Team USA, the dynamic duo from the Memphis Grizzlies, Ja Morant and Jaren Jackson will put on a show as well. Not to mention, Zion Williamson was a late addition and will be good for countless highlights. Team USA won 161-144 last year.
Taco Bell Skills Challenge
The NBA Skills Challenge leads off the entertainment Saturday night. The event used to feature guards only, but with the NBA evolving the 8-man field is made up of guards and forwards. The contestants are Bam Adebayo (Heat), Patrick Beverley (Clippers), Spencer Dinwiddie (Nets), Khris Middleton (Bucks), Derrick Rose (Pistons), Domantas Sabonis (Pacers), Pascal Siakam (Raptors) and defending champ Jayson Tatum (Celtics).
The challenge tests the dribbling skills, passing acumen and scoring ability in a competitive 1-on-1 environment. Although forwards have been introduced, guards still dominate this competition. Look for Jayson Tatum to repeat as champion in a close match up in the finals against Pascal Siakam.
Mountain Dew 3-Point Contest
Depending on who you ask, the 3-Point Contest has become just as popular if not more popular than the Slam Dunk Contest. The NBA is dominated by the three-point shot and has allowed a number of players to make a name for themselves due to their proficiency. Fans love the three-pointer, and seeing the best in the world go at it on Saturday night has become the thrill of the weekend.
The contestants this year are Davis Bertans (Wizards), Devonte’ Graham (Hornets), Joe Harris (Nets), Buddy Heild (Kings), Zach LaVine (Bulls), Damian Lillard (Blazers), Duncan Robinson (Heat), Trae Young (Hawks). Joe Harris is looking to repeat as champion but this competition will heat up Saturday night. Duncan Robinson and Davis Bertans come in with the highest 3-PT% in the competition this season, but expect Damian Lillard and Trae Young to have something to say about who heads home with the trophy.
AT&T Slam Dunk Contest
The main event on Saturday night is the Slam Dunk Contest. Featuring Aaron Gordon, Dwight Howard, Pat Connaughton and Derrick Jones Jr., all four have booked numerous first class flights to the rim throughout their NBA careers.
Howard, the elder statesman of the bunch, has won the Slam Dunk Contest back in 2008 during his prime with the Orlando Magic. At 34 years of age he has lost a little bit of that bunny-rabbit bounce, but at 6’10” he still plays waaaaay above the rim.
Pat Connaughton is out to prove that white men can jump. Connaughton is heading towards NBA veteran status at age 27 and has made an impression with a few flashy in-game dunks throughout his career. He comes in to the competition as a dark horse.
The two favorites are by far Gordon and DJJ. Gordon put up one of the most impressive second-place finishes of all-time when he went up against Zach Lavin in 2016. If he brings that same energy the trophy could finally be is. Derrick Jones Jr. has such incredible hops that it seems at times NBA floors double as trampolines. He skies and floats at the same time. Put-back dunks, breakaway slams or even on simple cuts to the bucket, Jones Jr. is always looking to attack the rim. A showdown between these two in the finals would give the fans exactly what they want to see this weekend.
NBA All-Star Game
On Sunday night, the stage will be set at the United Center for the NBA’s best to put on a show. Team LeBron will be looking to extend the win-streak, as his team won the All-Star game last season 178-164. With all that offense, there is a chance for every player to etch themselves in the history books. There are a number of first-time All-Stars looking to make this a memorable night. Trae Young, Luka Doncic, Pascal Siakam, Jayson Tatum, Brandon Ingram and Damontas Sabonis are all in the next generation of incredible NBA talent that will be on display come Sunday. Perennial All-Stars LeBron James, Giannis Antetokounmpo, James Harden, Jimmy Butler and Anthony Davis are names that will start the conversation when it comes to All-Star Game MVP. Take a look at the complete roster on NBA.com.
The only thing left to do before this epic weekend of NBA action is to get your popcorn ready.