It’s the (3rd) most wonderful time of the year. The fans are all yelling to see a better dunk than last year. It’s the (3rd) most wonderful time of the year. With the exception to Christmas and March Madness, NBA All-Star Weekend is my favorite time of the year and this year’s festivities kick-off tonight in Los Angeles.
The NBA has one of the most prestigious and fun-filled All-Star Weekends of all its competitors. The NFL Pro Bowl is a joke, the NHL All-Star Game is awesome but no one cares about it, and the MLB All-Star Game is over once the Home Run Derby ends. The NBA is a league based off individual personalities of the past and present and they have really been able to hone in on their strengths to maximize the entertainment aspect of the weekend.
While their selection system is flawed, they allow fans to have a say in voting for the starters. The events are integrated with celebrities, bringing in different demographics that may not necessarily be NBA fans. And most of all they pay homage to the legends that made the league what it is today.
The happy-hour of the weekend begins this afternoon with the BBVA NBA All-Star Celebrity Game. This game allows celebrities like Justin Bieber, Jimmy Kimmel, Rob Kardashian, Bill Simmons, and Common to play with NBA legends like Magic Johnson, Bill Walton, and Scottie Pippen. These games are always very exhibitionist but it allows you an insight into the surprising athletic ability that celebrities have, that you never knew.
Tonight’s headliner is the T-Mobile Rookie Challenge. This game tends to have the most competition of all the events in weekends past, and sometimes even has the best dunks. This year should live up to its reputation with rookie sensations like Blake Griffin, Landry Fields, and John Wall coached by Amare Stoudemire taking on the sophomore standouts like Stephen Curry and DeJuan Blair coached by Carmelo Anthony. If Blake Griffin plays I predict that the Rookies win, if not then the Sophomores should stomp on the Rookies.
Speaking of Carmelo Anthony… This may be the last time you see Carmelo wearing blue and yellow, blue and yellow, blue and yellow, blue and yellow. Before All-Star Saturday Night commences, Carmelo will hold meetings with the Knicks and Nets to hopefully close a deal. It is obvious that he wants to play for my Knicks, but with Jimmy Dolan begin stingy with our players (and rightfully so) the Nets and owners Mikhail Prokohrov and Jay-Z have been able to sneak back into the picture to try and swindle Melo at the 11th hour.
Another new event the NBA has implemented is the NBA D-League All-Star Game. The D-League has become a formidable breeding ground for players to step up their game in hopes of making it to the league. They have pro-affiliated teams in small to mid-sized markets, mostly throughout the South, and they will be holding their All-Star Game as a way of showing the level of talent they have and allowing NBA scouts to evaluate that talent, while they are all in town for the other events.
The opener of All-Star Saturday night is the Haier Shooting Stars where NBA players team up with legends and WNBA players in a game not much different from a halftime lay-up, free throw, three-point, and half-court shot contest. It is rarely taken seriously and is usually a time where fans in attendance are in line getting their popcorn for the following events.
The Taco Bell Skills Challenge is my second favorite part of the weekend and this year’s should be a doosy. This year’s participants are Chris Paul, Derrick Rose, Stephen Curry, Russell Westbrook, and John Wall. They will compete to complete and basketball obstacle course in the fastest time. I really enjoy this event because it shows you the amount of talent and athletic ability that is prevalent in the NBA and that is in a league of its own, literally. My predicted winner for this event is MVP front-runner, Derrick Rose, he is the fastest player in the league and ultimately is passing that wins, and I feel he has the best chance.
The next event is the tFoot Locker Three-Point Contes with Ray Allen, Kevin Durant, Daniel Gibson, James Jones, Paul Pierce, and Dorell Wright. This can be somewhat of a tiring event for players who continue on to higher rounds. The bigger players tend to better because they don’t have to try harder to jump higher to reach their apex with each shot. That being said I think Ray Allen, the league’s most pure shooter and best three-point shooter of all time, will fall short to the longer Kevin Durant.
And the coup de grâce of NBA All-Star Weekend, The Sprite Slam Dunk Contest. I consider myself to be a connoisseur of dunks as it is my ultimate aspiration to be a Dunkologist and write a thesis on not only the quality of the dunkage but the mass varietals of dunkage. This event to me, is like archaeologist discovering a real Jurassic Park and having free reign to dust it off as he or she pleases.
This year’s participants are Serge Ibaka, DeMar Derozan, JaValle McGee, and the infamous Blake Griffin. With the entire world (myself included) hopping on the most emphatic strawberry-blonde dunker ever, some of the other contestants have been able to fly under the radar. When he first announced that he would participate he held a contest for fans to submit videos for him to complete in the dunk contest. I have a feeling his one downside might be his lack of creativity, so if he were able to plagiarise this dunk he has an even higher chance of winning.
Serge Ibaka is on my fantasy team, so I have a vested interest in his success but he has done nothing to impress me this year. DeMar Derozan is the smallest of the competitors so his hangtime gives him a slight edge. He also is very athletic and able to do some things others can not with his more quaint stature. He also has a few tricks up his sleeves (even though basketball jerseys don’t have sleeves) and if he can pull off whatever he is trying to accomplish with this, it may be one of the best dunks of all time.
JaValle McGee, however, is the tallest and longest player in the contest which can take more effort to achieve the “wow factor.” You would think that being from UNR he would lack intelligence (I had to throw my Reno dig in) but he must have been one of the few that slipped by. If he can take these few practice dunks to the next level he will give Blake Griffin a serious run for his money. I also want to point out that I have done half of these dunks 10 years ago on 8 foot hoops. I’m not saying I’m better than them but I did think of them a long time ago.
The real winner will be someone who can use their size to their advantage and combine dunks of the past to spawn a new dunk that no one has ever seen. I think it will come down to Blake Griffin and JaValle McGee and being a Blake Griffin fan I win whether he wins or loses because he will still be nasty, so I will taking the underdog, JaValle McGee to win off pure creativity in a dunk contest that has the pieces to be right up there with the 2007, 2001, and 1987 contests. And if it sucks than next year they should just let Team Flight Brothers run the contest.
As if that isn’t enough theatrics for one weekend, there is still a game to be played. The game itself tends to have absolutely no defense, complimented by 30 foot three-point shots and fast break power dunks and is more humorous than competitive. The players are all mic-ed up and that provides more entertainment than the game itself. I feel the East has more talent and veterans, so I think they will be the ones to be able to hunker down at the end to get the “W.”