By RYAN BRAUCH
While preparing for Mardi Gras next week, New Orleans, Louisiana also got the privilege of hosting the 2017 NBA All-Star Weekend. Loaded with fun surprises, creative dunks and outrageous shots, All-Star weekend never fails to entertain the audience. The All-Star break is a great experience for all NBA players as they get to relax and unwind from their exhausting schedule during the season, while the fans get to watch their favorite players show off their skills.
The festivities began Friday night when the best young stars laced up to take the court as the USA team faced off against the World team in the Rising Star Game. Leading team USA was Devin Booker of the Phoenix Suns, Karl Anthony-Towns of the Minnesota Timberwolves, D’Angelo Russell and Brandon Ingram representing the Los Angeles Lakers and Myles Turner of the Indiana Pacers. Headlining team World was Joel Embiid of the Philadelphia 76er’s, Kristaps Porzingis of the New York Knicks, Jamal Murray of the Denver Nuggets and Buddy Hield playing in front of his home fans, as he represented the New Orleans Pelicans.4
Team USA was off to a hot start as college teammates Booker and Towns led the high-powered offense. Despite being up late in the game, team World erased the deficit through Jamal Murray’s huge game. Along with winning the game 150-141, Murray also won MVP with his 36-point game, hitting nine three-pointers. No one expected too much of Murray coming into the game, as he came off the bench for team World. Only his team World teammate Joel Embiid predicted Murray would win the MVP, as the two joked around in an interview before the game.
After an exciting Rising Star Game, the action kept rolling as Isaiah Thomas of the Boston Celtics traded remarks with the former Sacramento Kings’ center Demarcus Cousins. The two took joking jabs at each other, debating whether the guards or the big men would win the Skills Challenge this year.
Thomas joined Washington Wizards’ guard John Wall, the Suns’ Devin Booker and Jazz forward Gordon Hayward as they took on Boogie Cousins and his crew. Cousins was paired with New Orleans Pelicans star Anthony Davis, the Knicks’ Kristap Porzingis and Nikola Jokic. Following several rounds of intense competition, only Porzingis and Hayward remained as they duked it out in the final round.
As the two weaved between cones, Hayward initially beat Porzingis down the court for the layup portion of the course. Porzingis then quickly made his way down the other side of the court to nail a huge three-pointer beating Hayward and taking the Taco Bell Skills Challenge trophy.
Saturday also held host to the three-point competition as reigning champ Klay Thompson of the Golden State Warriors looked to earn his second straight title. Thompson had his work cut out for him as he would be facing some tough competition. Kyrie Irving, Kemba Walker, Nick Young, Eric Gordon, Kyle Lowry, Wesley Matthews and CJ McCollum were all looking to knock Thompson off the throne.
To the crowd’s surprise, Thompson was eliminated in the first round as he missed shot after shot. After numerous rounds, the competition narrowed to just Irving, Walker and Gordon. Irving set the tone in the final round, hitting 18 threes. Gordon, a former Pelican, was playing to his old crowd as he hit a string of shots and matched Kyrie’s 18.
As the two went into overtime, Kyrie looked impressive as he put up another 18 makes, but Gordon was hot. He finalized his victory by hitting 20 shots to knock off Irving.
Concluding Saturday’s events, was the beloved dunk contest. This year’s dunk contest participants included last year’s runner up and Orlando Magic forward Aaron Gordon, Los Angeles Clippers’ center Deandre Jordan, Indiana Pacers’ forward Glenn Robinson III and the Phoenix Suns’ Derrick Jones Jr. Each of these four players has rightfully earned their spot to compete as they have continuously provided us some magnificent, athletic and powerful jams all season long. Gordon and Jordan were the first two to be eliminated, as their initial dunks lacked the “wow factor,” despite being creative.
That left Robinson and Jones as the finalists, as the two would give the crowd one dunk before deciding who would be the champion. Jones Jr. went first and made the crowd go crazy with a between the legs windmill, that no one expected from the rookie. Following Jones Jr., who had just received a perfect score, Robinson silenced the crowd with a dunk that went over the heads of teammate Paul George, a mascot and a cheerleader. Although he only needed a score of 44 to win the contest, the Pacers’ forward nailed it by getting a perfect score to become the next NBA Dunk Contest Champion.
Finally, All-Star Weekend came to a close as two teams of the league’s best suited up to play in the 66th annual NBA All-Star game. Lebron James, Kyrie Irving, Paul George, Demar Derozan and Giannis Antetokounmpo headlined the Eastern Conference team. Kevin Durant, Stephen Curry, Russell Westbrook, James Harden and Anthony Davis led the Western Conference team.
The game was amazing, as both teams showed off their insane offensive skills, but the players did not forget to have fun along the way. Many players, such as Steph Curry, made sure to keep the game fun as he jokingly hit the deck in an effort to get out of the way on an intense Antetokounmpo dunk.
During the exhibition game, we saw old teammates Kevin Durant and Russell Westbrook bury the hatchet after months of silence and an aggressive rivalry. This All-Star game also out-scored last year’s game, making it the most high scoring All-Star games in history and extremely entertaining for the fans.
Although All-Star Weekend was an unforgettable experience, nothing was more surprising to fans then what immediately followed. After the game, the Sacramento Kings announced that they had traded franchise player Demarcus Cousins to New Orleans in exchange for rookie Buddy Hield, veteran forward Tyreke Evans, and two draft picks. As the NBA trade deadline approaches, this will likely be by far the most impactful move of the season