NBA All-Star Weekend took place in Charlotte this year. Saturday featured some of the most popular events of All-Star Weekend, the Skills Challenge, 3-Point Contest, and Slam Dunk Contest.
The first event on Saturday was the Skills Challenge. Eight contests competed in a short gauntlet style event that required dribbling between obstacles, performing a chest pass through a hole, running the entire court for a lay-up before running back to the other side of the court to make a three-point shot. Basically a waste of 30 seconds before competing to make the first three-point shot against your opponent.
Trae Young of the Atlanta Hawks eventually made it to the finals to take on Jayson Tatum of the Boston Celtics. Both Tatum and Young hit deep desperation three-pointers in their opening round to come from behind to beat their opponents. Then in the finals, with Young a good 30 feet ahead of Tatum, Tatum tossed up a desperation heave from half-court that fell in just before Young’s shot did. Tatum’s half-court winner proved that the event is just a race to see who can make the first three-point shot, as opposed to showing off a players entire skill set.
Up next was the 3-Point Contest. This year the field was expanded to 10 teams, and players can now select an entire rack to be all money balls, which are worth two points. With the field expanding to 10 players, you would think they would introduce a second round, or at the very least qualify more than the top three players for the final round, but that was not the case.
After each of the 10 players took their rounds, the top three players were Joe Harris of the Brooklyn Nets, who started the competition with 25 points, Buddy Hield of the Sacramento Kings who posted a 26 and then Steph Curry of Golden State who finished the first round with a high of 27.
In the final round, Harris hit nine straight shots and finished with a perfect money ball rack for a score of 26. Hield responded with a modest 19 points, which means Curry needed 27 to win the competition. After hitting his first 9 shots of the final round, Curry ultimately ended with a score of 24, making Harris the winner.
The final event of the night was the fan favorite Slam Dunk Contest. The four participants in the contest were John Collins of the Atlanta Hawks, Hamidou Diallo of the Oklahoma City Thunder, Dennis Smith Jr. of the New York Knicks, and Miles Bridges of the Charlotte Hornets. After more than 30 years of slam dunk events, material starts to get a bit repetitive. This year was no different.
The first round featured a common reverse jam by Collins for 40 points, a 360-dunk by Smith Jr. for 45. and a Diallo dunk that was assisted by Russel Westbrook for a score of 48. Altogether, nothing we haven’t seen in virtually every single dunk contest up to this point. Bridges first round ended in a 33 after failing three times to make a between the legs dunk after tossing the ball off the backboard.
The second dunks of the first round got a little more entertaining. Bridges salvaged his night with a perfect score 50 on his second dunk by having Kemba Walker toss the ball off the side of the backboard before Bridges finished with a 360-jam. Collins brought out the Tuskegee Airmen and a Wright Brother’s prop plane before jumping over the plane (hitting it and breaking it) and finishing with a basic dunk, for a score of 42.
Smith Jr. then brought out rapper J. Cole for his dunk attempt. J. Cole sat in a chair below the basket and tossed the ball into the air for Smith Jr. to throw down while jumping over Cole, resulting in a somewhat surprising score of 50. Diallo’s second dunk of the first round was by far the best dunk of the night. Diallo brought out the 7’1” Shaquille O’Neal and successfully jumped over him while also putting his arm in the rim and hanging there for a few seconds after, similar to what Chris Carter did in the 2000 Slam Dunk Contest. Diallo’s dunk got him an easy 50 points.
Smith Jr. and Diallo met in the finals. The first dunk of the finals resulted in Smith Jr. failing at a 360-dunk before settling with 35 points. Diallo’s first dunk was a modest lob toss dunk that was mainly about how high he jumped, as opposed to the dunk itself, scoring him 43 points.
The finals dunks of the night consisted of Smith Jr. using Steph Curry to toss him the ball while he jumped over Dwayne Wade. After failing multiple time he finally made the dunk, thanks to using his hands to lift off of Wade’s back, the judges rewarded Smith Jr. with a 50 point score, which resulted in boos and heckling from the crowd and even the commentators. Diallo finished the competition by bringing out rapper Quavo to hold the ball over his head while Diallo grabbed the ball in mid-air and slammed it down after jumping over Quavo. The 45 point dunk resulted in Diallo winning the event.