10 TAKEAWAYS FROM NBA ALL-STAR WEEKEND
LUKA BEING LUKA
Luka Doncic had many memorable moments Sunday in his first All-Star Game. The Dallas Mavericks’ second-year point guard delivered his first assist of the game to his childhood idol, LeBron James. Then, in the third quarter, Doncic went for the jugular as, on consecutive trips down the floor, he got the crowd lathered up by banging in a pair of 3-pointers. Mavs owner Mark Cuban described it as an ode to former Mavs forward Dirk Nowitzki, who was 3-for-3 from downtown in his final All-Star game last year. Doncic finished the game with eight points and four assists, and was 3-of-6 from the field and 2-of-5 from 3-point land.
NBA CHANGED COURSES TO HONOR BRYANT, STERN
Kudos to the NBA for quickly changing whatever they had planned and making sure they honored former Los Angeles Lakers guard Kobe Bryant and former NBA commissioner David Stern. Bryant, his 13-year old daughter, Gianna, and seven others died in a helicopter crash on Jan. 26. Stern passed away on New Year’s Day after suffering a brain hemorrhage. Tributes to Bryant and Stern were prominent. Bryant spent his entire 20-year career with the Lakers and was named to the All-Star game 18 times, while Stern was at the forefront of making the All-Star weekend the spectacle it has become.
SONJU PICKED UP MAJOR AWARD
A packed house jammed into Chicago’s Sheraton Grand Hotel on Saturday morning to see Mavs co-founder Norm Sonju receive the prestigious Jerry Colangelo Award. The award is given to the person in NBA management who lives an exemplary life on and off the basketball court and who does so while expressing high character, leadership and faith. Sonju, along with Don Carter, co-founded the Mavs in 1980. And for the first six seasons of their existence, the Mavs either increased or tied their win total from the previous year and became widely-known as the model franchise of the NBA. Sonju was the Mavs’ president and general manager from 1980-’96.
ALL PLAYERS WORE NUMBERS 2 AND 24
To some it may have looked odd having all players who participated in Sunday’s All-Star game wearing either jersey No. 2 or No. 24. But that was done to honor Kobe Bryant and his daughter, Gianna. Bryant wore No. 24 for the majority of his 20-year career with the Los Angeles Lakers, while Gianna donned No. 2 on the youth basketball team that Kobe coached. LeBron James said he could “feel (Bryant’s) presence” in the United Center. James also said: “Every time you saw Giannis (Antetokounmpo’s) team on the floor you saw the 2-4. So, (Bryant) was definitely here.”
DONCIC’S STAR SHINES AGAIN
While making an appearance in his second straight Rising Stars Challenge, Luka Doncic put on a sterling show. He played 24 minutes and finished with 16 points, two rebounds and five assists. Doncic was 6-of-11 from the floor, including 4-of-9 from 3-point territory as his World team lost to Team USA, 151-121. Injuries forced New Orleans’ Zion Williamson to miss the first three Mavs-Pelicans matchups this season. Williamson walked away from his first on-court encounter with Doncic very impressed. But he thought Doncic had way more in the tank than he showed. “I felt like he was just – he was just chilling,” Williamson said. “Like, come on. You all know he was just chilling.”
NEW FORMAT AN APPARENT HIT
All together now. The new format used in Sunday’s All-Star game is off the charts! It’s called the Elam scoring system and it has individual winners for each quarter. It adds up the score for all three quarters, and then both teams were given a target score to reach in order to declare an eventual winner. Since Team Giannis led Team LeBron, 133-124, after the cumulative third quarter totals, 24 points were added to declare a target score of 157 to win the game. The 24 points were in honor of Kobe Bryant and his number. Team LeBron ultimately came from behind and won, 157-155, on a free throw by Chicago native Anthony Davis in a very defensive-minded fourth quarter. It was the closest All-Star game since the East nipped the West, 141-139, during the 2010 All-Star game played at AT&T Stadium in Arlington.
FIRST KOBE BRYANT MVP TROPHY
Kawhi Leonard scored a game-high 30 points for Team LeBron and won the first-ever Kobe Bryant Most Valuable Player award. “Words can’t explain how happy I am for it,” Leonard said. “To be able to put that trophy in my room – in my trophy room – and just be able to see Kobe’s name on there, it just means a lot to me. He’s a big inspiration in my life. He did a lot for me.” For Leonard, this award comes on the heels of him winning the MVP in the NBA Finals last year when he led Toronto to the championship.
EXHILARATING 3-POINT CONTEST
Pressure? What pressure? Sacramento Kings guard Buddy Hield stared down pressure in the 3-point contest and then went out and won it. In the final round and with the championship trophy hanging in the balance, Hield trailed Devin Booker by one point. He was down to his final shot – the two-point money ball – on his final rack and with time about to expire. But being the cool customer that he is, Hield calmly drilled the two-pointer just as the shot-clock was running out and wound up winning the contest, 27-26, in dramatic fashion. On making the game-winning shot as time expired, Hield said: “As a shooter, this is on your bucket list.”
DUNK CONTEST CONTROVERSY
Part of me wants to believe Derrick Jones Jr. and Aaron Gordon are still at the United Center, still dunking to their heart’s content. Not only did the slam dunk contest go down to the wire, it went down to a dunk-off. A phenomenal triple-overtime dunk off that was highlighted by one gravity-defying perfect score of 50 after another. But it also ended in controversy when Jones recorded a 48 on his final dunk, setting the stage for Gordon to win the contest. On his last dunk, Gordon brought out 7-5 Tacko Fall, and subsequently brought down the house when he masterfully jumped over and grabbed the ball from Fall and executed a perfect dunk. The crowd went wild, and then booed when Gordon was only given a 47, making Jones the winner by one point.
TEENAGER WOWED THE CROWD
Forget Kawhi Leonard, Anthony Davis, Buddy Hield and Derrick Jones Jr. for a moment. Jalaiah Harmon literally stole the NBA All-Star weekend show on Sunday with her incredible dance performance. During a timeout, the 14-year old from Fayetteville, GA, performed some fancy dance moves that any accomplished dancer would be proud of. It was one of those types of performances that gives you goosebumps. Harmon, who created the viral TikTok Renegade dance, jogged off the court to a loud ovation while high-fiving celebrities sitting courtside such as Cardi B, Kim Kardashian West, J. Cole, Kanye West and Common.