Wednesday, February 8, 2023

NBA All-Star Weekend Events Recap: An Underdog, A Favorite, And A Whole Lot Of Fun


The NBA All-Star Weekend always promises us thrills, dunks, deep threes, and good times. Despite the absence of a full arena of fans due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the stars put on a show for us while we sat comfortably in our homes. Still, the game was met with a lot of controversy as to if it should have been played during these troubling times. Many said that it encourages the spread of the virus, and puts the stars of the league at extra high risk of being all in the same location. Others argued that by following safety protocols and being cautious, the game was perfectly acceptable to be played this year. After Joel Embiid and Ben Simmons, teammates on the Philadelphia 76ers and both All-Stars, were exposed to the virus when their barber tested positive, the cries to cancel the game started again. But the show went on.

The events were all pretty much the same, but they were all done on the same day. It was a jam-packed 4-5 hours of pure adrenaline basketball, where players played zero defense and it was all about the buckets. There were four main events for the weekend: The Skills Challenge, The 3-PT Contest, The Dunk Competition, and the All-Star Game itself. The events are actually more popular than the game at this point and for sports bettors, you either bet on everything or stayed away altogether because of the uncertainty. Let’s review the events and their winners.

The Skills Challenge

The NBA Skills Challenge was the first event that kicked off, which pits competitors against each other in a race to the finish. Two contestants race an obstacle course, which has them dribble through pillars (like cones), pass a basketball through a hole, race back down the court for a layup, race back down the court and drill a three-pointer. The interesting fact coming into this event was that big men had won the contest four of the last six years. That resonated here, as Indiana Pacers big man Domantas Sabonis won the event as a large underdog at +600. He had previously finished as the runner-up last year.

He faced New York Knicks big man Julius Randle in the first round, easily defeating him to move on to the second against Dallas Mavericks superstar Luka Doncic.

Sabonis defeated Doncic, who stood no chance against the ultra skilled big man, and recent history in the event would prove true. Orlando Magic big man Nikola Vucevic defeated Phoenix Suns guard Chris Paul in the second round as well, which set up an all big man final. Sabonis defeated Vucevic to bring home the trophy and win those who bet on the underdog a nice payday.

3-Point Contest

The most anticipated event of the weekend (perhaps more than the All-Star Game) was the NBA 3-Point Contest. As basketball trends toward the long ball due to the emergence of Steph Curry, the competition has quickly gotten to be a fan favorite. This year was no different, as the event added a new “dew” ball that was worth three points and was to be shot about a foot behind the three-point line. Regular orange balls worth one point and blue and red “money” balls worth two. The Chicago Bulls’ own Zach LaVine competed this year once again but was not able to make the final round. The heavy favorite was Golden State Warriors guard Stephen Curry, who revolutionized the game with his insane ability to hit three-pointers.

Boston Celtics guard Jaylon Brown started things off with a solid showing of 17 points. Minus this pretty embarrassing moment for the All-Star:

His teammate in Boston Jayson Tatum showed up with a big-time performance in the first round, scoring an impressive 25 points.

Chicago’s Zach LaVine closed strong with 22 points, which put him in 2nd place behind Tatum with three more shooters to go.

In comes the man who wouldn’t even have been in the competition if not for an injury to Phoenix Suns star Devin Booker, Utah Jazz guard Mike Conley. The 33-year-old took the lead from the young guns with a crazy 28 points and went 5-for-5 on his money ball rack.

Next up was Jazz guard Donovan Mitchell, who had a slow start but strong finish, and tied LaVine for third place with 22 points. Unfortunately for them both, the legend of Steph Curry would grow a little more that night. He put up 31 points and made it look “Stephortless.”

With that performance, the three finalists consisting of Curry, Conley, and Tatum move on. Tatum went first and scored only 17 points, going 0-for-5 on the money ball rack. Mike Conley set the bar extremely high with 27 points, which put all the pressure on Curry. It all came down to the last shot from the corner down 27-26 and shooting a money ball to win. Chef Curry cooked up some magic once again and cashed in as a huge favorite of +110.

NBA Dunk Contest

It is this writer’s opinion that the slam dunk contest should just be done away with if stars aren’t willing to participate anymore. Sure it’s good for the young guys to be able to participate in the All-Star festivities, but the competition just isn’t the same. Most people didn’t even know who two of the three participants were, with Cassius Stanley and Affernee Simons both not getting minutes with their respective NBA teams. Obi Toppin is the most well-known participant, but even he is a rookie out of Dayton playing for the Knicks. Stanley was the huge favorite at -165 because of his athleticism. Toppin was the +220 middle man, and Simons was the longshot at +350.

Stanley got things started with a through the legs slam that the judges certainly didn’t care much for, as he scored a 44 out of 50 possible points. Toppin was next with a dribble through the legs backward dunk, which the judges decided was much better with a 48 out of possible 50 points. Simons was third, and he used some originality. As the shortest contestant, he had the ball placed 12 feet above the ground and he went up and grabbed it for the jam. With a score of 46, he would scoot in behind Toppin for second place.

Stanley had to do something spectacular to take the lead, but he underwhelmed with what seemed like a regular dunk and a score of 37. That pretty much eliminated the favorite barring some sort of catastrophic failure from the others. Toppin came through with a through the legs dunk from the straightaway center and earned a 46. Simons donned a Toronto Raptors Tracy McGrady Jersey and slammed a classic dunk home, which earned him a 49. Stanley was eliminated, and so were a lot of people’s wallets.

Simons would defeat Toppin in the final round by “kissing” the rim going up for a dunk, even though he didn’t actually kiss the rim. He just made a kissy face while above the rim. Toppin leaped over his father and Knicks star Julius Randle, but it wouldn’t be enough. The longshot comes through and wins bettors a good chunk of change.

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