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LeBron James returns, looking to capture the Skills Challenge title.
So, we’ll ask the question again: Who’s better, Dwyane or LeBron?
Based on last year’s results alone, Wade gets the edge, having beaten his 2003 Draft classmate to the Larry O’Brien Trophy, as well as through the obstacle course better known as the PlayStation Skills Challenge.
The four stars will weave their way through pylons, snap passes at wooden baskets and attempt a jumper from the top of the key during All-Star Saturday Night presented by EA Sports.
In last year’s challenge, Wade boasted the top time in each of the two rounds to run away from his competitors. James, meanwhile, advanced to the finals, but the chest pass proved to be his undoing, missing his first three attempts, as he had during the opening round.
Had James completed the course in perfect fashion, though, he still might not have taken the title from Wade, who clocked in at 26.1 seconds, a mere seven-tenths of a second behind the contest mark set two seasons ago in Denver by Steve Nash.
Chris Paul returns to display his skills, filling in for the injured Nash. In last year’s contest, the Hornets then-rookie finished zipped through the stations before being tripped up by three missed outlet passes, finishing in third place at 42.6 seconds.
But, that was last year, so here’s a brief look at what you might expect to see from the talented lineup for this year’s contest:
This contest could belong to Bryant this season because, while not blazingly fast, No. 24 is deadly accurate, which is vital to success in this competition. If one of the three passes – chest, bounce and outlet – are even millimeters off their mark, they’ll rattle around and out of the wooden cylindrical target.
An interesting scenario to consider, given Bryant is the best clutch shooter of the four: The final challenge in the obstacle course is a shot from anywhere on the court after coming out of the pylons, but players routinely opt for a dunk or layup. If Bryant goes second in the final round and finds himself behind this opponent, will Bryant fire from beyond the arc for the win?
There isn’t much LeBron James can’t do, as clearly evidenced by his career averages of 26.4 points, 6.7 rebounds and 6.5 assists per game. He’s one of the game’s most exciting young players, whose amazing athleticism and court vision seems the perfect combination for a contest such as this. Even so, James struggled in his first go-round here. Maybe the experience of his two runs through the course a year ago will pay off and James will hoist his first Saturday Night trophy.
Paul appears destined to be the game’s premier point guard for years to come, but could find himself limping to a disappointing finish in this year’s contest. The Hornets second-year star has only been back in action for nine games since sitting down for a month with a sprained right ankle. Conversely, those nine games may be just what Paul needed to shake off the rust and show he’s the game’s top playmaker. If CP3 takes the title on Saturday night, he’ll have the option of defending in his own building when NBA All-Star heads to New Orleans next year.
To Wade we offer a word of caution: Last season’s defending champion, Nash, came in a distant fourth (last) place after never really finding his rhythm and missing at least once from each of the first three pass/shoot stations.
Wade, however, seems to live up to his nickname, Flash, when it comes to the Skills Challenge. Last year, Wade needed all five shots from the top of the key in the first round, yet still posted the best first-round time, so a missed pass here and a brick there might not prove so costly for the league’s third leading scorer.