Akshay Manwani Freelance writer based in Mumbai

In an attempt to rid himself of the perils of performance appraisals, Akshay ventured into the world of freelance writing where he combined his twin interests of sports and cinema. He has since contributed to The Caravan, BCCI.tv, Business Standard and Man's World, among other publications. He has followed the fortunes of the NBA since the early ’90s, an experience that has given him extraordinary moments of joy in an otherwise mundane existence.

All season long, Akshay will cover the League from the point of view of a basketball expert living in India. Follow him every week on NBA.com/india!

Previewing All-Star Weekend

Akshay Manwani

The first half of the 2011-12 NBA regular season, which was played at a frenetic pace, draws to a close as teams break for the All-Star weekend in Orlando. It promises to be an epic weekend with the BBVA Rising Stars Challenge, Taco Bell Skills Challenge, Foot Locker 3-Point Contest, Sprite Slam Dunk Contest and the All-Star Game featuring the best talent the NBA currently has to offer. Here then, is a quick look at some of these spectacular events that will take place at the Amway Center in Orlando over the course of the coming weekend:

February 25, 2012

BBVA Rising Stars Challenge: Team Chuck v Team Shaq

When: February 25, 2012 – 7:30 AM (IST)

Preview: The Rising Stars Challenge has an exciting new format that sees rookies and sophomores mix together on two different teams to play ball for the first time ever. TNT analysts Charles Barkley and Shaquille O’Neal are serving as the general managers of the two opposing teams - TEAM CHUCK and TEAM SHAQ – having held a draft on Feb. 16. Each team consists of 10-man rosters consisting of NBA rookies and sophomores drafted from a pool that was previously selected by the NBA's assistant coaches. If Ricky Rubio versus Kyrie Irving wasn’t enough, the histrionics between NBA legends, Shaquille O’ Neal and Charles Barkley, is sure to light up fan interest in this game.

Watch Preview Video

February 26, 2012

Taco Bell Skills Competition:

When: February 26, 2012 – 7:00 AM (IST)

Preview: With defending champion Stephen Curry having to pull out of the 2012 Taco Bell Skills Competition due to injury, the Skills Competition crown is truly up for grabs. This competition is the ultimate test of an NBA player’s ball-handling skills as players compete in a two-round timed "obstacle course" consisting of dribbling, passing and shooting stations. The event, which was introduced at the 2003 NBA All-Star weekend, will see Kyrie Irving of the Cleveland Cavaliers, Tony Parker of the San Antonio Spurs, John Wall of the Washington Wizards, Russell Westbrook of the Oklahoma City Thunder, and Deron Williams of the New Jersey Nets participate.

Watch Preview Video

Foot Locker Three-Point Contest:

When: February 26, 2012 – 7:00 AM (IST)

Preview: While the entire NBA spotlight during the 2010-11 campaign was focused entirely on Miami’s trinity of superstars, Heat player, James Jones, managed to become the star attraction of the franchise for one action-packed evening when he beat Ray Allen and Paul Pierce to be crowned the 2011 NBA All-Star 3-Point shooting champion. This year, Kevin Love (3-pt shooting percentage for 2011-12 – 0.348) of the Minnesota Timberwolves, Ryan Anderson (0.437) of the hometown Orlando Magic, Anthony Morrow (0.402) of the New Jersey Nets, Mario Chalmers (0.465) of the Miami Heat and Oklahoma City Thunder All-Star Kevin Durant (0.371 – Durant replaced injured Atlanta Hawks’ star Joe Johnson) – will look to stop James (0.420) from repeating his heroics from last year.

Watch Preview Video

Sprite Slam Dunk Contest:

When: February 26, 2012 – 7:00 AM (IST)

Preview: This is the one event at every All-Star weekend that begets the maximum ‘oohs’ and ‘aahs’ from the viewing public. Remember, Blake Griffin from last year, or Vince Carter from the 2000 All-Star Weekend or the epic duel between Michael Jordan and Dominique Wilkins from the 1988 Dunk Contest. The 2012 Sprite Slam Dunk in Orlando will feature a series of firsts, including four first-time participants, a new single-round format in which the winner will be chosen solely by fan vote, and the introduction of fan voting via Twitter. The four players, who will look to dazzle the fans at the Amway Center, include Chase Budinger of Houston Rockets, Paul George of the Indiana Pacers, Jeremy Evans of the Utah Jazz, Derrick Williams of the Minnesota Timberwolves. Enjoy!

Watch Preview Video

February 27, 2012

NBA All-Star Game presented by Kia Motors:

When: February 27, 2012 – 6:00 AM (IST)

Preview: Undoubtedly, the marquee event of the weekend. Now in its 61st edition, the 2012 NBA All-Star game will see Dwight Howard matchup against Andrew Bynum. LeBron James and Carmelo Anthony will look to outwit Blake Griffin and Kevin Durant, while Derrick Rose and Dwyane Wade will round off the Eastern Conference challenge against the Western Conference’s Kobe Bryant and Chris Paul. The All-Star reserves, selected by the 30 head coaches from around the league, include the likes of Paul Pierce, Deron Williams and Chris Bosh for the East, while Dirk Nowitzki, Steve Nash, Russell Westbrook and Tony Parker are among the more illustrious names in the Western Conference unit. This is the second time Orlando has hosted the All-Star Game -- the city played host in 1992 when Magic Johnson came out of retirement to win the MVP in one of the most memorable moments in NBA history.

Watch Highlights from 1992

Other 2012 All-Star weekend highlights:

2012 NBA All-Star Celebrity Game – Saturday, February 25 – 5:30 am (IST),

2012 Haier Shooting Stars (1st Event) – Sunday, February 26 – 7:00 am (IST)

Broadcast Schedule
Tune into Ten Sports

Friday - Rising Stars Challenge
21:00 EST Start of Broadcast
IST - Saturday, 25 February 2012, 07:30:00

Saturday - All-Star Saturday
20:30 EST Start of Broadcast
IST - Sunday, 26 February 2012, 07:00:00

Sunday - All-Star Game
19:00 EST Start of Broadcast
IST - Monday, 27 February 2012, 05:30:00

All stats are after games played on February 23, 2012 (IST)