Defending champion and 2018 NBA All-Star Kristaps Porzingis of the New York Knicks and All-Stars Joel Embiid of the Philadelphia 76ers and Al Horford of the Boston Celtics will compete in the 2018 Taco Bell® Skills Challenge on Saturday, Feb. 17 at Staples Center in Los Angeles.
Joining the three All-Star big men in the eight-player field are guard Spencer Dinwiddie of the Brooklyn Nets, forward Lauri Markkanen of the Chicago Bulls, guard Donovan Mitchell of the Utah Jazz, guard Jamal Murray of the Denver Nuggets and guard Lou Williams of the LA Clippers.
The 16th Taco Bell Skills Challenge is part of State Farm® All-Star Saturday Night, which will air on TNT and ESPN Radio at 8 p.m. ET. All-Star Saturday Night also includes the JBL Three-Point Contest and Verizon Slam Dunk.
In addition to the star-studded competitions, Daytime Emmy® Award winner and Extra host Mario Lopez will welcome fans and introduce the night, while Grammy® Award nominee Andra Day and Academy® Award winner Common will perform a special rendition of the 2018 Academy Award-nominated song “Stand Up for Something” from the movie Marshall. Part of the NBA Voices platform and in celebration of Black History Month, the performance will feature current and former NBA and WNBA players and incorporate words chosen by a handful of players that reflect black history and culture, and their collective commitment to equality and diversity.
With Porzingis, Embiid, Horford and Markkanen competing, this marks the third straight year that four big men will be showing off their versatility in the previously guard-focused event. Big men were crowned champion in each of the last two competitions, with the Minnesota Timberwolves’ Karl-Anthony Towns winning in 2016 and Porzingis defeating Gordon Hayward in last year’s final round.
The three-round, obstacle-course competition, which tests dribbling, passing, agility and three-point-shooting skills, will feature a head-to-head, bracket-style tournament format. The four big men will be on one side of the bracket and the four guards will be on the other side of the bracket. First-round matchups will be announced at a later date.
2018 Taco Bell Skills Challenge Participants
- Spencer Dinwiddie, Nets: The 6-6 guard is averaging career highs of 13.4 points and 6.4 assists in his fourth season. He has hit 96 three-pointers in 51 games; he entered the season with 51 three-pointers in 105 games.
- Joel Embiid, 76ers: A first-time All-Star in his second season, Embiid is averaging 23.8 points (15th in the NBA), 11.0 rebounds (sixth), 3.3 assists and 1.82 blocked shots (fourth). The 7-footer from Cameroon is set to start the 2018 NBA All-Star Game and appear for the World Team in the 2018 Mtn Dew Kickstart Rising Stars.
- Al Horford, Celtics: An All-Star for the fifth time, Horford is one of three players averaging at least 13.0 points, 7.0 rebounds, 5.0 assists and one blocked shot (DeMarcus Cousins and LeBron James).
- Lauri Markkanen, Bulls: Markkanen (15.5 ppg, 7.7 rpg) is the fastest player to 100 career three-pointers in NBA history (41 games). The 7-footer from Finland will join Embiid on the World Team for Rising Stars.
- Donovan Mitchell, Jazz: The Kia NBA Western Conference Rookie of the Month for December and January is averaging a team-high and rookie-best 19.3 points this season. Utah has never had a rookie lead the team in scoring for a season. Mitchell is part of the U.S. Team for Rising Stars.
- Jamal Murray, Nuggets: The 2016-17 NBA All-Rookie Second Team selection has increased his scoring average to 16.2 points (up from 9.9 ppg) in his second season. Murray, a 6-4 guard from Canada, was the MVP of the 2017 Rising Stars and will compete for the World Team again this year.
- Kristaps Porzingis, Knicks: Porzingis (23.1 ppg) will make his All-Star debut in his third season. The 7-3 forward/center leads the NBA in blocks (2.33 bpg) and is shooting a career-high 39.8 percent from three-point range.
- Lou Williams, Clippers: Williams has earned two Western Conference Player of the Week awards in 2017-18 while averaging a career-high 23.5 points in his 13th season. The 2014-15 Kia NBA Sixth Man Award winner scored a career-high 50 points against the Golden State Warriors on Jan. 10.
Taco Bell Skills Challenge Rules
Two players compete simultaneously on identical courses and the fastest finisher reaches the next round. In the first round, the eight players are paired to participate in four head-to-head competitions. The four winners advance to the second round, where two more head-to-head showdowns determine the two finalists. Click here for a complete explanation of the rules.