The NBA put on a compressed edition of the 70th All-Star weekend, but with that in the rear view, it’s time to focus on the stretch run of the regular season.
Before we start on that journey, let’s take a look back at 10 standout moments of NBA All-Star 2021 in Atlanta.
Dame time ending
Originally instituted at the 2020 All-Star Game, the contest’s new format failed to deliver the ultra-competitive fourth quarter we saw last season in Chicago. But Damian Lillard gave us a little something to remember by sending Team Durant home with a half-court jumper to close out the game.
— Portland Trail Blazers (@trailblazers) March 8, 2021
Dame’s walk-off bucket gave Team LeBron a 170-150 win. What’s more is Golden State Warriors star Stephen Curry waved bye-bye in Lillard fashion, before the Blazers guard even reached half court. Both Lillard and Curry provided plenty of evidence throughout the night of their lethal range that we’re sure to see again once the second half of the regular season commences.
Speaking of Steph
Welcome back. After Curry won his second 3-point contest with 28 points in a final round in which he edged Utah Jazz guard Mike Conley, we caught a display of more joy in the first half of the actual All-Star Game. Curry knocked down six 3-pointers in the first half, including one where he turned around toward the bench before it splashed, and another in the first quarter from the “T” in the midcourt All-Star Game logo. Curry also caught an alley-oop for a two-handed dunk.
To see up close the joy that Curry plays with was refreshing after the three-time NBA champion sat out for the better part of a year rehabbing from injury. It was also nice to see Curry dedicate his 2021 MTN Dew 3-point Contest trophy to teammate Klay Thompson, the 2016 3-point contest winner, who is out for the year with a torn right Achilles.
Remember, Curry and Thompson were the first pair of teammates to win consecutive 3-point contests.
HBCUs take center stage
The All-Star Game generated in the neighborhood of $3 million for Historically Black College and Universities, through donations of scholarship funds. The league also made sure that HBCUs were well represented throughout the night.
From utilizing officials that are HBCU alums, to the bands from Grambling State University and Florida A&M University playing during the player introductions, as well as the court design — which represented the academic significance and the spirit of HBCUs — the world caught a beautiful glimpse of the HBCU experience.
And who could forget the Clark Atlanta University’s Philharmonic Society Choir’s stirring rendition of ‘Lift Every Voice and Sing’? It’s just a suggestion, but perhaps the NBA should include the bands from HBCUs for player introductions and make them a part of the halftime show, too, for future All-Star games.
Small-ball jump ball
Admit it, you smiled and probably chuckled a little when Team LeBron and Team Durant tipped off the second quarter with guards Chris Paul and Mike Conley at center court for the jump ball. They had no idea of what they were doing, and that’s what made it so fun to watch.
— NBA (@NBA) March 8, 2021
Big men flash skills
For the second year in a row, big men ran the show at the Taco Bells Skills Challenge, as Indiana’s Domantas Sabonis walked away with the trophy from a field that included Julius Randle, Luka Doncic, Nikola Vucevic, Robert Covington and Paul.
TNT analyst Shaquille O’Neal kept saying, “big men rule, big men rule,” and he wasn’t lying. Sabonis took out Doncic in the semifinals, while Vucevic knocked out Paul. Miami’s Bam Adebayo won the Taco Bells Skills Challenge last year in Chicago.
Sekou Smith tribute
Thank you, NBA, for such a nice gesture to honor our good friend Sekou Smith, a Jackson State University alum, who represented the very best of all of us. Smith was the face of NBA.com, and surely, he was smiling down big at his adopted home of Atlanta. We miss you tremendously, boss.
If you’re interested in donating to the Sekou Smith Journalism Award at JSU, please don’t hesitate.
In honor of our friend. We saved you a seat.
We miss you Sekou. pic.twitter.com/AHwOl75KGV
— NBA (@NBA) March 7, 2021
The people responsible for all the music throughout the TNT broadcast of the All-Star Game should be applauded, because they certainly showcased all of the talent coming out of the city of Atlanta over the years.
It was also great to hear from so many people representing the city during the broadcast; people such as Ludacris, Quavo, Killer Mike, 2 Chainz, mayor Keisha Lance Bottoms, and Renee Montgomery, new part-owner of the Atlanta Dream, as well as many others.
Strong week for Gladys Knight
Seven-time Grammy Award winner Gladys Knight, a graduate of Shaw University, belted out a soulful performance of “The Star-Spangled Banner” to start off the All-Star Game.
— NBA (@NBA) March 8, 2021
The performance certainly capped off a great week for Knight. Four days prior, “Coming 2 America”, the sequel to the 1988 classic “Coming to America,” dropped on Amazon Prime. The 76 year old makes a cameo appearance during the sequel, in which she sings a beautiful, yet hilarious parody of her hit song “Midnight Train to Georgia”. She’s definitely still got the singing pipes.
LeBron James is king of ASG
For four years now, James has been a captain for the NBA All-Star Game, and his teams are a perfect 4-0 against teams captained by Kevin Durant, Giannis Antetokounmpo and Curry.
The victory helped Team LeBron donate more than $1 million to the Thurgood Marshall College Fund, while Team Durant earned the United Negro College Fund $500,000.
“I hope that they allow me to retire from being an All-Star captain, so I can retire with a perfect 5-0 record,” James said. “I always try to pick the right team, and I’ve been lucky enough for four years to pick the right team. Guys go out and compete and play to win. I’ve been on the winning side of all four.”
Perfect night for Giannis
Antetokounmpo captured his first Kobe Bryant NBA All-Star Game Most Valuable Player Award by scorching the nets for a perfect 16-of-16 shooting night. Antetokounmpo lucked out by knocking down on a few shots off the glass, but the bank always stays open for the Bucks’ star, apparently.
“You know, usually it is closed [on Sunday], but for me, it was open extended hours,” Antetokounmpo joked.
Before Antetokounmpo’s scorching night, the most field goal attempts without a miss by a player in an NBA All-Star Game was in 1968, when Hal Greer connected on 8 of 8. Antetokounmpo’s numbers register as an NBA All-Star record for the highest field goal percentage in an All-Star Game with a minimum of 15 attempts.
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