With the 69th All-Star Game in the books, now it’s time to focus on the stretch run of this regular season.
But before we do that, let’s look back at 10 great moments of a tremendous NBA All-Star 2020 in Chicago.
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You wanted changes, intensity and All-Stars playing with a purpose? You got all that and so much more in Sunday’s All-Star Game, the first with the tweaked format and the target score in the fourth quarter. Hometown kid Anthony Davis nailed the game-winning free throw, capping a wild fourth quarter that produced some of the greatest All-Star Game action that played more like a Game 7 of The Finals. Kawhi Leonard captured the inaugural Kobe Bryant All-Star MVP award and everyone seems to agree the new format fueled the most spirited All-Star Game finish in years.
Chicago represented to the fullest, lending some of the best and brightest the Windy City has to offer to frame the final night of a spectacular weekend. Jennifer Hudson’s glorious tribute to Kobe Bryant, his daughter, Gigi, and the seven others who perished in that Jan. 26 helicopter crash in California was hair-raising. Chaka Khan’s a cappella rendition of the national anthem was riveting. Common’s splendid player introductions solidified this as perhaps the best pre-tip program in All-Star game history. And that was before Chance the Rapper’s electric halftime performance.
I always hesitate to call something best ever because I’m sure I’ve forgotten something, but I am struggling to think of a better NBA All-Star game intro than this one.
— Jemele Hill (@jemelehill) February 17, 2020
Kobe Bryant loomed large over this first All-Star weekend since his passing. The tributes — from fans, celebrities and players alike — were tastefully done and appropriate, given the circumstance and Kobe’s love for the big stage that All-Star always provides. Well done, NBA family. Well done!
Now about that controversial finish on State Farm All-Star Saturday night … kudos to the Miami Heat’s Derrick Jones Jr. for rising to the challenge and outlasting the field to claim the AT&T Slam Dunk title. But good luck convincing the masses that Aaron Gordon wasn’t robbed of his second trophy since 2016. Don’t @ me — just watch it again and judge for yourself.
With the entire NBA ecosystem on hand for the weekend’s festivities, there was no shortage of celebrity sightings in and around Chicago. But a Friday NBA Cares event provided one of the best and most organic reactions from the faces of the future of the league than Luka Doncic, Trae Young and Zion Williamson meeting former President Barack Obama for the first time. It was hard to tell who enjoyed it more.
The announcement of the finalists for the Naismith Memorial Hall of Fame Class of 2020 can get lost in a busy weekend. So Kudos to Hall chairman Jerry Colangelo for providing some context on why the 2020 class (headlined by no-brainer picks Kobe, Tim Duncan, Kevin Garnett and Tamika Catchings) is smaller than usual.
He’s a man of few words, but Kawhi Leonard’s actions these past nine months say it all. It’s his league right now. Sure, Giannis Antetokounmpo is the reigning Kia MVP and the frontrunner in this season’s MVP chase. Yes, LeBron James is still the global face of the league. But Leonard is the reigning Finals MVP, he owned last summer’s free agency and is the leader of an LA Clippers team that looks like a title favorite. Now, he can add winner of the inaugural Kobe Bryant Kia NBA All-Star Game MVP Award to his recent honors. In a game filled with the NBA’s brightest stars, he stole the show with his wicked 3-point shooting effort in the All-Star Game. In short, the age of Kawhi continues.
In a game that featured 312 combined points from Team LeBron and Team Giannis, it was the two points that weren’t (courtesy of one of most jaw-dropping plays involving the team captains) that you must see in slow-motion to fully appreciate. The word “incredible” doesn’t really do justice to Giannis Antetokounmpo’s block on James.
Magic Johnson addressed the United Center crowd before tipoff Sunday night, but his most poignant words on Kobe Bryant and NBA Commissioner Emeritus David Stern came at the annual Legends Brunch earlier Sunday.
Much was made about the nine first time All-Stars selected this season, and rightfully so. They acquitted themselves quite nicely. In the end, it all comes back those playing in the All-Star Game and putting their collective stamp the proceedings. These All-Star “rookies” fit in just fine, even if they did have to watch veterans go to work in the final minutes. Don’t worry fellas, there’s another one coming next year in Indianapolis.
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