Skills Challenge 2017
All-Stars DeMarcus Cousins, Anthony Davis, John Wall headline 2017 Taco Bell Skills Challenge
76ers’ Joel Embiid and Knicks’ Kristaps Porzingis part of diverse field
NEW YORK — NBA All-Star Game starter Anthony Davis of the New Orleans Pelicans and fellow All-Stars DeMarcus Cousins of the Sacramento Kings, Gordon Hayward of the Utah Jazz, Isaiah Thomas of the Boston Celtics and John Wall of the Washington Wizards will compete in the 2017 Taco Bell Skills Challenge on Saturday, Feb. 18 at Smoothie King Center in New Orleans.
Joining the five 2017 All-Stars in the eight-player field are two members of the 2015-16 NBA All-Rookie First Team, Devin Booker of the Phoenix Suns and Kristaps Porzingis of the New York Knicks, as well as three-time reigning Kia NBA Eastern Conference Rookie of the Month Joel Embiid of the Philadelphia 76ers.
The Taco Bell Skills Challenge tips off State Farm All-Star Saturday Night, which will be televised by TNT at 8 p.m. ET and will also be available on the Watch TNT App and on TNT Overtime. In addition, the competition will be broadcast on ESPN Radio, with audio also available on the ESPN app.
With Davis, Cousins, Embiid and Porzingis competing, this marks the second straight year that four big men will be showing off their versatility in the traditionally guard-heavy event. 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 for the third year in a row. The four big men will be on one side of the bracket and the remaining four players will be on the other side of the bracket. First-round matchups will be announced at a later date.
Davis, who will start the All-Star Game in his home arena, ranks fifth in the NBA in scoring (27.9 ppg), sixth in rebounding (12.3 rpg) and second in blocked shots (2.39 bpg). Cousins, an All-Star selection for the third straight season, is fourth in the league in scoring (28.2 ppg) to go with 10.5 rebounds and career highs of 4.4 assists and 84 three-pointers made.
Embiid leads all rookies in scoring (20.2 ppg), rebounding (7.8 rpg) and blocks (2.45 bpg), and the 7-footer has connected on 36-of-98 (36.7 percent) from three-point range. The 7-3 Porzingis has increased his scoring and improved his shooting in his second season, averaging 18.7 points while making 45.2 percent from the field and 37.9 percent from three-point range.
Hayward and Booker will make their debuts in the Taco Bell® Skills Challenge. A first-time All-Star selection, Hayward (21.8 ppg, 5.7 rpg, 3.5 apg) has raised his scoring average in every season of his seven-year career. Booker (20.8 ppg) has scored at least 20 points in each of his last 14 games. The 6-6 Phoenix guard will join Embiid and Porzingis as participants in the 2017 BBVA Compass Rising Stars Challenge on Friday, Feb. 17 at Smoothie King Center.
Thomas and Wall will compete in the Taco Bell® Skills Challenge for the third time each. An All-Star for the second straight year, Thomas ranks second in the NBA in scoring (29.7 ppg) and is posting career highs in assists (6.4 apg), field goal percentage (46.8) and three-pointers made per game (3.2). Wall, an All-Star for the fourth year in a row, is second in the league in assists (10.3 apg) and steals (2.13 spg) to go with 22.7 points – career highs in all three categories.
The Taco Bell Skills Challenge format calls for two players to compete simultaneously on an identical course with the fastest finisher reaching 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.
Below is the roster for the 2017 Taco Bell® Skills Challenge and a list of previous winners:
Taco Bell® Skills Challenge Winners
2003 – Jason Kidd, New Jersey
2004 – Baron Davis, New Orleans
2005 – Steve Nash, Phoenix
2006 – Dwyane Wade, Miami
2007 – Dwyane Wade, Miami
2008 – Deron Williams, Utah
2009 – Derrick Rose, Chicago
2010 – Steve Nash, Phoenix
2011 – Stephen Curry, Golden State
2012 – Tony Parker, San Antonio
2013 – Damian Lillard, Portland
2014 – Trey Burke, Utah and Damian Lillard, Portland
2015 – Patrick Beverley, Houston
2016 – Karl-Anthony Towns, Minnesota
About Taco Bell Corporation
Taco Bell Corp., a subsidiary of Yum! Brands, Inc. (NYSE: YUM), is the nation’s leading Mexican-inspired quick service restaurant (QSR) brand. From breakfast to late night, Taco Bell serves made-to-order and customizable tacos and burritos, among other craveable choices, and is the first QSR restaurant to offer American Vegetarian Association (AVA)-certified menu items. Taco Bell and its more than 350 franchise organizations proudly serve over 42 million customers each week through over 7,000 restaurants across the nation, as well as through its mobile, desktop and delivery ordering services. Overseas, Taco Bell has over 250 restaurants, with plans to add 2,000 more restaurants internationally within the next decade. The brand encourages its fans to “Live Mas” and connects with them through sports, gaming and new music via its Feed The Beat® music program. Taco Bell also provides education opportunities and serves the community through its nonprofit organization, the Taco Bell® Foundation™, and connects fans with their passions through programs such as the Live Mas Scholarship program. In 2016, Taco Bell was named as one of Fast Company’s Top 10 Most Innovative Companies in the World.
Like: Facebook.com/tacobell — Follow: @TacoBell (Twitter), tacobell (Instagram) and tacobell (Snapchat) — Subscribe: YouTube.com/tacobell – Explore: ta.co
About State Farm®
The mission of State Farm is to help people manage the risks of everyday life, recover from the unexpected, and realize their dreams. State Farm and its affiliates are the largest providers of auto, home and individual life insurance in the United States. Its 18,000 agents and more than 65,000 employees serve more than 83 million policies and accounts — nearly 81 million auto, home, life, health and commercial policies, and nearly 2 million bank accounts. Commercial auto insurance, along with coverage for renters, business owners, boats and motorcycles, is available. State Farm Mutual Automobile Insurance Company is the parent of the State Farm family of companies. State Farm is ranked No. 35 on the 2016 Fortune 500 list of largest companies. For more information, please visit http://www.statefarm.com.
About NBA All-Star 2017
NBA All-Star 2017 in New Orleans will bring together some of the most talented and passionate players in the league’s history for a global celebration of the game. The 66th NBA All-Star Game, which will take place on Sunday, Feb. 19 at Smoothie King Center, will reach fans in more than 200 countries and territories in more than 40 languages. TNT will televise the All-Star Game for the 15th consecutive year, marking Turner Sports’ 32nd year of NBA All-Star coverage. Smoothie King Center will also host the BBVA Compass Rising Stars Challenge on Friday, Feb. 17 and State Farm All-Star Saturday Night on Saturday, Feb. 18. The NBA All-Star Practice, NBA All-Star Celebrity Game and NBA Development League All-Star Game presented by Kumho Tire will take place at the Mercedes-Benz Superdome.