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Big man Towns takes Taco Bell Skills Challenge

Timberwolves' rookie tops Celtics' point guard Thomas in big upset to kick off State Farm All-Star Saturday Night

POSTED: Feb 14, 2016 2:29 PM ET


Inside Access: 2016 Taco Bell Skills Challenge

For the first time in event history, frontcourt players were part of the Taco Bell Skills Challenge.

>Taco Bell Skills Challenge
Winner: Karl-Anthony Towns

TORONTO -- You don't get many upsets at All-Star Weekend, but Karl-Anthony Towns winning the 2016 Taco Bell Skills Challenge was a clear underdog story.

The Rookie of the Year favorite from the Minnesota Timberwolves represented for the big men, edging out Celtics guard Isaiah Thomas by knocking down his third 3-point attempt in what was a tightly contested final round. Both players connected on their first chest pass after dribbling through an obstacle course, and they made their layups on the other end of the floor at the same time. Though Thomas is the guard, Towns has been the better 3-point shooter this season, and he knocked down the competition-winning shot before Thomas could.

Highlight: Towns wins Skills Challenge

Karl-Anthony Towns wins the 2016 Taco Bell Skills Challenge.

As Towns' shot went through the net, he was immediately mobbed by the other big men in the competition, making it clear that the new format of the Skills Challenge brought out a big-little rivalry.

"This is bigger than me," Towns said afterward. "This is for all the bigs out there, with the game changing the way it is, to show that bigs can stand up with guards skill-wise."

Both Thomas and Towns had easy victories in the semifinals. After Blazers guard C.J. McCollum lost the ball in the obstacles and Thomas connected on his first chest pass, the Celtics' All-Star made his 3-pointer while McCollum was still shooting his layup. And Towns eliminated the Kings' DeMarcus Cousins by connected on his first chest pass and his first 3-point attempt.

Highlights: Towns beats Cousins

Karl-Anthony Towns beats DeMarcus Cousins in the second round of the Taco Bell Skills Challenge.

In the first round, McCollum eliminated the Lakers' Jordan Clarkson by making his first jumper, while Thomas eliminated Nuggets' rookie Emmanuel Mudiay after gaining a lead on the passing station. On the bigs' side of the bracket, Towns eliminated the Warriors' Draymond Green by knocking down his second 3-pointer, and Cousins came back to beat Anthony Davis after losing the ball on his initial dribble.

Patrick Beverley, the 2015 champion, wasn't able to defend his title, pulling out of the competition after turning his ankle in Portland on Wednesday. Mudiay was his replacement.

--By John Schuhmann

2016 Participants

*Emmanuel Mudiay, Denver Nuggets
DeMarcus Cousins, Sacramento Kings
Draymond Green, Golden State Warriors
Anthony Davis, New Orleans Pelicans
CJ McCollum, Portland Trail Blazers
Karl-Anthony Towns, Minnesota Timberwolves
Isaiah Thomas, Boston Celtics
Jordan Clarkson, Los Angeles Lakers
* Replaces Patrick Beverley (injured)

Skills Challenge Year-By-Year Event Winners

2015 - Patrick Beverley, Rockets
2014 - Team West: Trey Burke, Jazz & Damian Lillard, Trail Blazers
2013 - Damian Lillard, Trail Blazers
2012 - Tony Parker, Spurs
2011 - Stephen Curry, Warriors
2010 - Steve Nash, Suns
2009 - Derrick Rose, Bulls
2008 - Deron Williams, Jazz
2007 - Dwyane Wade, Heat
2006 - Dwyane Wade, Heat
2005 - Steve Nash, Suns
2004 - Baron Davis, Hornets
2003 - Jason Kidd, Nets

All Skills Challenge results >>
More All-Star History >>