CLEVELAND — We’re all ready to focus on the stretch run of the regular season after finally inching past the midway point with the conclusion of the 71st All-Star weekend in the NBA’s 75th Anniversary season.
But let’s pump the brakes on that just briefly to revisit 10 of the standout moments emerging from a legendary NBA All-Star 2022 in Cleveland:
1. 75th Anniversary Team honored
As expected, the NBA spared no expense in honoring its 75th Anniversary team with a ceremony befitting of its immense contributions to the game.
The players attending the ceremony walked out on a red carpet to a stage on the court adorned with the 75th Anniversary team logo. Each player wore navy jackets with the 75th Anniversary logo emblazoned on the left chest pocket.
Speaking of jackets, take a look at these:
"In one jacket I want to be able to capture their beautiful career and the amazing achievements they have created."
These #NBA75 Jackets by Jeff Hamilton are iconic 🔥 pic.twitter.com/6umRG9aWMz
— NBA on TNT (@NBAonTNT) February 20, 2022
Actor J.B. Smoove introduced the first group, the forwards, while actress Tiffany Haddish brought out the centers. Singer Usher handled introductions for the guards.
As expected, Michael Jordan drew the loudest applause among all the players honored. Check out this moment between a couple of the very best to ever lace up the sneakers.
Likely candidates for the future 100th Anniversary team Ja Morant, Devin Booker, Karl-Anthony Towns and Luka Doncic ended the ceremony with words of optimism, before Earth, Wind & Fire closed it all out with a performance of “Shining Star.”
Sadly, Kevin Durant didn’t attend the event due to the passing of his grandmother, Barbara A. Davis, according to his mother, Wanda Durant, who announced the news on Instagram.
If you’d like to know more about these NBA legends, don’t hesitate to click on our Archive 75 project right here.
2. Paul plays through injury
TNT’s Allie LaForce reported just before tipoff Sunday that Phoenix Suns guard Chris Paul could miss significant time once the second half of the season resumes due to an avulsion fracture of his right thumb.
A 12-time All-Star and an MVP candidate in a close 2022 race, Paul played sparingly in Sunday’s action, logging just two minutes in the first half, while taking only one shot. Paul came off the bench in the opening quarter with 3:49 remaining and guarded Suns teammate Devin Booker.
Paul originally suffered the injury against Houston on Wednesday, but expressed optimism about the recovery process Saturday during All-Star media availability.
“I’m going to try to heal as fast as physically possible,” he said.
Paul is expected to be reevaluated in six to eight weeks, and it’s worth pondering whether Phoenix can maintain its lead in the West with half of its All-Star backcourt sidelined for at least a month. The Suns entered the All-Star break riding a seven-game winning streak and own a 6.5-game lead over the second-place Golden State Warriors.
With 6:29 left in the second quarter, Paul received the first Kobe & Gigi Bryant WNBA Advocacy Award for his contributions toward the advancement of girls’ and women’s basketball, in addition to advocacy for the WNBA. The late Kobe Bryant’s wife, Vanessa, presented Paul with the award.
3. Inaugural HBCU Classic brings out the stars
Howard University rallied from a deficit Saturday to defeat MEAC foe Morgan State 68-66 in the inaugural HBCU Classic at the Wolstein Center.
The event, which brought out plenty of celebrities, definitely uplifted the HBCU community as it was simulcast on TNT, ESPN2 and NBATV. Both Howard University and Morgan State received $100,000 in donations to support the student experience.
A couple of cheerleaders from both schools also received $50,000 in scholarships from NBA legend Gary Payton on behalf of Mountain Dew.
Actress and singer Keke Palmer started off the festivities by singing “Lift Every Voice and Sing”.
Before that, All-Star guards Stephen Curry and Chris Paul addressed the teams in the locker room.
Curry even envisions a time when the world will routinely see elite-level NBA prospects coming from HBCUs.
“I think that comes with continued effort to highlight the alumni base, the success, just the different stories that have come out of these HBCUs,” Curry said. “And again, the investment in the athletic programs that can support that type of talent and create a new lane of opportunity where it’s not a surprise that somebody – [a] five-star, four-star recruit — could go to an HBCU, have an amazing experience, have amazing coaching, get a great education and then find their way into the NBA, NBA Draft, and that be more of the norm and not so much the exception to the rule.”
As the Bison and Bears competed on the floor, a bevy of celebrities cheered while the schools’ bands jammed out, bringing the full HBCU experience to All-Star Weekend. The list of celebrities we spotted included Academy Award-winning filmmaker Spike Lee, WNBA legend Tamika Catchings, Cleveland Cavaliers guard Collin Sexton and Milwaukee Bucks forward Khris Middleton, as well as A.J. Calloway of BET’s “106 & Park”, DJ Envy, Shawn Marion, Rev. Jessie Jackson and Michael Eric Dyson.
Check out this recap of a beautiful afternoon.
Our late great friend Sekou Smith, an HBCU grad from Jackson State University, was smiling down on us all.
4. EJ drops bars
Class personified, witty and the consummate pro, TNT’s Ernie Johnson delivered a poem Sunday paying tribute to the league’s 75th Anniversary team during the 22nd NBA Legends Awards at Huntington Bank Convention Center. No need to muddle the beauty of Johnson’s poem with our words:
The man ran out of bars, yet unsurprisingly hit all the right notes. Just beautiful.
Also at the ceremony, once known as the NBA Legends Brunch, Dikembe Mutombo, Kareem Abdul-Jabbar and Jerry West received awards for their contributions off the court, while the National Basketball Retired Players Association (NBRPA) honored Rev. Jesse Jackson.
5. Karl Anthony-Towns wanted answers
Having scorched the field by running up a record-setting 29 points Saturday in the final round of the MTN DEW 3-Point Contest, which broke Devin Booker’s 2018 record of 28 points, Karl Anthony-Towns needed answers upon bursting into the interview room.
“I want to know who bet against me?” he asked.
Towns became the first big man to win the 3-Point Contest since 2012 (Kevin Love), and he’s the second-tallest (6-11) victor behind 7-foot Dirk Nowitzki, who won the contest back in 2006. Towns bested a field that included Trae Young and Luke Kennard, who each finished with 26 points.
The most touching part of this story is that during the competition, Towns wore the gold chain belonging to his mother, Jacqueline Cruz-Towns, who died in 2020 from COVID-19. For Towns, the NBA lifted its policy prohibiting jewelry from being worn during the competition. Gracefully, Towns expressed appreciation.
“The league said we can’t wear earrings and jewelry, but they allowed me to keep my mom’s chain on,” Towns said. “I really appreciate them for allowing me to do that.”
6. Towns got answers
Shooters respect shooters. So, it came as no surprise to see Towns pulling aside two-time 3-point contest winner Stephen Curry for a little advice ahead of the MTN DEW 3-Point Contest:
from one 3-point champ to another 🤝 pic.twitter.com/1bA1fQRTLw
— Minnesota Timberwolves (@Timberwolves) February 20, 2022
The NBA’s all-time leader in 3-pointers made, Curry won the 2021 contest with a 28-point final round in Atlanta, besting Utah guard Mike Conley by one point.
7. Hot Curry
You watched Curry tell Towns what to do in the MTN DEW 3-Point Contest. Then, the Warriors guard put some of his own advice into practice, drilling an NBA All-Star Game record 16 3-pointers.
Over a span of just one minute and 13 seconds in the third quarter, Curry knocked down 3-pointers from 24, 32 and 36 feet out, and with 6:46 remaining in the frame, the man had racked up a total of 39 points after a 24-point first half.
This is how hot Curry got:
8. Cavaliers represent in Cleveland
It was nice to see Team Cavs successfully defend their home court Saturday in the revamped 2022 Taco Bell Skills Challenge at Rocket Mortgage FieldHouse.
The home team, made up of Jarrett Allen, Darius Garland and Evan Mobley, defeated Team Rooks, comprised of Cade Cunningham, Josh Giddey and Scottie Barnes in a half-court shootout that decided the winner of the final round.
“The crowd was going crazy,” Garland said. “It felt like a home game to be honest with you. It was just good to have them, just have our support, have our backs throughout the entire Skills Challenge. It was fun just hearing them when we came out. It was cool.”
The NBA switched up the format for this year’s competition, making it a team competition instead of an individual challenge.
Team Antetokounmpos, made up of brothers Giannis, Thanasis and Alex, was the third team in the competition.
9. All-Star Saturday show delivered
No need to get into comparisons with the Super Bowl halftime show (which was excellent by the way), but DJ Khaled on All-Star Saturday kept the crowd grooving with plenty of hits at Rocket Mortgage FieldHouse.
Khaled brought out a who’s-who of performers that included Mary J. Blige, Lil Wayne, Migos, Lil Baby, Gunna and Ludacris (he’s still got it).
10. It’s the thought that counts
Obi Toppin won the 2022 AT&T Slam Dunk contest, but we’ve got to show love to Cole Anthony for paying homage to his father, our NBATV colleague and former New York Knicks guard Greg Anthony.
With New York native Spike Lee grinning wistfully from his courtside seat, Cole Anthony slid on a pair of the “butter” Timberlands (a New York City staple, which aren’t what you’d consider lightweight) and his father’s No. 50 Knicks jersey for an opening-round attempt. Cole grabbed the ball from his father’s hand in the opening round for a nice windmill dunk.
Timbs on? Still bouncy.@The_ColeAnthony @GregAnthony50 #PhantomCam pic.twitter.com/noKTQv0fu7
— NBA (@NBA) February 20, 2022
Too bad the judges basically slept on Cole Anthony’s creativity as the Orlando guard failed to advance out of the opening round.
Michael C. Wright is a senior writer for NBA.com. You can e-mail him here, find his archive here and follow him on Twitter.
The views on this page do not necessarily reflect the views of the NBA, its clubs or Turner Broadcasting.