NBA All-Star weekend is thankfully upon us once again. Even though there are no direct Bobcat participants in any of the events, Dell Curry will be representing Charlotte/the Bobcats/the Hornets when he teams up with his son Steph Curry and Becky Hammon in the Sears Shooting Stars event.
But do not worry, there are still plenty of reasons to tune in all weekend, and to be a part of the wonderful annual tradition of all-star festivities. For one, Damian Lillard is participating in five events. So that's pretty cool. I'll point out some Bobcat tie-ins as well. You can check out the official release and list of events here, but let's hit some highlights. NBA me!
To whet your appetite, NBATV does a great job of throwing up some of the old games and events in the week leading up. The channel really starts to kick into high gear on Thursday when it will have dunk-a-thons running from 10:00 AM until 5:00 PM and from 7:00 PM until 2:00 AM. That's all day my dudes! They're running in chronological order starting with the 1976 ABA and 1984 NBA Contests for you history buffs, which is definitely worth checking out.
If you're not in the winter vortex that has swallowed up parts of the south allowing you to stay home all day, you're going to want to set your DVRs to capture the 1987 Dunk Contest from Seattle when (spoiler alert) Michael Jordan won his first crown which airs at 11:30 am, the 1988 Dunk Contest airing at noon -- the legendary showdown between Jordan and Dominique Wilkins -- and the 2000 Dunk Contest when Vince Carter brought it back from the dead and shut it down at the same time, showing at 7:00 PM. - Bobcats tie-in: Michael Jordan, current owner, dunks the basketball in two of these.
Of course you can DVR them all if you just feel like clogging up the hard drive because who doesn't love a good DVR argument right before the weekend? Those Real Housewives aren't going to DVR themselves you know.
Friday kicks off with the Rising Stars Challenge practice (10:30 AM Friday), perfect to have on in the background while you're playing Flappy Bird. Same goes for the media day events (airing at 12:30 PM) although there is a little more to see there and typically some good interviews and comments. - Bobcats tie-in: Some of the Bobcat players may have downloaded Flappy Bird.
Friday night we get our first real event, The Sprint NBA All-Star Celebrity Game (7:00 PM). This thing is usually entertaining for a while. It's perfect to lead off the weekend on Friday night. By halftime you're usually ready to get on with everything else, but I believe they do use a running clock, which is essential. Kevin Hart is back, of course, because Kevin Hart. But you're going to want to keep an eye on Arne Duncan, the U.S. Secretary of Education. He can play ball and takes the game as serious as you can ask someone to take it without taking it too serious. - Bobcats tie-in: Michael B. Jordan is in the game and has the same name as Michael Jordan, owner of the Bobcats.
The Celebrity Game is a fine lead-in to the night's main event, the BBVA Compass Rising Stars Challenge (9:00 PM). Back in the day the league used to have the
old timers Legends Game when former NBA stars played in this tune up game. Changing to a game between young players in the league? One of the best decisions ever made by the NBA for the All-Star break. Stars in their first and second seasons will face off headlined by Damian Lillard and Anthony Davis. This is typically an entertaining game with many dunks and fun basketball moves. - Bobcats tie-in: During the 1991 All-Star game in Charlotte, they played one of those old timers Legends Games.
Saturday NBATV has some more good viewing. More practice sessions, this time with the actual All-Stars (noon), as well as a documentary on Oscar Roberston (5:00 PM) and an episode of Open Court focused on dunking (6:00 PM). Of course we will not get the annual David Stern press conference because he is not the Commissioner anymore. What we will get is the new Commissioner, Adam Silver, and his first All-Star press conference in office (7:00 PM). Let's see if he can translate that second round draft night zeitgeist into an entertaining presser; I bet he can.
All-Star Saturday finally gets underway at 8:30 PM with the aforementioned Sears Shooting Stars. This is a very underrated event. It incorporates the half court shot; maybe the most universally popular of any shot. Teams shoot from various spot on the court in a timed challenge. Tim Hardaway and Tim Hardaway Jr. will also be competing with Elena Delle Donne on the East. Kevin Durant, Karl Malone and Skyler Diggins make up the second team from the West, Chris Bosh, Dominique Wilkins and Swin Cash round out the East. WNBA players have the market cornered on cool names.
(The entire night pits East vs West, which is a cool idea but poses one big problem we will touch on later.)
Seriously, this event is fun. It doesn't drag, it's easy to follow and again...half court shots.
(If there was an event to add, I'd like to see a long range challenge shoot out. I'm not sure you could make this part of the three-point contest, but let's see from how far these guys can actually shoot a jumper. Guys keep stepping back until one can't hit. Sky balls from the deep corners of the court. We've had H.O.R.S.E. before, come on. Long Range Challenge. Let's make it happen.)
The Taco Bell Skills Challenge is up next. This relay challenge is like NBA Double-Dare without the moats of whipped cream or buckets of water. Ballhandling, shooting and passing are highlighted in this timed course. Two teams from each conference face off to determine a winner. Giannis Antetokounmpo and DeMar DeRozan are Team One from the East and Michael-Carter Williams and Victor Oladipo are Team Two. Trey Burke and Damian Lillard, and Goran Dragic and Reggie Jackson will represent the West. - Bobcats tie-in: Hmmm...the Bobcats could have drafted some of these guys. And Oladipo played with Cody Zeller at Indiana! Nailed it.
Speaking of the Footlocker Three-Point Contest, it's back! It never went anywhere, and probably never will. It's the iconic All-Star Weekend event. This year does have a little twist though. You know how much you love those money balls at the end of each rack? Well...how about a whole rack of money balls!!??!!!! That's right, each shooter gets to place said rack in the spot of his choice and fire away.
Arron Afflalo, Bradley Beal, Kyrie Irving, Joe Johnson will represent the East and Marco Belinelli, Stephen Curry, Damian Lillard and Kevin Love will shoot from the West. - Bobcats tie-in: Stephen Curry is from Charlotte.
Capping off All-Star Saturday night is the Sprite Slam Dunk contest. And this one could be good. For one thing we finally have a very good lineup. For years fans have clamored for big names to be involved in the dunk contest, and obviously it's nice to actually have some All-Stars. This year we have both. Damian Lillard (again), Harrison Barnes, and Ben McLemore will dunk for the West while the East reps will be defending champ Terrence Ross, John Wall, and Paul George. This too will be a team event and therefore, no single winner. Huh? No defined winner for the dunk contest?
Along with a new format featuring one freestyle layup line-like round, and one battle round, the dunk contest winner will be a team, not an individual dunker. There will be one "Dunker of the Night" voted on by the fans, but no scorecards, and no final head-to-head between the last two dunkers. Bummer.
Kudos to the NBA for getting this group to dunk, and it's fine to tweak the contest a little, but not having a clear-cut winner seems like a bit of an oversight. Still, the slam dunk winner is often argued and a lot of times the best dunkers don't match up anyway. So at least we can look forward something new this year. I'm in! - Bobcats tie-in: The Bobcats dunk all the time. Every game.
The main event of the weekend, the NBA All-Star Game finally takes place Sunday night. If you've watched any of these old replays of All-Star games past you'll see a lot were played on Sunday afternoon. Of course the attraction of primetime is no doubt too much to have a return to a daytime tip anytime soon, but there was something nice about having those games in late afternoon. Call me nostalgic. Plus they never had conflict with True Detective. Or the Real Housewives.
The capper to the weekend is a nice way to put a bow on three days of entertainment. All-Star games take on a flow all their own. You usually have a loosey-goosey start with many, many, many lobs. It will get sloppy, then it will tighten up and hopefully we'll see a close contest in the last quarter. The closest thing I can honestly say for a Bobcats tie-in is the fact the Al Jefferson has made a late push to be a legit All-Star snub. At the time of the voting, Jefferson was just beginning to go on his big time run and was not realistically seen as an All-Star reserve candidate. Had the voting been done last week perhaps, but at the time there just wasn't enough noise around Al...even if he was playing well. He and Kemba Walker got a little buzz in Bobcat circles, but Walker got hurt at the wrong time, and he probably wasn't going to get bumped ahead of John Wall.
So it will be next year before the Bobcats can look to have an All-Star participant. But that doesn't mean you can't enjoy the weekend. Have fun watching your favorite players loosen up a little, wear AWESOME clothes on the sidelines, probably a bunch of Google Glass and mix in some basketball as well.