The NBA made ESPN sports personality and meme-famous Stephen A. Smith a head coach for this year’s Celebrity All-Star Game and boy, he did not disappoint. Receiving the first technical foul in the history of the Celebrity All-Star Game, Stephen A. got to live out his coaching dreams on the sidelines.
Next year, I want more Stephen A.; I want a camera feed dedicated solely to covering his every reaction and blow-up. Put Stephen A. on all my screens!
Youngsters Shine Bright Like a Diamond
Our young stars were on full display on Friday night, throwing down dunks, launching shots from beyond half-court and nutmegging opponents.
Also, sidenote: New Orleans Pelicans rookie Nicolo Melli was selected to replace the injured Deandre Ayton in the Rising Stars Game — here’s the kicker: Melli’s 29 years old.
Miles Bridges took home MVP after Team USA’s win, but Ja Morant’s under-the-leg pass for the Zion Williamson slam might have been the highlight of the night. The future feels bright with these kids.
Bam! Can’t Stop This Man
Miami Heat big man Bam Adebayo has been on a roll this season, making a case for Most Improved Player with an average of 15.8 points, 10.4 rebounds and 4.9 assists per game.
In the Taco Bell Skills Challenge on Saturday night, Adebayo once again shook expectation in a competition many assume to be favorable for guards. He didn’t miss a single pass, he cruised up and down the court and sank those three-pointers when it mattered the most. Moral of the story: I love Bam.
Aaron Gordon — and most of the internet — felt he was robbed for the second time in the NBA Dunk Contest. Look, attempting to jump over the 7-foot-5 Celtics center Tacko Fall is no small feat, after all, Fall is currently the tallest player in the NBA. But the truth is, Gordon did clip Fall’s head — if you’re going to make life difficult for yourself by jumping over a giant, then you better jump over the giant. Aside from the tough loss, let’s give Gordon major props for his performance Saturday night — he always puts on a show and he made this year one to remember.
However, Derrick Jones Jr. deserved this win. The announcers dubbed his first dunk a reverse tornado through the legs! Say that three times fast. In one dunk, he jumped over a guy, caught the ball off the backboard, passed the ball between his legs mid-air and windmilled it with authority. I’m sorry Aaron, but the birthday boy pulled out all the stops to win the Dunk Contest.
Catch me watching this year’s highlights on loop for the rest of time.
New Rules, More Fun
For some, the NBA All-Star Game usually loses its charm after a few minutes of play, with barely anyone playing defense, teams running up the score and virtually nothing to play for. This year, everything changed as the league announced some modifications to the game’s format.
The clock was reset after each quarter and the winning team received an extra $100,000 for a charity it chose in advance. The total score of the game at the end of three quarters was added up and instead of having a traditional 12-minute game clock, the fourth quarter was played until one team scored 24 more points than the other as a tribute to the late Kobe Bryant.
The result was an energetic game that felt more like a down-to-the-wire playoff game than a soon-to-be-forgotten night during All-Star Weekend with each of the players eager to win money for their charity.
But fear not, it still had all the fun elements of an All-Star Game; we got to witness 34-year-old Chris Paul dunk, Kyle Lowry drew not one but two charges in the fourth quarter of the All-Star Game and having LeBron James and Kawhi Leonard on the same team was like watching the real-life version of the Monstars.
The end came down to a pair of nerve-wracking free throws and Chicago native Anthony Davis aptly won the game for Team LeBron 157-155. Players and fans alike seemed to enjoy the changes to this year’s competition and it was the closest All-Star Game since the Eastern Conference topped the Western Conference 141-139 in 2010. Good game, I say. Let’s do it again next year.
The Sports Girl is a weekly column that features a girl’s take on sports. Yes, a girl. Yes, on sports.
A version of this article appears in the Tuesday, Feb. 18, 2020, print edition. Email Bela Kirpalani at [email protected]