- Not in L.A. taking selfies in front of the Hollywood sign? No worries. The Crossover has you covered with our comprehensive guide to 2018 NBA All-Star Weekend.
NBA players from around the country are hopping off the plane at LAX this week as the league’s All-Star festivities hit Los Angeles. Don’t worry, if you aren’t scarfing down an animal-style burger and taking selfies in front of the Hollywood sign, you can still enjoy the party from the comfort of your own home.
Once you’re done playing Grand Theft Auto to get a sense of L.A.’s geography, simply come back here and check out The Crossover’s guide to NBA All-Star Weekend.
(All times Eastern)
Friday: We Need More Bam
All-Star action kicks into gear on Friday night with the Celebrity Game on ESPN at 7 p.m. This game is really a guilty pleasure, especially now that Kevin Hart isn’t hijacking the proceedings. Who could forget all the times Arne Duncan had us wondering if he could be the 12th man for a lottery team? I love the wrinkles this year, with Rachel Nichols and Katie Nolan coaching teams they drafted themselves. Arguably the biggest name on the court will be Justin Bieber, who will play for Nichols’s team. Bieber has trained with basketball guru Chris Brickley, and his last album absolutely still bangs. Others expected to play include the GOAT Candace Parker, Caleb McLaughlin from Stranger Things, Common, Jamie Foxx and Paul Pierce. Hopefully nobody told Pierce there will be other events that night.
After whetting your appetite with the celebrity game, the heat turns up with the Rising Stars game on TNT at 9 p.m. My guy Donovan Mitchell will be there for the U.S. team, as will high-flyer Dennis Smith Jr. and Celtics rookie Jayson Tatum. The World squad is led by Sixers stars Ben Simmons and Joel Embiid, who I really want to see take the court with Jamal Murray and Lauri Markkanen. The Rising Stars is a bit of a sleeper event at All-Star Weekend. The young guys take the game a little more seriously than the jaded All-Stars, and there’s still plenty of athleticism to go around for cool dunks and highlight moments. This game will be fun, but the NBA absolutely should have included Bam Adebayo. That’s right, this is now a Bam Adebayo rant! Bam, we see you brother. Adebayo has been balling for the Heat, and he deserved a chance to wreak havoc in this game.
Saturday: RIP Shooting Stars
All-Star Saturday Night is a time-honored tradition. The competition begins at 8 p.m. on TNT with the Taco Bell Skills Challenge. You may have noticed I included the sponsor there—that’s because I love Taco Bell. The trophy for the Skills Challenge winner should be an actual chalupa. I miss the Shooting Stars event (RIP the Team Bosh dynasty), but the Skills Challenge has a fun range of participants—big guys Embiid, Al Horford and Andre Drummond will battle the likes of Murray, Lou Williams and Buddy Hield.
The three-point contest follows, and let me tell ya, these shooters are sharp. Eric Gordon, Klay Thompson, Devin Booker and Wayne Ellington are just a few of the contestants in this field. I love the three-point contest, in part because of its simplicity. But I wonder if they’ll ever change anything up here. What if one year it was catch-and-shoot instead of racks? I don’t know, part of me would hate to see the shootout change in any way, but on the other hand an innovation could help keep this fresh. It’s just a thought. Maybe one year it should just be pop-a-shot.
And finally, ending the night will be the Dunk Contest. Victor Oladipo, Smith Jr., Mitchell and Larry Nance Jr. will square off for the title of best dunker. Aaron Gordon was supposed to return to this event, but unfortunately had to withdraw due to injury. (Mitchell, who called Gordon his favorite dunker, will be a worthy replacement.) The dunks have clearly gotten stale over the years, but the amount of youth in this event should help keep the competition lively. Keep an eye on Nance, by the way. Not only does he have the hops, he’s returning to L.A. (where he started his career before being traded this last week), and his father won the first NBA dunk contest against some guy named Julius Erving back in 1984. Nance will surely include his father during some elaborate setup, and one way or another it should be a memorable moment.
Sunday: Can We Get One Great All-Star Game?
Hold on to your butts. The All-Star Game takes places Sunday night at 8 p.m. on TNT. An injury-decimated Team LeBron will face Team Steph(en) after they basically had a 2K fantasy draft to select their teams. There will be storylines here. LeBron teaming up with Kevin Durant. LeBron teaming up with Paul George...in L.A. LeBron re-teaming up with Kyrie Irving.
In all seriousness, these games have turned into an absolute farce for much of this decade. It wasn’t always this way. I’m old enough to remember when an All-Star Game went into OT. It’s beyond time for players to start taking this game somewhat seriously. We’re not necessarily asking for sound defense, but a competitive game for a full second half would be a nice start. The draft aspect hopefully spices up the night a little bit, but the onus will fall on the players to try even a little bit.
So consider this a desperate plea. LeBron, Steph, give us one great All-Star game. With all the talent on the court, we want to see what everyone can do when they’re going even three-quarters speed. I know it’s unfair to expect players to go full-speed in an exhibition when they have so much riding on their bodies. I’m almost shocked the game still even exists. But this really is a showcase for the NBA. Hopefully everyone who tunes in Sunday night gets a chance to see why the rest of us love this league so much. (And if it doesn’t happen on the court, a petty Instagram or two would be nice as well.)