• Did the dunk contest, three-point shootout and other events on All-Star Saturday live up to the hype?
By Rohan Nadkarni
February 16, 2019

The NBA’s All-Star Saturday night is light-hearted though largely inconsequential affair. Those yearning for dunk contests of decades past are setting their sights a little too high. The most anyone should look for at this point is a flashpoint moment or two, some celebrity hijinks and a dose of unintentional comedy. With those criteria in mind, how did the 2019 Saturday night fare? Let’s run through each event.

Shooting Stars: MIA

Bring back the Shooting Stars and Team Bosh! I will not rest until the NBA and Adam Silver rectify this situation. You know what’s a fundamental part of basketball? Shooting. You know what Americans love? Stars. I don’t see the problem here. I’m only half-joking when I say I’ve considered starting a Change.org petition. That’s how much I—and all of us should—care about the Shooting Stars event. I promise I didn’t just include this section for a bigger word count. I really care about this.

Skills Competition: A

The skills competition has become one of the better events of Saturday night. Talented players typically perform, the head-to-head aspect adds a fun element, and it’s cool to see guards take on big men. This year had some fun competition. Nikola Jokic vs. Nikola Vucevic was a nice touch, with the Denver big man messing around and almost making the final after advancing against his fellow Nikola. His performance also resulted in the quote of the night:

The final between Jayson Tatum and Trae Young also produced some dramatics. Young looked like he was about to clinch the crown before Tatum came from behind with a halfcourt shot to clinch a victory. It was an exciting finish, and produced one of the best crowd reactions of the night. The NBA should seriously consider expanding the skills competition somehow. It’s a solid event that maybe has the potential to be a great one with some creative thinking. At the very least, it’s consistent, and there’s nothing wrong with enjoying some reliability. The skills competition is basically what I hope my marriage is like one day.

Three-Point Contest: B

This was the event with the most hype ... and it didn’t quite live up to it. The event started with a legends shootout to raise money for charity. And let’s just say there’s a reason why Dell Curry, Ray Allen, Glen Rice and Mark Price aren’t in the NBA anymore. (Allen bricking all his threes during the charity shoot-off was kind of depressing?)

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The loaded field for the actual event didn’t fully deliver. Everyone wanted the Seth Curry vs. Steph Curry final, but Seth couldn’t oblige as he was knocked out in the first round. Dirk Nowitzki was a very good sport for competing, but he also airballed a corner three that was rather savagely replayed on the jumbotron after his round.

The final was actually pretty fun. Joe Harris set a rather high score, which meant Steph had to go supernova to win. First, he flirted with a perfect run, but he ran out of steam a tiny bit toward the end, with Harris ultimately winning. I’m happy for Harris! He’s a good dude who’s improved his NBA game a lot. That doesn’t mean he gave us the best outcome for the three-point shootout Saturday. I also wish one of the Curry bros performed in their dad’s jersey. Maybe we’ll see them again at the end of their careers.

Celebrity Attendance: B+

You can’t compare Charlotte to L.A., so the turnout was actually pretty nice Saturday night. Quavo, J. Cole, Bill Russell, Chris Tucker and 2 Chainz were some of the luminaries in attendance. Huncho and Chainz even took part in an impromptu pop-a-shot contest with Shaq and Kenny Smith. I’m all for celebrity involvement in my All-Star festivities. Like, let Denzel Washington referee the actual game if he wants to. Anything to keep me on my toes.

Dunk Contest: A-

Look, was this a classic dunk contest? No. There wasn’t a great head-to-head competition. The celebrity helpers looked more nervous than excited. And there were too many missed dunks. But Hamidou Diallo’s elbow-in-the-rim dunk over Shaquille O’Neal was a certified moment, the kind of dunk people will actually remember, and perhaps the best one since Aaron Gordon’s under-the-legs, over-the-mascot jam in 2016. Just see for yourself:

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There were other somewhat exciting moments. Dennis Smith Jr.’s dunk over J. Cole was cool, as was Cole’s follow-up attempt at his own slam. (It was a miss, but he got up there!) Poor John Collins looked devastated when his dunk over an airplane—marred by Collins knocking off a piece of the plane mid-flight—didn’t earn him a perfect score. There was also some controversy, like Smith getting a perfect score on his final dunk of the night, a relatively routine slam over Dwyane Wade. (It felt like the fix was in to add some tension to Diallo’s final dunk, a windmill off a handoff from Quavo.)

Ultimately, I think when most of the great dunks have already been dunked, and stars don’t really want to be involved anymore, this is the best the dunk contest can offer: At least one slam that genuinely gets people excited, and one that immediately starts getting put into a greater historical context. Diallo’s elbow dip alone made Saturday night’s contest a success. The whole affair may never be considered a classic, but those days are much much fewer and much farther in between. I personally believe as long as we get one dunk to write home about, we should be happy. Diallo provided that, and expecting more from an event that the players themselves have rendered an afterthought would be a little unfair.

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