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NBA All-Star Saturday Night Grades: Derrick Jones Jr. and Aaron Gordon Have Dunk Contest For the Ages

Which players shined on NBA All-Star Saturday night? The Crossover grades the festivities.

NBA All-Star Saturday night featured a down-to-the-wire three-point shootout, a classic dunk contest and for some reason, a Damian Lillard musical performance? If you’re anything like me, you experienced a wide range of emotions during all these events. In an effort to make sense of all the happenings, let’s hand out some grades for the Saturday night shenanigans.

Big Men With Skills: A

Loved the skills competition this year. The all big man finale with Bam Adebayo and Domantas Sabonis was actually pretty thrilling, with Bam taking the win by sneaking in a three-pointer before his opponent. It was a great idea when the NBA included bigs in this contest, and now we’re seeing the fruits of a positionless style of basketball reach All-Star Saturday Night. Hopefully some young kid who will grow up to be 6’9” someday watched Bam and immediately started working on passing through hoops and dribbling around cones.

Three-Point Contest: B+

You can’t really ask for much more than what the three-point shootout delivered. Two great shooters in the final round, and the contest literally came down to the last shot. But it still lacks a certain pomp and circumstance. I would like to see the NBA expand the field to include some more big men. (Maybe take a page from the book of Skills Challenge Past and create a big-man bracket?) I also want to see a little more personalization in this event. Players should have more fun with it! Wear different jerseys! Pick a song to shoot to! There’s potential for even more here, but 2020’s event certainly delivered.

Quinn Harris-USA TODAY Sports

Quinn Harris-USA TODAY Sports

Soda-sponsored three-point shot: A+

A new twist for the three-point contest this year was a 30-foot shot worth three points. I loved everything about it. I love how it recognizes how much further players are willing to pull up in today’s game. And I especially love how it gave us a different colored basketball, even if this one was kind of an unpleasant, neon-green situation. If you didn’t love the red, white and blue money ball as a kid, then we can’t be friends. I am vehemently in favor of seeing NBA players use strangely patterned basketballs on All-Star Weekend. Keep adding long-distance shots and keep coming up with new basketballs for players to use

Dwyane Wade: Still an All-Star

D-Wade killed it in his first All-Star Saturday as a retiree. The suit was on point. He was fun to listen to as an analyst. And he was willing to have some controversial takes as a dunk contest judge. In all seriousness, more former players on TV could afford to be like Wade, who seems generally excited at the capabilities of the current generation of players. (Richard Jefferson is another guy who excels at this.) I still wish D-Wade was participating in All-Star festivities, but he added value to the telecast Saturday.

Dame Dolla: A for Effort

Hm. I’m not sure if the NBA’s hit in revenue from the China fallout means they’re trying to cut costs. Because the league probably should’ve sprung for, I don’t know, an actual artist to perform on All-Star Saturday night? Did Queen Latifah have to leave after her Kobe Bryant tribute? I saw Ludacris was sitting halfcourt, was he not available to perform “Moneymaker?” I know Dame brought out a couple guests, including Lil Wayne, and Lillard wasn’t bad. But come on. There are plenty of people from Chicago who could have performed, including the guy who introduced Lillard, Common! The performance was a little awkward, Lillard didn’t seem fully comfortable performing (nor should he have! He’s not a professional rapper!), and he subsequently got roasted on Twitter. In fact, the NBA should really hire someone like me to let them know if an idea of theirs will get somebody clowned on social media. I could save people a lot of grief.

Celebrity Reactions: F

Where were the famous people Saturday night? I know we’ll never return to the glory days of NBA players filming dunks with hand-held video cameras, but we were seriously lacking in meme-able reactions this year. If there’s anything the dunk contest can still contribute to internet discourse, it’s Travis Scott bugging out because Derrick Jones Jr. did a dunk while dressed like Amelia Earhart, or something like that. Chance the Rapper couldn’t exactly carry the weight of thirsty tweeters on his shoulders. I need more memes! (I know we got a good reaction face from Wade after Derrick Jones Jr.’s second dunk in the final round, but that’s not the same. I still got my tweet off, though.)

Dunk Contest: A++++

Wow. That was simply a dunk contest for the ages. I’m with Kenny Smith and Wade—it should have been a tie. Both Derrick Jones Jr. and Aaron Gordon deserved a win. I can’t believe Gordon was robbed AGAIN (though I’m not here for the TikTok girls) ... but I also thought Jones’s windmill dunk in the final round was underrated. I don’t know. What matters more than anything is that the dunk contest actually gave NBA fans something to argue about. There’s no way you could watch DJJ and Gordon go back and forth and not have an opinion. Too often, the contest is met with indifference. There may be a dunk or two that you remember for a couple days, but then all the excitement dies out. The 2020 dunk contest not only provided some classic slams, it produced the kind of result that will be debated by dunk enthusiasts for a long time. Gordon probably never wants to dunk again, but I say next year just let him and DJJ go head-to-head and settle what they started Saturday night.