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SI:AM | Everything You Need to Know For NBA All-Star Weekend

And, checking in with Dick Vitale.

Good morning, I’m Josh Rosenblat, filling in for Dan like an NBA All-Star injury replacement. (Don’t worry, Dan’s not injured, just on vacation. This newsletter, with him writing it, will be back Tuesday, Feb. 22. Enjoy the weekend!)

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Everything you need to know about NBA All-Star weekend

The NBA’s All-Star break always seems to come at a funny time. Some teams have limped into a much-need chance to reset (looking at you, Brooklyn), while others carry in hot streaks that they likely don’t want to interrupt (contenders Phoenix and Chicago are riding seven- and five-game win streaks, respectively).

But the attention will shift to a weekend full of festivities in Cleveland that won’t include only today’s biggest stars, but NBA legends as well.

Tonight’s schedule:

  • Curious about whether Cleveland’s mayor can ball? Watch the celebrity game. NFL All-Pro Myles Garrett, rapper Jack Harlow and Cleveland Mayor Justin Bibb are on one squad, going up against a group led by celebrity game vet Quavo, Las Vegas Aces forward Dearica Hamby and Olympic skateboarder Nyjah Huston. (7 p.m. ET, Friday, ESPN)
  • There’s a new format for the Rising Stars event. Instead of one noncompetitive game, we’ll get three! In all seriousness, I’m interested to see how the four-team mini tournament will go, with 12 rookies, 12 sophomores and four players from the NBA G League Ignite team making up the rosters. (9 p.m. ET, TNT)

Saturday:

  • All-Star practices will be on television, if you’re into that sort of thing. (11 a.m. ET, NBA TV)
  • This is a cool new initiative: the NBA HBCU Classic. It’ll feature Morgan State against Howard inside Cleveland State’s Wolstein Center. (2 p.m. ET, TNT and ESPN2)
  • There’s a new format for the Skills Challenge this year. Three teams, made up of the Antetokounmpo bros, the Cavs’ trio of Jarrett Allen, Darius Garland and Evan Mobley and three playmaking rookies (Scottie Barnes, Cade Cunningham and Josh Giddey) will compete in a four-round competition. (Coverage of the skills, three-point and dunk contests begin at 8 p.m. ET on TNT.)
  • For the third year in a row, Zach LaVine will aim to become the first winner of the NBA’s dunk and three-point contests. He’ll go up against a field of seven other shooters, including big man Karl-Anthony Towns and all-star guards Fred VanVleet and Trae Young.
  • To round out the night, Cole Anthony, Juan Tosano-Anderson, Jalen Green and Obi Toppin will go at it in the dunk contest. Toppin is back from last year’s runner-up performance.

Sunday:

LeBron James laughs as Kevin Durant picks Rudy Gobert over James Harden for the 2022 All-Star Game.

The NBA will also have a ceremony to honor the league’s 75th Anniversary Team at halftime of the All-Star Game. Released before the season, the list led to some heated debates about snubs and some hilarious moments (like Klay Thompson getting a No. 77 jersey after being left off the 76-player list).

Get ready for a sprint to the finish. The final 20-plus regular season games coming out the All-Star break should be intense, with storylines galore. In the East, the Bulls and Heat resisted changes at the trade deadline and will look to hold off the Bucks, Sixers and Nets, all of whom made changes in February. The West is all about the Suns at the top. But can the Lakers turn it around? Will Nikola Jokić hold off Joel Embiid and others to win a second MVP in a row?

The best of Sports Illustrated

dCOVvitale_V

Dick Vitale can’t talk for four weeks—doctor’s orders after vocal cord surgery. So, instead of speaking, he’s been texting … a lot. Over exchanges with my colleague Jon Wertheim, Vitale opens up about his cancer diagnoses and that he’s been able to watch more basketball this season than ever but just not from his favorite place: courtside.

I had to give my voice a T.O., Baby… [T]hat meant I had no shot of working during March Madness. Needless to say that tore out my heart, but I must care more about my health than jump shots.

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Reggie Jackson snatched four ankles with one move but couldn’t finish it off with the jumper. … The Knicks have broken Stephen A. Smith. … If you need a fix while MLB is locked out, there’s a major college softball tournament this weekend and college baseball gets started with some big matchups. … The USWNT was held to a draw last night.

The top 5…

… NBA dunk contest dunks: 

5. Jason Richardson’s through-the-legs dunk along the baseline in 2003.

4. Zach LaVine’s behind-the-basket, through-the-legs, reverse slam in 2016.

3. Aaron Gordon’s baseline, one-handed windmill in 2016.

2. Michael Jordan’s leap from the free-throw line in 1988.

1. Vince Carter’s “It’s over!” dunk in 2000.

SIQ

With the NBA’s three-point and dunk contests tomorrow night, let’s look back at the history of the three-point contest. Since the contest began in 1986, seven players have won it multiple times. Larry Bird won the first three editions and is one of two three-time winners. Who is the other one?

  • Craig Hodges
  • Stephen Curry
  • Jeff Hornacek
  • Steve Kerr

Check Tuesday’s newsletter for the answer. 

Yesterday’s SIQ: Obviously, the Bulls retired Michael Jordan’s No. 23 jersey after his iconic career, but so did another NBA team. Which one was it?

Answer: The Heat. When Jordan made his final trip to Miami as a player on April 11, 2003, Pat Riley announced that Miami was retiring his No. 23.

When I first read that yesterday, I thought, “How did I never realize that’s why LeBron didn’t wear No. 23 in Miami?” But that’s not the case. James had actually decided to give up No. 23 long before he left the Cavs. On Nov. 13, 2009, James told Brian Windhorst (then a writer for the Cleveland Plain Dealer) that he was going to change his jersey number and encouraged other NBA players to drop Jordan’s number as well.

James made those comments after a game in Miami where Jordan was watching courtside.

“I just think what Michael Jordan has done for the game has to be recognized some way soon,” James said. “There would be no LeBron James, no Kobe Bryant, no Dwyane Wade if there wasn’t Michael Jordan first.

“He can’t get the logo, and if he can't, something has to be done. I feel like no NBA player should wear 23. I’m starting a petition, and I’ve got to get everyone in the NBA to sign it. Now, if I'm not going to wear No. 23, then nobody else should be able to wear it.”

From the Vault: Feb. 18, 2012

lebron-james-cover

It was a lofty tagline, but in many ways James has lived up to the billing he got on the Feb. 18, 2002 cover of Sports Illustrated. Accompanying Grant Wahl’s story was an image of James, then just a junior in high school, along with the tagline: “The Chosen One.”

That portrait was the first cover shot by Michael J. Le Brecht II, who was 25 at the time. He first met James and his mother Gloria while at the elite ABCD basketball camp in the early 2000s. He was there to assist photographer Manny Millan but ended up taking portraits of the campers before Millan arrived, one of whom was James.

Six months later, an editor asked Le Brecht to go to Akron and shoot James.

“I just knew as he continued to live up and beyond that title, ‘The Chosen One,’ it was evident that, damn, my first cover was going to be my most famous cover,” Le Brecht said. “I got almost 40 covers after that, including The Rock, for crying out loud. I’m always going to be remembered for the LeBron James ‘Chosen One’ cover.”

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Check out more of SI's archives and historic images at vault.si.com.