The 2020 NBA All-Star Weekend came and went, with the NBA keeeping its promise to make changes to the format – and they paid off.
Maybe it was the pageantry, the moment or the rash of new stars that made 2020’s NBA All-Star Weekend — held Feb. 14 to 16 — entry into history feel so special, but the events this year all had an air of intrigue absent from years prior.
The NBA Rising Stars Challenge featured numerous young talents across the league, including 2020 All-Stars Luka Doncic and Trae Young. The Luka Doncic experience continued with a fadeaway three over, through and around his Hawks rival. Former Duke standout and generational talent Zion Williamson cracked the backboard after a slam dunk. You could tell there was something special brewing in Chicago.
The best day of the NBA All-Star Weekend is not the first — of course. It’s not even the last, where the All-Star game really feels like the falling action of the weekend. On Saturday, the premier events take place and bring fans of the NBA the skills challenge, the three-point contest and the slam-dunk contest.
“Even more than the NBA All- Star game, the NBA Slam Dunk Contest is the premier event of the weekend. “
Once again, the frontcourt players proved dominant in the skills challenge as Domantas Sabonis and Bam Adebayo faced off in a battle of center skill. Both All-Stars proved that they can pass, dribble and shoot just as well as the backcourt players of the league, with Adebayo eventually edging Sabonis out.
The NBA three-point contest seems an increasingly important part of All-Star Weekend, as the three-point shot becomes the dominant force in the game of basketball. The three finalists for this event were Buddy Hield, Davis Bertans, and former three-point contest winner and first-time All-Star Devin Booker – but there’s more than meets the eye about this event for fans.
As the league moves away from post-ups and elite centers wielding unstoppable footwork, the door opens for centers and forwards that shoot the ball more aggressively. Bertans, a power forward standing at 6’10, shot incredibly well to make it into the finals of the contest. His success highlights the movement away from post physicality and dominance.
Although Bertans lost the contest, both Hield and Booker put on a show stopping display of shooting prowess. Hield’s final shot gave Booker the boot, and Buddy became the 2020 NBA three point contest winner.
Even more than the NBA All-Star game, the NBA Slam Dunk Contest is the premier event of the weekend. Dunks are a part of the basketball lexicon; unforgettable moments that tell us more than any other. For many they are the best part of the game. The Dunk Contest has the power to dazzle, but also the power to disappoint. Contests of the past have definitely done the latter, with the occasional exception.
“The NBA dominated the sports media landscape for a night, but lost one of its athletic titans in the process.”
This year was one of those exceptions. Aaron Gordon, potentially one of the greatest dunkers of all time, faced off against Pat Connaughton, Dwight Howard and Derrick Jones Jr.
Aaron Gordon and Derrick Jones Jr. advanced to the final round. Gordon scored two fifties in the first round; Jones Jr. scored a forty-six and a fifty. Gordon continued his excellence, bringing his total to four straight fifty dunks, but Jones Jr. matched him in the final round. It would have to be a dunk off.
The two had been dunking over attendees all night, Gordon jumping over Chance the Rapper and Jones Jr. jumping over Miami Heat teammate Bam Adebayo. There was one mountain yet to be climbed, and Gordon intended to do so on national television.
Gordon brought out Boston Celtics center Tacko Fall for his final attempt. Fall is 7’5; the tallest player in the entire league. With a running start, the Orlando Magic forward jumped over Fall and stuffed it down the rim. The crowd went wild.
Did he hit Fall’s hands and head? Yeah, maybe a little. Fall was definitely scared – the stunt wasn’t planned, and he had no idea what to expect. The judges intended on awarding a tie to the two, where they could hash it out and pick the winner via arbitration, but this story doesn’t have a happy – or fair ending.
Gordon scored a forty-seven to the shock of everyone there. This cemented a loss, bringing back memories of another failure several years prior. He proclaimed afterwards that he would never participate again, a loss for all fans of basketball.
Was it worth all the hoopla? The NBA dominated the sports media landscape for a night, but lost one of its athletic titans in the process. The drama of All-Star Weekend sometimes supersedes the reality, but while fans look forward to a duller contest next year, they will always be thankful to have the 2020 events to remember.