2022 NBA All Star Weekend Review

Tremendous performance from Steph Curry overshadows weekend of underwhelming activities and events


Photo courtesy of npr.org (AP)

Golden State Warriors’ Stephen Curry

Aaron Rigby, Sports Writer

Every year, All Star Break is an amazing weekend for both NBA fans and players. Teams get to rest their players and get them ready for the final two months before playoff basketball, while NBA fans get to enjoy a pickup-style basketball game with teams made up of the best of the best players in the league.

LeBron James of the Los Angeles Lakers was selected as captain of the Western Conference via fan vote, and Kevin Durant of the Brooklyn Nets was voted in as captain of the Eastern Conference. Though all star weekend is always exciting, this year received terrible feedback from the fans.  

Starting the night of February 18, the weekend was tipped off with the Celebrity All Star game, where celebrities from all across the globe came together to participate in a completely skill-less basketball game. The NBA honored two 75th anniversary players, Bill Walton and Dominique Wilkins, by giving them each a team to coach on the night.  Team Walton was led by Cleveland Native and rapper Machine Gun Kelly, and Atlanta rapper Quavo, who won all star game MVP in 2018. Team Wilkins was led by rapper Jack Harlow and Cleveland Browns defensive end Myles Garrett.  

Though this game was filled with big names with tens and millions of fans, it was, quite frankly, pretty boring. The last memorable/good celebrity game I can remember was in 2015 when Kevin Hart played and won MVP.  Team Walton went on to defeat Team Wilkins 65-51. Alex Toussaint, the popular Peleton instructor, won MVP, leading scorers on his team with 18 points.  

Later came the Rising Stars competition. This year, the league decided to try out a new format for the competition. In previous years, two teams made up of players in their first and second years in the league would face off in a regular basketball game. This year, the league decided to make it more of a tournament, including four teams, all coached by more 75th anniversary former players.

In game one, Team James Worthy, led by Houston Rockets Jalen Green who had 20 points, lost to team Isaiah Thomas, led by Detroit Pistons forward Saddiq Bey with 16 points. In game two, team Rick Barry, lead by Detroit Pistons guard Cade Cunningham and Cleveland Cavaliers forward Evan Mobley who scored 13 each, defeated team Gary Payton, lead by Minnesota Timberwolves forward Jaden Mcdaniels who had 12 points. In the championship game, team Barry faced off against team Thomas in a nail biter.  Team Barry came out on top thanks to a clutch three pointer from Cade Cunningham and a game winning free throw from Orlando Magic guard Franz Wagner. That was the final event of the evening, the next set of events would take place on Saturday night.  

The first event of Saturday night was the Taco Bell Skills Competition.  The league wanted to try out a new format with this competition as well. The new rules were so difficult to understand that I barely understood what was going on half the time. There were three teams in the competition, team Rooks, who included Cade Cunningham, Scottie Barnes and Josh Giddey, who are all in their rookie seasons.  Team Cavs, which included Darius Garland, Jarrett Allen and Evan Mobley, are all players of the Cleveland Cavaliers.  And finally team Antetokounmpo, which included the Antetokounmpo brothers (Alex, Thanasis and Giannis). 

The first round was a shooting competition, where all three players had 30 seconds each to shoot from five various spots on the court, all worth different amounts of points. Team Cavs easily won the shooting round, scoring a combined 47 points, compared to team Rooks 32, and team Antetokounmpos’ 22 points, giving team Cavs 100 points to their total score.  The next round was a passing round, where each team had 30 seconds to throw a ball into three different targets, each worth different points. The third round was a relay race, where each player on each team had to complete each “obstacle” in a short amount of time. Neither team Cavs or team Antetokounmpo was able to defeat the time, so team Rooks was awarded 100 points to their overall, giving them the lead over team Antetokounmpo and team Cavs 100. Before heading into the final round, one player from both team Cavs and Antetokounmpo had to participate in a game of knockout, due to their tied team score. 

The final round was a half court shot contest. Whichever team could knock down just one half court shot first was awarded the win. Though Cade Cunnungham of team Rooks was able to sink a half court shot in the first 9.9 seconds of the round, Evan Mobley of team Cavs drained his first shot in the first 4.4 seconds, winning the skills competition for his team.

The next event of the evening was the three point competition, featuring Bulls guard Zach Lavine, Hawks guard Trae Young, Minnesota Timberwolves center Karl-Anthony Towns, and many more.  Each participant had 1:10 to make as many shots from 5 different areas behind the three point line on the court.  Trae Young and Karl-Anthony Towns both advanced to the championship round after scoring 22 points each, alongside Los Angeles Clippers guard Luke Kennard who scored a round high 25 points.  

The final event of the night was the dunk contest, and let’s just say it didn’t go as well as planned.  Long story short, many, including myself, would say that this year’s contest was the worst the league has ever seen.  Orlando Magic guard Cole Anthony was the first participant to dunk, and it only took about four minutes to even attempt the dunk.  He tried to dunk while wearing Timbs, but he didn’t have the Timbs on when he got on the court, so he had to take a minute to put them on, and then he wanted his dad, former player Greg Anthony, to hold the ball for him to dunk, and took about three minutes to get him in the right position. Even after everything was sorted out, Anthony still needed about five attempts to finally get a dunk to go down, and that set the tone for the rest of the night.

After nearly 50 years of a dunk contest, people will inevitably begin to run out of ideas”

Then in the final round, Juan Toscano Anderson couldn’t even get a dunk to fall on his final go after running out of attempts, leading Obi Toppin to a Mickey Mouse victory. Interest in the dunk contest has never been lower and many believe that there should be changes made to the contest, or it should be scrapped totally. It’s not even fully the fault of the participants, it’s just that after nearly 50 years of a dunk contest, people will inevitably begin to run out of ideas. Hype for the All Star weekend at this point was at an all time low, and the only hope fans had left was the actual all star game on Sunday evening.  

Entering the all star game, team LeBron was by far and wide the favorite to win this game. On paper, team LeBron was more appealing, seemed to have more talent, and just overall a better constructed roster than team Durant, especially since team Durant didn’t actually have Kevin Durant who was out with an injury. Team LeBron featured Steph Curry, DeMar DeRozan, Giannis Antetokounmpo and Nikola Jokic. That starting lineup alone is seemingly unbeatable. Team Durant featured Joel Embiid, Ja Morant, Trae Young, Jayson Tatum and Andrew Wiggins.

By the end of the first quarter, team LeBron had 47 points to team Durants 45.  Embiid led team Durant with 11 of the 45 points, and LeBron had 9 of the 47. At this moment of the game, Curry had only two threes. Team Durant won the second quarter 49-46, leading in total points at the half 94-93.  Dejounte Murray led team Durant with 13 2nd quarter points, Embiid led in total points for team Durant at halftime with 17. As for team LeBron, Curry led the quarter with 18, all of those points were from threes, and he had 6 in the quarter, giving him eight total three pointers entering halftime, just one three short of tying the all time total three point record in an all star game. All of his first half points came off of threes, meaning he led all scores at half with 24 points.  

At halftime, the NBA wanted to honor some of the greatest players to ever grace an NBA court, so they officially announced and acknowledged the top 75 NBA players ever by calling them out to the court individually, and onto the stage. Even for players who couldn’t make it or players who have passed away, they put up a video or picture of them when they were announced.  

As expected, the halftime presentation was loaded with nuance and excitement. Many small moments sparked multiple different narratives and headlines. For example, LeBron James hugged Michael Jordan, and next day headlines such as “Is Jordan Passing the Torch to LeBron?” and “Is Jordan Acknowledging LeBron as the GOAT?” dominated news outlets. Or when Ray Allen walked right past Kevin Garnett and Paul Pierce (his former teammates) without acknowledging them, social media asked, “Is the Beef between Kevin Garnett and Ray Allen over?” and “Did Ray Allen and Kevin Garnett squash the Beef?” The controversy and media frenzy sparked by smaller moments at the tournament points to the NBA’s permanent position within the entertainment world.

The controversy and media frenzy sparked by smaller moments at the tournament points to the NBA’s permanent position within the entertainment world.”

The third quarter of the game following the presentation was the best quarter of an All Star game basketball I have ever watched. Though Curry only needed one three to break the all star game record of nine, he shattered it by making seven in the third, giving him 15 threes in the entire game. If this was any other game, Curry would have overtaken his Warriors teammate Klay Thompson for most threes in an NBA game.

Curry led team LeBron in scoring in the third quarter with 21 and 45 in the game. Embiid helped team Durant survive the storm, contributing 12 points to their 45 third quarter points.  By the end of the quarter, both teams scored 45 points, meaning team Durant had a one point lead heading into the fourth quarter, 139-138. 

Though almost everyone knew it was Steph’s night, it was LeBron and Giannis that came in clutch late in the game.  Curry was able to pull out a last-minute shot for a three late in the game, but it bounced off the front of the rim and Zach Lavine of team Durant rushed down the court to drain a three. It quickly became a one-point game.

As a Warriors fan, I knew in my head that as long as the West win the game, Curry would get the MVP, regardless of whether he ended the game or not. The basketball gods were in favor of team LeBron winning as the ball went to LeBron, who hit a game winner in Cleveland. History couldn’t have written a better ending.

Steph Curry, a Golden State Warrior, the leader of the Cleveland Cavaliers’ #1 rival had the greatest all star game performance in NBA history in the building in which he won two of his three championships. And LeBron James, the player who delivered Cleveland their first ever NBA championship, hits the game winner. There has to be some higher power connecting these two; not only were they the most impactful players of the game, but they were also both born in Cleveland —  in the same hospital.  

As many predicted, Curry went on to win the newly designed all star game VMP/Kobe Bryant Trophy.  And though all of the other activities of the weekend, that game is one that me along with many other NBA fans will remember for a long long time.