Sentimental Moments and Breaking News Overshadow Lackluster NBA All-Star Weekend

Craig Sager Tribute and Blockbuster Trade Steal the Show

Marcus Montoya, News Editor; Sports and Health Reporter

NBA All-Star weekend is usually a fan favorite — the Dunk Contest, 3-Point shootout and Skills Challenge reign supreme for the mid-season festivities. This year, a tribute to TNT’s Craig Sager and the drama surrounding Demarcus Cousins commanded the spotlight.

Skills Challenge

There is no other competition that has such diversity among its participants than the Skills Challenge — a running back doesn’t have throwing competitions with the quarterbacks, do they?  The skills challenge is an obstacle course that is particularly intriguing for that very reason: seven footers will compete with the mighty mites of the league.

In hopes of showcasing a variety of basketball fundamentals, the Skills Challenge requires pinpoint passing, dribbling and shooting to be the victor.  Kristaps Porzingis, the eventual winner, is a seven-foot power forward who beat small forward Gordon Hayward. The second-year sensation out of Europe drained a three-pointer down the stretch to secure the win.

The best moment interrupted the flow of the events, coming when the NBA showed a tribute to former analyst Craig Sager. The beloved sideline reporter, often remembered for his outrageous suits, passed away in 2016 at the merciless hands of cancer.

The NBA put on a fundraising event, where friend and former NBA great Reggie Miller lead the charge.  He and a cast of celebrities and NBA stars, including DJ Khaled, actor Michael B. Jordan and former WNBA player Candace Parker , hoisted as many shots as possible from the three point line for a minute.  For every one of the shots that was made, $10,000 was donated to the Sager Strong Foundation. They made 13.

Ernie Johnson called Steph Curry out of the front row to give him a chance at nailing a half-court shot to raise the donation from $130,000 to an even $500,000. After a flurry of misses, Johnson asked Shaquille O’Neal to escort Sager’s son, Ryan Sager, down to the court. The next moment was tear-worthy.

O’Neal lifted Sager’s son up to the basket to dunk the ball, and that dunk was worth more than $370,000; it was priceless. With his father’s clips playing on the jumbotron before, the moment melted the crowd. The trembling in Johnson’s voice was obvious, as he carried on the presentation of the check to the Sager Strong Foundation for $500,000.

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3 Point Shootout

Klay Thompson seemed all but guaranteed to repeat, as he is easily the league’s silkiest shooter. After a score of 18, Thompson looked on dumbfounded, watching from the sidelines as a new champion was crowned. After the first round, Kyrie Irving, Eric Gordon, and Kemba Walker were left to shoot it out for the title of the NBA’s best sharpshooter. For the first time in history, Irving and Gordon went into overtime after both shot a 20. In fitting fashion, Gordon returned to the arena he played for five years with the New Orleans Pelicans and shot the lights out to beat Irving.

Dunk Contest

Aaron Gordon and Zach Lavine put on a legendary show last year, setting the bar high for some of the fresher faces in this year’s showdown. To everyone’s dismay, 2017 did not pack the same punch. Gordon seemed hurt, as he failed to get the same bounce and never got the crowd going as he did last year. Big man Deandre Jordan converted on his attempts, but even his best fell short of the worst dunks from years past.  Newcomers Derrick Jones Jr. and Glenn Robinson III brought the best dunks of the night, but both paled in comparison to the theatrics last year offered.

All Star Game

This is usually the worst event of the weekend, as defense is non-existent and the goal seems to be breaking the scoreboard. Hometown hero Anthony “The Brow” Davis ran away with the MVP trophy, breaking a 55-year-old record of points scored in the All Star game. Teammates told Davis to shoot the rock every time he touched it, paving the way for the 52-point performance. Another highlight came when former teammates Russell Westbrook and Kevin Durant connected on a beautiful alley-oop, prompting a sideline celebration from the Western conference All Stars.

But monster news rocked the sports world within an hour after the buzzer, as the Kings’ DeMarcus Cousins found out he was traded during a post-game interview. Arguably the NBA’s best center, he joins the Pelicans and franchise player Anthony Davis in what is forecasted to be the best front-court duo for years to come.

In a lackluster year for the All-Star weekend, highlights were scarce at best. This vacation for players usually leaves fans satisfied, but this year’s real winners were the hometown citizens of New Orleans. With a blockbuster trade, this year has their fans excited for what the second half has in store, as Boogie and The Brow join forces in the Big Easy.