Inside Chicago’s NBA All-Star Weekend

Michael Harms, Courier Staff

NBA All-Star weekend will go down in history as one of the best All-Star weekends this century. I was lucky enough to be a part of the celebration early in the weekend to witness the Celebrity All-Star game and the NBA Legends Special Needs Unified Basketball Game. But it was the newly formatted all-star game that brought rejuvenated energy to the entire weekend.

The All-Star Weekend started on Thursday with the rising- stars media day. All players from both the World team and the USA team had chances to talk with the media about their thoughts on the weekend and any other crazy questions they were asked. Most media surrounded big name stars like Zion Williamson and Luka Doncic, but it was the unnamed heroes that got my attention.

Tyler Herro talked about his fit in Miami, “I never really thought that I would get to play with Jimmy Butler or Jae Crowder. People that I got to watch growing up in Milwaukee,” Herro said. “I think our whole roster brings something different. The edge that Jimmy, Bam [Adebayo], me all brings that edge and that’s a reason we have been successful.”

Miles Bridges was excited to be playing in his second All-Star Weekend. “It will be great playing with them. We have good chemistry. Last year I was with Kemba Walker and now I am spending a lot of time with Devontae Graham and PJ Washington,” Bridges said. “I told them I am not passing to them. I pass to them every day. It’s been fun, but yeah, I’m not passing it.”

Hawks star Trae Young enjoyed being selected for his first starting lineup on All-Star Weekend. He also talked about new NBA rules that have been discussed “I do not know if the NBA will add a four-point line, that’s a good question.” He continued, “I would really like it if they added it. It may happen it may not.”

The rising stars played Friday night with Team USA, winning 151-131. After trailing at half-time 81-71, Team USA star Bridges tweeted out a photo of a person playing video games deciding to sit on the edge of their chair in competition. Essentially, Team USA decided to try and win and play competitively and outscored their opponents by 30 points in the second half. During the same time, the Celebrity All- Star Game was underway just two turns away at the Wintrust Arena.

Stephen A. Smith and Michael Wilbon were the two coaches for the teams. One team was captained by Chicago native Chance the Rapper and the other captain was Common, also from the windy city. The game is more for the stars. A-listers lined the court side seats with former and current NBA players. Even NBA commissioner Adam Silver made a short appearance. Team Wilbon ended up winning 62-47, but not before Smith earned the first technical foul in Celebrity All-Star Game history.

The weekend then started to turn its attention to the main events. Saturday events included the Dunk Contest, Three Point Contest and Skills Challenge. The Skills Challenge was first with bigs and guards going in competition. Reigning champion Jason Tatum went up against Bam Adebayo in the finale and missed two threes at the end to let the big guy bring home his first piece of hardware. During an event where NBA stars flexed on the world with their clothing, jewelry, shoes and more, Bam decided to go on a different route. He walked around the city in sweatshirts and sweatpants with his mother on his arm. He said he would give the trophy he earned to her for everything she has done for him.

The Three Point Contest was a heated battle. Newly selected all-star Devin Booker, replacing Damian Lillard, looked in control nearing the finale, but along came Kings guard Buddy Heild. The young star dominated his money rack and hit both shots from the Mountain Dew zone that allowed him to win 27-26. However, it was the dunk contest that stirred up controversy.

Aaron Gordon entered the event in his second dunk contest but still looking for his first trophy. His most impressive dunk came when he launched himself over 7-foot-6 rookie Taco Fall. Once again, he jumped over one of the tallest guys in the NBA. The judges attempted to give him a score that would send the event into an overtime period where each Gordon and Derrick Jones Jr. However, the judges screwed up that process and Jones Jr. won the event for his just in front of the free-throw line windmill dunk attempting to showcase his inner Jordan. Maybe there was some hometown bias in the mix, but I believe that Gordon has deserved at least one if not two dunk contest trophies.

Finally, the NBA All-Star Game on Sunday had a new format that inspired some dramatic action. In memory of Kobe Bryant the final quarter was untimed, and the winning team had to get to a target score that was 24 points added to the highest score at the end of the third quarter. All-star Kyle Lowry took two charges in the game which may just be the first player ever to take a charge in an All-Star Game. Both teams livened up the energy in the final period, really trying to win the game for their team. Team Lebron won the game 157-155 and won $300,000 in what will go down as one of the most entertaining All-Star games of this century. The MVP for the game was none other than Kawhi Leonard who scored 30 points while making eight three pointers in the game.

Overall, the weekend was a huge success. The entire world got a look at their favorite players while the city of Chicago did it’s best to entertain the whole league and raise money for several charities while doing so. President Obama even made an appearance at his home city and sparked a huge surprise from the young NBA stars. But the whole weekend had one cloud above it when they looked at the world remembered what was lost, Kobe Bryant.

The tributes were everywhere. Before the celebrity game, Common rapped an old school style in remembrance of the great one. Magic Johnson spoke in remembrance of the Laker great and Adam Silver even renamed the All-Star NBA trophy the Kobe Bryant award. The entire league remembered Bryant this weekend during such an amazing event. Chicago should be proud of what they did for the NBA this weekend as it was a spectacle that I will remember for the rest of my life.