NBA All-Star Weekend 2020 & the Impact of Kobe Bryant

Feb 15, 2020; Chicago, Illinois, USA; The logo on the floor is illuminated during the skills competition during NBA All Star Saturday Night at United Center. Mandatory Credit: Dennis Wierzbicki-USA TODAY Sports

CHICAGO – The “Windy City” known as Chicago was the home of NBA All-Star Weekend 2020 and will go down as one of the most memorable All-Star Weekends in league history. 

Why? Because of the late great, Kobe Bryant who was not only one of the greatest basketball players of all time, but one of the greatest humans of all time.

Kobe Bryant was and continues to be held in a different regard. He was a superhero to many people including his fellow NBA peers. 

NBA All-Star 2020 showed itself to be a celebration of Kobe Bryant as he was honored all throughout the weekend. While Kobe Bryant is no longer here with us, he will never be forgotten and will live on through the NBA community. 

Kobe loved helping and impacting others, and it once again was on display on All-Star Sunday Night. There was an uncharacteristic intensity during the game that’s not typically seen in an All-Star Game. 

Jennifer Hudson sings in a tribute to Kobe Bryant before the NBA All-Star Game 2020 at the United Center in Chicago, Il

Prior to the All-Star game, Lebron opted for his team to wear number 2 for Gianna “Gigi” Bryant. The reason behind choosing number 2, is because of Lebron’s own daughter Zhuri. Team Giannis wore number 24, of course to honor Kobe Bryant.

The game itself saw a format change, that was its way to honor Kobe. The score was reset to 0-0 after the first, second and third quarters. The winners of the first, second and third quarters would then receive $100,000 per quarter to donate to a Chicago based charity of the captain’s choice. The fourth quarter was an untimed quarter and whichever team held the lead, 24 points would be added to give a target score and the first team to reach that score would win the game.

Another way the NBA honored Kobe Bryant was changing the title of the All-Star MVP to the Kobe Bryant MVP award.

NBA 2020 Rising Stars Challenge

Team USA blew out the World Team by 20 points in a final score of 151-131.

This year’s Rising Stars Challenge was headlined by rookies Zion Williamson and Ja Morant who were not only teammates this All-Star weekend, but former AAU teammates as well. 

Zion Williamson sets up for a dunk in the 2020 NBA All-Star Rising Stars Challenge at the United Center in Chicago, Il.

These two NBA youngsters are stars in the making and balled out.

If it was Ja Morant tossing lob passes to Zion, it was Morant putting on his own dunk fest.

It was Miles Bridges however who stole the show, walking away with the Rising Stars Challenge MVP after dropping 20 points for Team USA. 

On the other end, RJ Barrett put on a show of his own, pouring in 27 points in 23 minutes.

NBA 2020 Skills Challenge

I’m not exactly sure what it is, but when it comes to the skills challenge, the big men love to go all out. In the history of the skills challenge, announcer and former player Reggie Miller always says, the players who act like they want to win, usually take home the trophy. 

Bam Adebayo holds the trophy for winning the 2020 NBA All-Star Skills Challenge at the 2020 NBA ALL-Star weekend in the United Center, Chicago, Il

Bam Adebayo finished off Nets guard and former skills challenge champion Spencer Dinwiddie after hitting his first 3-point attempt. Bam, then faced off against and defeated Toronto Raptors forward Pascal Siakam.

Sabonis defeated former skills champion and Boston forward, Jayson Tatum en route to then defeating Milwaukee Bucks forward Kris Middleton.

Well once again, Miller’s theory was proven right as Indiana Pacers Center Domantas Sabonis and Miami Heat Forward Bam Adebayo squared off in the final round. 

In the end, it was Bam Adebayo representing not only the Miami Heat as the skills champion, but big men across the NBA.

NBA 2020 Mountain Dew 3-Point Contest

Many are of the mindset that Zach Lavine was in the wrong contest on Saturday Night. The hyper-athletic Lavine was a part of the 3-point contest lineup and while he didn’t win, he represented Chicago.

Bobby Hiels of the Washington Wizards wins the 3-Point Challenge at the 2020 NBA All-Star Weekend in Chicago, Il

In recent years it seems the 3-point contest has garnered more excitement than the dunk contest. When speculated upon, it could be because there are so few All-Stars that participate in the dunk contest. Lebron James, Russell Westbrook, Anthony Davis, even Derrick Rose in his prime are all stars who haven’t participated in the dunk contest. 

While this year’s dunk contest was exciting, there were no All-Stars that participated. However, there were All-Stars headlining this year’s 3-Point contest notably 1st year All-Stars Trae Young and Devin Booker. 

This year, to further spice up the contest, the NBA added the “DEW Zone”. This new zone gives players a pair of opportunities to hit shots six feet from behind the arc. Each shot counts for 3 points giving the potential for players to add 6 points to their total if both shots are hit.

Trae Young however struggled only scoring 15 points in the first round. 

Nonetheless, this year’s 3-point contest didn’t disappoint as it was Buddy Hield vs Devin Booker facing off in the final round of the contest.

Booker came out guns blazing to make a statement with 27 points in the first round, being the first player to connect on both “DEW Zone” attempts.

You couldn’t be a fan and not be on the edge of you seat excited watching Hield and Booker, two marksmen face off. 

On his final attempt Booker put up 26 points. Next up, was Hield who defeated Booker in a dramatic fashion. Hield won the contest on his final clutch shot to put up a score of 27 points. 

What more could you ask for?

NBA Dunk Contest 2020 

What’s a jaw-dropping dunk contest without a bit of controversy right?

Aaron Gordon just might be the greatest dunk contest contestant to never win a dunk contest. For the second time in his career, one could argue Gordon was robbed for a second time. 

Derrick Jones Jr. is airborne as he wins the Slam Dunk Contest at the 2020 NBA All Star Weekend in Chicago, Il

The judges were apparently in agreement for the 2020 dunk contest to end in a tie after Aaron Gordon and Derrick Jones Jr. (The eventual winner of the contest) went head-to-head posting 50 score dunks one after the other. 

At one point, the cameras panned over to Gordon after he just completed yet another spectacular dunk resulting in a score of 50, taking his sneakers off, symbolizing that shouldn’t have to dunk again after accumulating 5 scores of 50.

Who could blame him?

Here’s where the controversy rears its head. 

One could make argument Gordon showed a higher degree of creativity, especially on his final dunk where he cleared a 7’5 Tacko Fall where the crowd then erupted. Gordon only received a score of 47.

Following Gordon’s final dunk, Derrick Jones Jr. walked to the other end of the court, built up momentum and took off one step inside the free throw line ala Zach Lavine.

It seemed as if it was déjà vu for Gordon, waiting for the judges to score. The judges tallied up the individual scores, and Jones Jr. was awarded a score of 48. Although it was a spectacular dunk, you could hear the gasps in the United Center. 

From the players to the announcers, everyone was shocked that for the second time Aaron Gordon missed out on a chance to be crowned the Slam Dunk Champion.

All-Star Game 2020 Ends in a Nail-Biter

The All-Star game in Chicago was star-studded not just from the players. In attendance was Kim and Kanye Kardashian West, Lil Wayne, Chicago’s own Chance the Rapper, Spike Lee, Queen Latifah, Common and Super Bowl MVP Patrick Mahomes, just to name a few.

LeBron James dunks as Team LeBron defeated Team Giannis in the 2020 NBA All-Star Game at the United Center in Chicago, IL

Team Lebron edged out the victory over Team Giannis 157-155 in a thrilling matchup. Anthony Davis drilled the game-winning free throw on his second attempt moments after he missed his first. Kawhi Leonard pulled no punches en route to winning the league’s first Kobe Bryant MVP Award as he dropped 30 points.

Kobe was known famously as “The Black Mamba” a nickname he gave himself. This is because of the snakelike aspect to his game on the basketball court. Out of the Black Mamba, came the Mamba Mentality, a phrase Kobe casually polled on twitter.

What the Mamba Mentality means in the words of Kobe Bryant is “To be on a constant quest to be the best version of yourself.” That was Kobe, always looking for ways to be a better version of himself today, than he was the day before. 

It’s what you see in players of today such as All-Stars Giannis Antetokounmpo, Kawhi Leonard, Russell Westbrook, Damian Lillard, Devin Booker and others.

The intensity was notably different in this All-Star Game. Players were arguing with the referees. Players of Team Giannis seemed to have felt the lost more. Players were fighting hard for the win. 

“The best way we could’ve honored Kobe, Gigi and everyone involved was to play like we played. – There wasn’t none of that cool stuff”, said Chris Paul.

While Joel Embiid was salty after the loss, noting that Team Lebron shouldn’t have been able to win on a free throw, also said “Tough loss, but to me it was probably the best All—Star Game ever. Everyone competed.”

All-Star 2020 Aftermath

The NBA is in good hands, as we saw 10 first time NBA All-Stars. Among them are Trae Young, Jayson Tatum, Brandon Ingram, Devin Booker and Pascal Siakam to name a few.

The players themselves honored Kobe by playing to win. The feel after the game, was for one, the NBA players loved the new format and two the fans saw it as the best All-Star game in a while. 

NBA players and figures around the league were offering their support in favor of the new format. From players like Myles Turner and Spence Dinwiddie, to figures such as Stephen A. Smith, the new format was indeed a success.

8 The 2020 NBA All-Star Game delivered and gave us a great deal of spectacular moments. From Trae Young’s half court buzzer beating bomb, to Kawhi Leonard getting hot early, to Lebron’s 35ft last shot attempt to win the game, to Anthony Davis’ final free throw to win the game. 

Speaking of Kawhi Leonard and Anthony Davis, we got a glimpse this All-Star game of what could’ve been had Kawhi Leonard joined the Lakers this past off-season. Lebron, Anthony Davis and Kawhi Leonard were indeed teammates albeit for a night.

The trio combined for 73 points, giving a sneak preview of how good those three together could’ve been. 

Anthony Davis had this to say, “Me, Him, and Lebron is something that teams would fear. – [But] he made the league fun.”

Another special moment comes from the final score itself, the numbers 157-155. If you add all those numbers together, 1+5+7+1+5+5 = 24 (Kobe Bryant’s Jersey). Similarly, if you subtract the final score, 157-155 = 2 (Gigi Bryant’s Jersey). 

In the words of Lebron James post game, “He (Kobe Bryant) was definitely there.”

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