NBA announces 2018 All-Star Skills Challenge participants
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NBA announces 2018 All-Star Skills Challenge participants

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The 2018 NBA All-Star Skills Challenge competition contestants have been officially announced by the league with some familiar names and some first-time participants to the All-Star Weekend event.

The list is headed by the New York Knicks’ Kristaps Porzingis who is returning to defend the crown which he won a year ago. Playing in front of an animated New Orleans crowd, Porzingis nailed his first attempt at the 3-point shot to win the title over former Utah Jazz forward Gordon Hayward.

Porzingis will be playing in his first All-Star Game for Team LeBron.

Aside from the 7-foot-3 forward from Latvia, the other participants are Philadelphia 76ers center Joel Embiid, L.A. Clippers guard Lou Williams, Utah Jazz rookie guard Donovan Mitchell, Brooklyn Nets guard Spencer Dinwiddie, Boston Celtics center Al Horford, Chicago Bulls rookie forward Lauri Markannen, and Denver Nuggets guard Jamal Murray.

Embiid is a first-time All-Star who will be playing in Sunday’s game while Horford is playing in his fifth.

The past two winners of the Skills Challenge have been big men. Aside from Porzingis, Minnesota Timberwolves center Karl-Anthony Towns won the competition in 2016. Prior to these two giants of the hardwood, previous winners of the contest were all guards.

Since the Skills Challenge was included in 2003, there have only been two players who have successfully defended their crowns.  Dwyane Wade in 2006 and 2007 as a member of the Miami Heat, and Damian Lillard in 2013 and 2014. Lillard shared the 2014 award with Trey Burke who played for the Utah Jazz at the time.