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NBA All-Star Weekend

The top 10 epic moments from 2020 NBA All-Star Weekend

NBA All-Star Weekend is back, and boy was it back with a presence.

From a very entertaining Rising Stars Game (Zion even bent the rim!) to down-to-the-wire finishes to the 3-Point Contest, Slam Dunk Contest, and the All-Star Game itself, the 2020 iteration of the mid-February festivities was a rousing success.

Here are 10 moments that made this weekend one to remember.

10. Jennifer Hudson’s Kobe tribute

The 38-year-old Chicago native was one of the several local artists to perform during All-Star Weekend, and she had a tough act following Common’s spoken-word monologue.

Hudson’s rendition of “For All We Know” in honor of Kobe Bryant was spellbinding. It was beautiful, powerful, and heartfelt β€” setting the tone for what was bound to be an epic Sunday night.

9. Common rapping introductions

The NBA capitalized by bringing as many local stars as possible in one of the biggest hoop markets. No one identifies more closely with the marriage of hip-hop and basketball than Common, a rapper who has intuitively mixed his love for hoops through his music.

Yet whoever had the idea to have him rap the introductions truly deserves a raise. It was different and it didn’t appear to be over-the-top different, which is always a plus.

A personal favorite: “Think you can shake this first-time All-Star? Au contraire mon frΓ¨re, from the Utah Jazz, The Stifle Tower, Rudy Gobert.”

Some of his rhymes were a little out there, but I dare you to find things to rhyme with Antetokounmpo.

8. Ice Trae makes his legend

Every NBA All-Star Game needs a pinnacle moment. This one had many to pick from, yet Trae Young’s buzzer-beating 3 from half court was one that let us know this game was for real.

Team Giannis stormed back from a 12-point deficit in the second quarter to blow the doors open with a 51-30 second-quarter advantage. Young finished off the charge, taking an outlet pass from Rudy Gobert and nailing a half-court shot to beat the buzzer.

Cold as ice.

7. Kyle Lowry makes taking charges cool at the All-Star Game

The NBA All-Star Game had lacked any sense of competitive nature for way too long, often resulting in a glorified exhibition of all-out offense.

The new format, inspired by The Basketball Tournament, brought out the dog in many competitors, including Lowry, who took two key charges like this was the NBA Finals. The one above was on LeBron James, and it’s hard to fathom anyone enjoy taking a 250-pound freight train at full speed β€” yet Lowry did it with pleasure.

If one wasn’t enough, he took another one on the iso-happy James Harden, preventing Team LeBron from celebrating what could have been a game-winning 3-pointer from The Beard.

6. The Greek Freak blocks The King … twice

Hardly ever do two defensive highlights make an All-Star list unless they’re swatted into the seventh row. Yet these two blocks were symbolic of how dominant a player Giannis Antetokounmpo has become.

He first blocked LeBron James on his patented fadeaway one-legger, then did it again with the game on the line β€” a play that needed replay assistance to declare its legitimacy.

Antetokounmpo could have very likely earned his first All-Star MVP trophy had his team walked away with the win, and his plays at the defensive end have made him such a two-way force of nature.

5. Buddy Hield wins 3-Point Contest in the clutch

The 3-Point Contest had been the most exciting of events in the past few years, and this year’s contest did not disappoint. 2018 champion Devin Booker of the Phoenix Suns and Buddy Hield of the Sacramento Kings went head-to-head all contest long, battling to take the crown.

Booker, who scored 27 points in the elimination round to qualify, seemed poised to win it again after posting 26 points in the final round, but it was Hield’s last rack that made history, draining five of his last six money balls to edge the former champion by one point.

Needless to say, yet another thrilling finish and a rousing success for the NBA.

4. The Dwyane Wade conspiracy

The Slam Dunk Contest had gone through a rut with too many props, a lack of originality, and a lack of household names that would get fans out of their seats.

Yet the dunk-off between Orlando Magic forward Aaron Gordon and Miami Heat high-flying wing Derrick Jones Jr. spiked some stiff controversy. Dwyane Wade, one of the five judges for the event, was told to give Gordon a 10 on his last dunk to force a tie at 48 and an ultimate judges’ decision for the winner.

Wade gave Gordon a score of “9,” bringing his cumulative total to 47 points, one below Jones.

A post-event interview with Common, one of the five judges, revealed the plan was to make the two players tie β€” something that soon put Wade in the burner.

Many were quick to point out Wade’s allegiance to the Miami Heat and his undying support for the organization, including Bam Adebayo, who won the Skills Challenge earlier that day. Draw your own conclusions, but this dunk contest was not short of drama.

3. Aaron Gordon’s 360 windmill

Theatrics aside, there’s something to be said about the quality of dunks Aaron Gordon and Derrick Jones Jr. brought to the table throughout the entire contest, throwing down 50 after 50 to the point where many considered having a two-way tie for the first time in Dunk Contest history.

Gordon’s one-handed 360 windmill off the side of the backboard was one of the most artistic, no-props, no-frills dunks of all time.

If any dunk deserved a score over 50, it was that one right there, which left many open-mouthed at his skywalking ability.

2. Kawhi Leonard wins Kobe Bryant MVP

The entire All-Star Weekend was dedicated to the late Kobe Bryant and his daughter Gianna, after the two died in a helicopter crash along with seven other passengers in Calabasas in late January.

Yet seeing Kawhi Leonard take this award in stride and praise Bryant for his influence just added the perfect touch in what was a magical three days in Chicago.

1. Anthony Davis scores the game-winning … free throw?

A free throw is perhaps the most anticlimactic way to end an All-Star Game, but who has room to complain when so much went right for the NBA?

With a one-point lead and one point shy of the target score of 157, Anthony Davis went to the line as teammate LeBron James called the game over from the moment he was fouled by Kyle Lowry.

Davis, a Chicago native, missed the first freebie in front of his hometown crowd, leaving as much suspense as a free throw can have in one of these situations. Yet the energy in the building was as close as it gets to a crucial Game 7 situation before Davis calmly sunk the game-winning foul shot to take home some bragging rights.

Climax aside, this was a huge win for the NBA with a brand new format for the All-Star Game, bringing much more than a glorified coalition of All-Star talent and emanating a healthy competitive spirit that made these games so fun in the past.