NBA All-Star winners and losers: LeBron James stays perfect as captain; Slam Dunk Contest judges fail again

The 2021 NBA All-Star expertise was as near typical as you may fairly anticipate, however very like each different sporting occasion that has taken place within the final yr, issues simply felt slightly off.

As an alternative of a excessive stage of pleasure, a number of gamers expressed apprehension about gathering in Atlanta. The talents competitions and All-Star Sport occurred over the course of some hours as opposed to some days. There have been unbelievable feats of talent and athleticism, however the primary reactions got here within the type of pretend crowd noise. The real “ooohs” and “aaahs” have been sorely missed.

It wasn’t all dangerous, although. TNT’s All-Star broadcast delivered some entertaining moments, and the NBA dedicated hundreds of thousands of {dollars} towards traditionally Black schools and universities (HBCUs) and COVID-19 aid. Much like the common season itself, you could possibly discover transient, great stretches of normalcy — even when the strangeness of actuality inevitably got here dashing again.

Earlier than NBA groups resume play, let’s break down the most important winners and losers from Sunday’s All-Star festivities.

MORE: Best highlights from 2021 All-Star Game

NBA All-Star winners

LeBron James

4 appearances as an All-Star captain, 4 All-Star Sport wins. James did such an excellent job establishing the Crew LeBron roster that his squad crushed Crew Durant even if he solely scored 4 factors in lower than 13 minutes of motion. 

“I hope that they permit me to retire from being an All-Star captain, so I can retire with a perfect 4-Zero report,” James mentioned throughout his postgame press convention. “I am going to maintain that perpetually. However we’ll simply see what occurs. I all the time attempt to choose the correct crew, and I have been fortunate sufficient for 4 years to select the correct crew. Guys exit and compete and play to win. I have been on the profitable facet of all 4.”

James gave shoutouts to his teammates on Twitter after the win, together with All-Star Sport MVP Giannis Antetokounmpo, who advised James he has a future as a common supervisor. Onerous to argue with the outcomes.

Giannis Antetokounmpo

Talking of “The Greek Freak,” how about that stat line? Antetokounmpo completed with 35 factors on 16-of-16 taking pictures, setting the All-Star Game record for many makes and not using a miss. 

Past the numbers, it seemed like Antetokounmpo was having the time of his life.

“You understand, like when you begin having pleasure and you do not fear concerning the end result of the sport, the whole lot takes care of itself,” Antetokounmpo mentioned. “I imagine worry and enjoyable can not go collectively. It is both one or the opposite. This yr I’ve selected for it to be enjoyable. Each recreation I step on the flooring, enjoyable. Pregame, enjoyable. With my teammates, enjoyable. I need to have round my crew, enjoyable, power.”

Be like Giannis. All the time select enjoyable over worry.

Mike Conley

Given the Jazz’s report and Conley’s efficiency via the primary half of the season, it felt as although this was his greatest (and maybe last) shot to lastly earn that elusive All-Star nod. He did not make the reduce initially, however Devin Booker’s harm opened the door for the 33-year-old.

Now we solely introduce him as “NBA ALL-STAR MIKE CONLEY.” Come on. How are you going to not be blissful for this man?

Lengthy vary 3-point taking pictures

Stephen Curry, who gained the 3-point Contest earlier within the evening, joined Damian Lillard in placing on an outrageous All-Star Sport taking pictures show.

Cue the footage.

Curry and Lillard every went eight of 16 from past the arc with Lillard draining the 3-pointer that ended the exhibition recreation. 

“I believe with me and Steph being two guys that shoot a variety of threes, we shoot deep threes, we play an thrilling recreation,” Lillard mentioned. “A pair photographs can change the sport like within the second quarter of the sport tonight, it was shut, and then in two and a half minutes it was like three, three, three, three, three, and it was a 20-point win in 1 / 4.

“It was enjoyable. It was thrilling simply to run round on the market with a man like that, and that is what makes All-Star Weekend All-Star Weekend.”

Nikola Jokic’s goofiness

So we have got Jokic dancing.

We have additionally acquired Jokic speaking about not getting an alley-oop move off the backboard.

And, in fact, we have got Jokic taking Giannis’ trophy and pretending he’s the true MVP.

“The Joker,” certainly. Pleasant.

Robert Covington’s HBCU delight

Covington, a Tennessee State College graduate, is the NBA’s solely present HBCU alum, so naturally that facet of the All-Star occasions meant an ideal deal to him. He was seen rocking a Tennessee State jersey for the Expertise Problem.

Extra importantly, Covington introduced he can be giving $25,000 scholarships to Michael Thompson and Micahlea Njie, each of whom are pupil athletes at Tennessee State. 

“I used to be there earlier than and I by no means had anyone like this to essentially make that change and have that chance,” Covington mentioned. “That is me utilizing my platform. I really like Tennessee State.”

Effectively performed, RoCo.

NBA All-Star losers

Joel Embiid and Ben Simmons

Embiid and Simmons have been not available for the All-Star Game in accordance with the NBA’s well being and security tips. Each gamers reportedly visited a barber who examined constructive for COVID-19, forcing them to stay remoted of their resort rooms earlier than touring again to Philadelphia.

As of Sunday evening, it was unclear if Embiid and Simmons will miss a number of video games following the All-Star break.

“They really feel nice. They each clearly wished to play,” 76ers and Crew Durant coach Doc Rivers mentioned. “We’re upset. Each of them, their largest concern can be if they might play the primary two video games after we get again. So we do not know the reply to that but. That is going to be actually necessary for us. It might be powerful to begin the second half of the yr and not have both one.”

Luka Doncic

How tough was Doncic’s displaying within the Expertise Competitors? He acquired overwhelmed so badly by Domantas Sabonis that Doncic’s personal Mavericks teammate, Jalen Brunson, publicly known as him out.

In the event you’re an All-NBA participant and you do not escape the primary spherical, then the tweets shall be fired off. These are the foundations.

Slam Dunk Contest judges

The Slam Dunk Contest scoring system is a multitude.

Final yr, the occasion ended in controversy when Aaron Gordon obtained a 47 for dunking over Celtics middle Tacko Fall. This time round, Cassius Stanley acquired a 44 for his opener, a between-the-legs jam that appeared superior to the primary makes an attempt of the opposite individuals.

“I believe my dunk was fairly darn good, and the judges thought it was the bottom dunk of the spherical,” Stanley mentioned. “That’s what it’s. It is an opinionated factor. … Just about everybody round me thought I acquired a 50.”

Need to set a excessive bar for a 50? OK, positive. That is fantastic. However that is not what occurred right here.

Magic Johnson is not going to stand for this!

The cloud hanging over the whole lot

At his All-Star press convention on Saturday, NBA commissioner Adam Silver began with an announcement explaining why the league moved ahead with its All-Star plans amid the COVID-19 pandemic.

“We have sought to seek out the correct steadiness between the well being and security of our gamers, the neighborhood that is concerned in producing NBA basketball, and in fact our followers, together with the financial pursuits as effectively of our neighborhood,” Silver mentioned. “Add into that social justice points. So all of that has been on our thoughts since virtually a yr in the past after we shut down the NBA. … We really feel we have struck the suitable steadiness right here, looking for the pursuits of everybody concerned.”

Silver has a tough job. The monetary affect of not holding an All-Star weekend (or evening, on this case) would have been vital. The NBA noticed an opportunity to use this stage to advertise causes that matter to its executives, coaches and gamers. Perhaps LeBron was bored, however for a first-time All-Star like Conley, this expertise was particular.

Nonetheless, it was onerous to not watch the published with out periodically questioning whether or not any of these things needs to be occurring. The Embiid-Simmons state of affairs did not flip right into a superspreader occasion, nevertheless it may have. Gamers went alongside for the journey, however a variety of them weren’t precisely pumped about it.

The darkish cloud did not smash all the enjoyable, nevertheless it did carry the enjoyment issue down just a few notches. Let’s hope subsequent yr’s All-Star festivities see extra daylight.

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