One of many NBA fans’ favorite parts of the season is the yearly All-Star Weekend in New Orleans. NBA All-Star Weekend consists of several challenges including the NBA All-Star Game, the Rising Stars Challenge and other events like the Three-Point Contest and Slam Dunk Contest.
With the All-Star Weekend just two weeks away, many of the scheduled events have yet to announce its participants. The Three-Point Contest has had only one player confirm he will participate so far, C.J. McCollum of the Portland Trailblazers who is currently shooting 41.5 percent from beyond the arc. There have been rumors that Dallas’ Wesley Matthews will participate and Klay Thompson of the Golden State Warriors will defend his title, but nothing has been confirmed.
Last year’s winner of the Slam Dunk Contest, Zach LaVine, will not be defending his crown this year as he decided to pass off on the opportunity. Aaron Gordon, who came in second last year, will be participating again this year with hopes to avenge his loss from his debut in Toronto. Glenn Robinson III of the Indiana Pacers will also be participating in the Slam Dunk Contest and there is buzz that the Clippers’ high flyer DeAndre Jordan may join the festivities.
This All-Star game is more controversial than usual, as the Oklahoma City Thunder’s Russell Westbrook, an MVP candidate, will not be starting in the game. Instead, the Warriors’ two-time league MVP Stephen Curry will start in his place, thanks in large part to fans’ votes.
Westbrook is having a statistically amazing season so far, as he is averaging a triple-double with 30.8 points per game, 10.6 rebounds per game and 10.2 assists per game. Westbrook is doing something that only has been accomplished once by Hall of Famer Oscar Robertson back in 1961. Westbrook has also been a hero for the Oklahoma City Thunder not only for his play but for his loyalty, as they lost their superstar Kevin Durant in free agency this past summer.
Durant left for the Warriors and now plays alongside point guard, Curry. The two will be starters, which will most likely fuel Westbrook’s fire in this game. The other Western Conference starters include James Harden of the Houston Rockets, Kawhi Leonard of the San Antonio Spurs and Anthony Davis of the New Orleans Pelicans.
As for the Eastern Conference, this year’s starters include Kyrie Irving of the Cleveland Cavaliers, DeMar DeRozan of the Toronto Raptors, LeBron James of the Cleveland Cavaliers, Giannis Antetokounmpo of the Milwaukee Bucks and Jimmy Butler of the Chicago Bulls. This starting five surrounds some controversy as well, as the Celtics’ Isaiah Thomas, who is second in scoring this year, is not starting in the All-Star Game. The 5-foot-9-inch point guard has dazzled on offense this season just like Westbrook, as he has been a one-man show for the Celtics this year especially in the fourth quarter, as he leads the league in scoring in the final quarter of the game.
There are also many players in this All-Star game who will be playing for the first time, including Gordon Hayward of the Utah Jazz, Kemba Walker of the Charlotte Hornets, DeAndre Jordan of the Los Angeles Clippers and Giannis Antetokounmpo of the Milwaukee Bucks.
NBA All-Star Weekend kicks off on Friday, Feb. 17 with the Rising Stars Challenge between Team U.S.A. and the World Team. This game features a matchup of the league’s best young stars as 10 first and second year NBA players from the U.S. against 10 first and second year players from around the world. The All-Star Saturday Night extravaganza consisting of the Slam Dunk Contest, Three-Point Contest, and Skills Challenge will occur on Saturday, Feb.18. Followed by the All-Star Game on Sunday, Feb. 19 as Russell Westbrook will take his vengeance out on the NBA All-Star voting system, as he plays alongside conference rivals, the Golden State Warriors.