What To Look Forward To At The 2014 NBA All-Star Weekend

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The 63rd NBA All-Star weekend tips off tomorrow in New Orleans. There is a lot going on. You’re feeling overwhelmed. We understand. We’re here to make it easy for you. Here’s what’s worth checking out this weekend.

 

Photo: Nikk_La/Creative Commons


Damian Lillard’s All-Star first
There are All-Stars, and now there’s an all-around All-Star. Portland Trail Blazers guard Damian Lillard will be the first player in the history of the game to compete in five events during All-Star weekend. The reigning Rookie of the Year will participate in the Rising Stars Challenge on Grant Hill’s team tomorrow night. He will defend his title in the skills competition on Saturday night, when he’ll also take a crack at the three-point shootout and dunk contest. Lillard will play in the All-Star Game on Sunday night after being voted in by the coaches as a reserve.

 

Star power in the new age of the dunk contest

“I’d win,” Miami’s LeBron James said Monday on his chances in this weekend’s slam dunk contest. Hypothetically speaking, of course—James won’t actually compete in the contest. Not to fret, there are other stars set to lace up for the spectacle: All-Stars Paul George (Indiana) and John Wall (Washington) will join defending slam dunk champion Terrence Ross (Toronto) on the Eastern Conference’s team in the NBA’s newly unveiled dunk contest format. Ben McLemore (Sacramento), Harrison Barnes (Golden State) and All-Star Damian Lillard make up the Western team. Each conference will get 90 seconds to perform as many dunks as possible in the opening Freestyle Round. Then comes the Battle Round. East and West dunkers will battle head-to-head. The judges choose a winner for each battle. Losers are eliminated from the competition. The first team to win three battles will be crowned the 2014 Sprite Slam Dunk champions. This is only the second time in NBA history that three All-Stars accepted dunk contest invitations. The other instance occurred when Michael Jordan, Dominique Wilkins and Clyde Drexler squared off in the 1988 dunk contest.
 

Photo: Erik Drost/Creative Commons


Money balls
To make the three-point contest more fan-friendly, the NBA will add an entire rack of money balls worth two points each, instead of a single money ball at the end of every rack. Each player chooses where his all-money ball rack goes. Competitors will likely place the money ball rack where they shoot the highest percentage. It is also possible a streaky shooter will opt to leave the special rack in the far corner so he can pick up momentum and come up clutch as his minute winds down. Cleveland’s Kyrie Irving will look to defend his title as a member of the East team.

 

Photo: Mark Runyon/Creative Commons


Skills for two
The Starters crew on NBA TV has long been advocating for the league to invite big men—who aren’t known for their ball-handling—to participate in the skills challenge. That isn’t happening this season. The NBA took an alternate route to adding entertainment value to the event. The skills challenge, highlighted by All-Stars Damian Lillard and DeMar DeRozan (Toronto), will be staged as a two-man relay for the first time. Players will have to work together to win. If a competitor gets off to a slow start, he still has a shot at the title if his teammate can outpace his opponent in the latter section. It’s no big man skills challenge, but the new competition should be more fun to watch than its previous incarnation.

 

Photo: Keith Allison/Creative Commons


A family affair
Miami Heat big man Chris Bosh, Chicago Sky forward Swin Cash and NBA legend Dominique Wilkins won the 2013 Sears Shooting Stars championship and look to defend their title on Saturday night. The opposing team representing the East features the father-son combination of NBA legend Tim Hardaway Sr. and Tim Hardaway Jr. of the New York Knicks. The West has a familial duo of their own. Golden State’s Stephen Curry will team up with his father, Dell Curry, as well as Becky Hammon of the San Antonio Stars.

Photo: Jordan Brand

All-Star kicks
Shoe giants are capitalizing on the NBA All-Star Weekend. New York’s Carmelo Anthony and Los Angeles Clippers duo Chris Paul and Blake Griffin will rock sneakers from Jordan’s Crescent City Collection. The vibrant sneakers were inspired by the city of New Orleans. Nike unveiled All-Star colorways of Miami’s Lebron James, Oklahoma City’s Kevin Durant and (injured) Los Angeles Lakers guard Kobe Bryant’s signature shoes. The sneakers, which all glow in the dark, were designed to reflect the Big Easy’s culture and history. Adidas will dress the feet of Houston’s Dwight Howard, Portland’s Damian Lillard and Washington’s John Wall. The company unveiled a line of bright All-Star kicks that embody New Orleans’ rich culture.

 

Photo: Russell Westbrook/Instagram


Fashion
The NBA is known for stepping up its fashion game in anticipation of all the exposure that comes with the All-Star Weekend. The league teamed up with Adidas to produce the first-ever sleeved jerseys for the All-Star Game. The West will don red while the East wears blue. Whether or not he’s able to suit up for the game, Miami’s Dwyane Wade will go hard off the court. Wade is ninth on GQ’s most stylish athletes of 2013 rankings. His teammate Lebron James tops the list. Number 12 on the list is Oklahoma City’s Russell Westbrook. He’s injured, but expect to see him around rocking outfits like this.

 

Photo: Supplied still image from episode one of NBA Inside Stuff/NBA TV


Celebrities
Famous people will be all over the All-Star festivities. Two-time MVP and comedian Kevin Hart will go for the three-peat in the All-Star Celebrity Game tomorrow night. Victoria’s Secret model Erin Heatherton, America’s Got Talent host Nick Cannon, U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan and NBA Inside Stuff co-host Kristen Ledlow are among the celebrities who will suit up for the game. Along the sidelines, there will be famous NBA fans like rapper Jay Z and his wife, singer Beyonce. Rapper and Toronto Raptors global ambassador Drake will be there. Drake’s fellow countryman Justin Bieber will take part in All-Star festivities, too. Bieber took home celebrity game MVP honours in 2011. Someone in New Orleans will ask Bieber if Blake Griffin really smacked him inside a Starbucks. Spoiler alert: he didn’t.

 

Photo: Katie Kimpel/Creative Commons


Valentine’s Day
All-Star buzz isn’t the only thing in the air this weekend. There’s also live jazz and romance. NBA players attending All-Star weekend will be able to treat their significant others in one of the most romantic cities in the world this Valentine’s Day. New Orleans boasts mule-drawn carriages, authentic French bakeries and confectionery shops in its charming and historic French Quarter.

 

Photo: Still image from ESPN Go


The game
Last but not least, there’s the actual All-Star Game. The very best basketball players in the world will put on a show by shooting deep threes, getting fancy with passes and throwing down some filthy jams. If recent years are any indication, it will be a close game. Pitting alpha dogs against each other is a surefire recipe for success. Western All-Star Kevin Durant is the consensus frontrunner for the league MVP after his run of 12 straight games scoring 30 or more points. He’s leading the league in scoring with 31 points per game while shooting 64.3 per cent. Durant has tallied 30 or more points in the last three All-Star Games, in winning efforts for the West. It may finally be his year—unless East All-Star LeBron James gets his way. James has been on a tear lately, recording 36 points, 13 rebounds and 9 assists in Miami’s last game leading into the break. James’ step-back three-pointer won the Heat the game last night against the Golden State Warriors. Watch for the reigning NBA champion and league MVP to send a message in the All-Star game to prove he is still the best player in the game.

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