Saturday is typically the best night of All-Star Weekend because the challenges play into each NBA player’s competitiveness. This year’s festivities were a mixed bag, but not devoid of memorable moments.
Here are the winners and losers from the night.
Winner: The Final Round of the Dunk Contest
Aside from the Dennis Smith Jr. snub, which we’ll get to in a moment, the final round of the championship matchup between Larry Nance Jr. and Donovan Mitchell was everything a dunk contest should be. Nance started it with a ridiculous double pass off the backboard that was as impressive as it was creative. Inside the Staples Center, an average cheer arose when Nance finished the dunk—then he pointed to the instant-replay screen to explain what just happened. Fans, judges, and fellow players quickly realized what exactly he had done, and the second, delayed cheer was even louder and far more appropriate for a never-before-seen dunk. Nance got a 50.
Double Tap Forever pic.twitter.com/9XuRCMt5Rs— Michael Lee (@MrMichaelLee) February 18, 2018
Mitchell, who had honored Darrell Griffith earlier in the contest, peeled off his sunrise Utah Jazz uniform to reveal another homage—this time to Vince Carter. Mitchell is four inches shorter than Carter, and wearing the purple-pinstripe old-school jersey, he pulled off the former Raptor’s windmill spin-around dunk to win the whole thing. And yes, he added on the “It’s over” announcement afterward. In the postgame presser, Mitchell said it’s a dunk he’s been missing in practice all year.
Loser: The NBA for Not Ending the Dunk Contest After This:
Dennis Smith Jr. dunk pic.twitter.com/RrrIMZE1HX— Steve Noah (@Steve_OS) February 18, 2018
Watch that once, watch it twice, and then a third time for good measure. I know Smith’s first dunk was underwhelming, but he should have made it to the final on this dunk alone. Have you ever seen this? It’s defying gravity and normal human-body contortions at the same time. Mitchell may have won with a better top-to-bottom performance, but Smith had the best dunk of the night.
Winner: The Nance Fam
It was a big night for paying homage. For his first dunk, Larry Nance Jr. looked off in his Cleveland Cavaliers track suit, but then he stepped to half court and had a quick wardrobe change … into his dad, sporting Larry Nance Sr.’s old Phoenix Suns uniform. The homage was perfect, and so was Nance Jr.’s impression of the dunk that won his dad the dunk contest in 1984.
Nance earned a 44 after hitting it on the second try, then he went and hugged his dad to culminate the perfect moment.
Winner: Devin Booker
So much for the 3-point revolution, am I right? After the first round of Saturday night’s contest, no contestant had even reached 20 points. By the time Booker, Klay Thompson, and Tobias Harris qualified for the finals with less-than impressive performances, the event had lost its luster. But then Booker stepped up and made the net sing by totaling 28 points and winning the contest easily. Thanks to the highly sensitive on-court mics, even his misses sounded good.
Winner: Joel Embiid’s Knowledge of the Rules
Embiid almost got away with cheating LMAO pic.twitter.com/4dNwRXgL09— gifdsports (@gifdsports) February 18, 2018
Embiid actually didn’t cheat. As the very official rules of the storied Skills Challenge stipulate, once you try the bounce/chest pass three times and don’t make it into the hoop, you’re allowed to move on. I believe with every fiber of my being that Embiid looked up the rules and studied them in order to ensure the best chance of winning.
Loser: Joel Embiid’s Friend Status
all stars leave tags on their clothes just like us pic.twitter.com/a8dGDDOodb— Whitney Medworth (@its_whitney) February 18, 2018
It’s happened to everyone. You put on new clothes, you forget to remove the tag, you go out looking less than intelligent. But a real friend tells you about that thing hanging off your shirt (or in Embiid’s case, your shorts) discreetly. Heck, even loudly. This apparently didn’t happen with Embiid, which either makes me worry about his All-Star friendships or his sartorial judgment.
Winner: Spencer Dinwiddie
Skills Challenge champion isn’t exactly the pinnacle of success, but Dinwiddie beating Lauri Markkanen in the final matchup does allow us to appreciate his come-up. Dinwiddie—who was drafted 38th in 2014, bounced around from the Pistons, and was waived by the Bulls just over a year ago—is now thriving in Brooklyn.
Loser: Paul George and the Rims in L.A.
Twenty-five shots. Nine points. The loud “clunk” of the rim is going to haunt George in his dreams, or rather, it’s probably going to haunt Lakers fans who are somewhere clamoring for Staples Center to change its rims to appease George. The thirst has been real this weekend: Earlier on Saturday, George was flooded with “We want Paul” chants by L.A. fans … during an interview.
Winner: The Topical Prop
¡Oladipo! #VerizonDunk pic.twitter.com/ZUrpa2CVUU— NBA Spain (@NBAspain) February 18, 2018
Too bad Oladipo finished last.
This piece previously misstated the number of shots in the All-Star 3-point contest and has been updated. The number of shots is 25, not 30.