CHICAGO — NBA All-Star weekends are sometimes more about pomp and circumstance than actual substance, but that certainly wasn’t the case this past weekend in Chicago. Not only was All-Star Saturday night one of the most captivating in recent memory with an incredible ( ) and a , but the actual game on Sunday may have been the most intense in All-Star Game history thanks to the .
In such an incredible weekend, we thought we’d go through and pick out the 10 most memorable moments from Friday through Sunday. We’ll start where much of the events over the weekend started — with a tribute to the late Kobe Bryant.
1. Kawhi honors Kobe after winning MVP
Leonard did most of his damage in the first half of Sunday’s All-Star Game, but wound up winning the first-ever NBA All-Star Game Kobe Bryant MVP award with a game-high 30 points, seven rebounds and four assists. A Southern California native, Leonard appreciated being the first to receive the newly named award, and expressed his appreciation for Bryant.
“I want to thank Kobe for everything he’s done for me. All the long talks and workouts,” Leonard said after receiving his trophy. “Thank you. This one’s for him.”
The presence of Bryant and former NBA commissioner David Stern were felt throughout the weekend, and Leonard summed up the sentiments of many of the players with his reflective words.
2. The free throw heard ’round the world
The fourth quarter of the All-Star Game was one of the best we’ve ever seen, but the ending left a little something to be desired. While Team LeBron had many chances to win the game on jumpers or layups, the shot that took them to the target score and the win was … an Anthony Davis free throw. Womp, womp. At least he added some drama by missing the first.
It would have been amazing if Davis intentionally missed both free throws and insisted on winning on a field goal, but he never would have heard the end of it had Team Giannis ended up coming back to win. As it stands, we have the first-ever walk-off free throw in the history of the All-Star Game. Yay?
3. Giannis blocks LeBron’s layup
Giannis Antetokounmpo is the heir apparent to take over as the face of the NBA if and when LeBron James decides to retire, and their rivalry escalated earlier this season when Giannisin the Bucks’ win over the Lakers. These are two of the most incredible athletes you’ll ever see, and they collided at the backboard during a crucial moment in the fourth quarter of Sunday night’s game. LeBron beat Giannis and drove in for a layup, but Antetokounmpo’s Inspector Gadget arm reached out and pinned the shot against the backboard. Initially ruled goal tending, the call was overturned after replay review, making it one of the most impressive and memorable blocks in All-Star Game history.
Antetokoumpo also blocked LeBron’s fadeaway attempt earlier in the quarter, once again showing how tremendous he is on the defensive end in addition to all his offensive talents.
4. Jennifer Hudson’s tribute to Kobe Bryant
From the first note, everyone at United Center knew this was going to be a special performance from Hudson, who sang “For All We Know” as.
It was powerful. It was beautiful. It was perfect. There’s really not much to add. Well done, Jennifer Hudson.
5. Aaron Gordon’s 360 windmill dunk
It wasn’t just the dunk itself. It was the fact that it came right after one of Derrick Jones Jr.’s best dunks of the night — a between-the-legs while jumping over another human being. But Aaron Gordon had the answer, and then some, taking a pass off the side of the backboard from teammate Markelle Fultz and throwing down an incredible 360 one-handed windmill dunk.
It was the best dunk in a contest with so many impressive feats of athleticism, and it will be the one we remember. Oh yeah, Gordon didn’t win. Which brings us to our next moment …
6. Dwyane Wade accused of rigging Dunk Contest
We witnessed one of the best dunk contests in recent memory, with Heat forward Derrick Jones Jr. eventually triumphing over Magic forward Aaron Gordon, but the fun was just getting started. Jones edged out Gordon by one point on their final dunks, which led to outcries that Gordon was robbed for the second time in a dunk contest (the first coming in 2016 against Zach LaVine). Adding to the controversy was the fact that one of the three judges to give Gordon a score of nine on his final dunk was none other than Dwyane Wade, a legendary member of the same team that Jones plays for. But wait, there’s more!
Shortly after the contest another judge, actor and musician Common, stated that the plan was for the judges to give Gordon the same score as Jones (48), so that there would either be another dunk from each contestant or a final judges’ ruling on the overall contest.
“We thought it was going to be tied. We were like, ‘This is a tie!'” Common told ESPN’s Ramona Shelburne. “But somebody didn’t do it right. I don’t know who it is.”
NBA Twitter got to work, and video review would highly suggest that Wade was the culprit. Watch as Wade takes off his earpiece before the scores are even announced and then smiles. When the score is revealed, Common and fellow judge Scottie Pippen immediately look toward Wade in disbelief.
This is why the NBA can’t have nice things. Even an incredible dunk contest has to turn into some sort of controversy that requires scrutiny and investigation.
7. Bam Adebayo gives Skills Challenge trophy to his mother
Adebayo showcased his unique skill set for a big man by taking home the 2020 Skills Challenge title with a win, but what he did afterward may have been even more impressive. In the interview room in front of media following the game, Adebayo brought up his mother and handed her the trophy.
Adebayo also acknowledged his long-shot status in the competition, saying that he hoped people who bet on him would enjoy a nice steak with their winnings, and that he would be doing the same.
8. Common’s clever introductions
We’ve come a long way since Kevin Hart was criticized for roasting the All-Stars during his player introductions back in 2018. This time around the honor went to Chicago rapper/actor Common, who came up with interesting — sometimes clever — rhymes for each player’s name. He took some liberties (I mean, what rhymes with Antetokounmpo?), but overall it was a cool idea delivered in spoken-word style. One of the best was for Jazz center Rudy Gobert: “Think you can shake this first-time All-Star? Au contraire mon frère. From Utah Jazz, the stifle tower, Rudy Gobert.”
Some found it a bit gimmicky, but Common certainly raised the bar for future All-Star introductions.
9. CP30-inch vertical
Chris Paul has spent the bulk of his Hall of Fame career low to the ground, using his quickness and intelligence to carve up defenses. However, we rarely see Paul get above the rim. He’s much more likely to throw a lob than to be on the receiving end, but that changed during Sunday’s All-Star Game.
Paul has never thrown down an alley-oop dunk in his entire NBA career, including the regular season and playoffs, so this was quite a shock. He also hasn’t dunked in a game that counts since the 2015-16 season. There were a lot of trampolines in the arena for timeout entertainment, so perhaps one was accidentally left out for Paul to take advantage of.
10. Buddy Buckets with the clutch win
It’s rare that we get to see a buzzer-beater in the 3-point contest, but that’s exactly what Buddy Hield gave us when he hit his final shot to outscore Devin Booker on All-Star Saturday night. Hield ended up winning, 27-26, in the final round, and the crowd went wild thanks to Hield’s clutch shooting.
The 3-Point Contest can sometimes be more of a display of skill than an intense competition, but this year it was both.