The annual NBA All-Star Break for the 2020-21 season took place on Mar. 7th, 2021 at State Farm Arena in Atlanta, Georgia. The NBA All-Star Weekend is a midseason occurrence where events such as the Dunk Contest, Three-Point Contest, Rising Stars game, All-Star game, and Skills Contest take place within a weekend. Although the game has no value to any team’s record, it has been around since 1951 and is a weekend of bragging rights to whoever wins.
Of course, this year was different due to the COVID-19 restrictions and the change to the All-Star event’s format. With the pandemic still raging, the events occured with a limited capacity of fans in attendance and all events were held on one night instead of being spread out over a weekend.
The format of the main event, the All-Star game, has gone through significant changes recently. Instead of a traditional game where whichever team has the most points wins during a forty-eight-minute game, teams now play to win each quarter. Each team gets to pick a charity to play for, and get a guaranteed $500,000 donation. Whoever wins quarters one through three gets an additional $150,000 for each quarter won. The last quarter adds a bonus of $350,000 to whatever team hit the “Final Target Score.” This score was whoever had the most points plus an extra 24 points (an homage to the late Kobe Bryant). According to CNN, the game generated about three million dollars for HBCUs and communities impacted by the pandemic. In addition to donations, the All-Star game provided exposure to their communities by having HBCU artists, musicians, and singers being seen throughout the night.
The first event that took place was the Skills Challenge. Domantas Sabonis beat Nikola Vucevic in an obstacle course that required the player to dribble around obstacles, pass to targets from a distance, score a layup, and then run across the court for a three-pointer.
The three-point contest followed shortly after, which was heavily anticipated because star players like Stephen Curry and Jasyon Tatum would participate. However, Mike Conley ended up surprising the NBA fanbase as he made it to the finals to face Curry. Conley went first, scoring twenty-seven points, but Curry would go on to win with twenty-eight points after nailing the final shot to give him the trophy.
The starting lineup for the All-Star game were as follows: Team LeBron included LeBron James, Stephen Curry, Giannis Antetokounmpo, Luka Doncic, and Nikola Jokic. Team Durant would include Kyrie Irving, Bradley Beal, Kawhi Leonard, Jayson Tatum, and Zion Williamson.
Notably, Kevin Durant, Anthony Davis, and Devin Booker did not play due to injury. The Philadelphia 76ers’ duo of Joel Embiid and Ben Simmons were ineligible to play due to COVID-19 tracing. Embiid took to Twitter to address the NBA’s decision to not allow him to play stating, “Mickey Mouse All Star Game ha.” Zion Williamson took his spot in the starting lineup after Embiid was ruled out.
The first half of the game saw Team LeBron jump out to a huge 20-point lead after outsourcing Team Durant 60-41 in the second quarter. The most notable highlight was the shot attempts between Curry and Damian Lillard, both of whom would shoot from way beyond the three-point arc and even from the logo near the halfcourt line. The Dunk Contest took place during halftime and was a bit pale in comparison to other years. Regardless, the final round was a matchup between Anfernee Simons and New York’s own Obi Toppin. Unfortunately for Knicks fans, three of the five judges declared Simons the winner. At the conclusion of the All-Star game, Milwaukee’s Antetokounmpo was awarded the All-Star game MVP; now freshly named “The NBA All-Star Game Kobe Bryant Most Valuable Player” award. Antetokounmpo scored a game-high thirty-five points en route to Team LeBron winning by. However, it was Lillard who closed the show, nailing a near halfcourt triple to give Team LeBron the win at 170-150.