NBA All-Star: Razzmatazz is the name of the game

The All-Star Celebrity Game, the Skills Challenge Contest, the Three-Point Contest, the Slam Dunk competition and then the marquee event, the NBA All-Star Game. New Orleans 2017, the NBA All-Star weekend, promises to be a spectacular, awe-inspiring event.

Stephen Curry of Golden State Warriors is an expert at scoring 3s.   -  AP

Right! The arc lights in New Orleans are ready to shine, as the 2017 NBA All-Star weekend comes our way between February 17 and 19 (Feb. 18 and 20 IST). It promises to be a spectacular, awe-inspiring three days, what with the All-Star Celebrity Game, the Skills Challenge Contest, the Three-Point Contest, the Slam Dunk competition, after which comes the marquee event, the 66th NBA All-Star Game. Steph Curry and LeBron James headline the players taking part in the All-Star Game to bring the curtains down on the one weekend in the NBA calendar where razzmatazz is the name of the game.

LeBron James of Cleveland Cavaliers, along with Stephen Curry will headline the players taking part in the All-Star Game.   -  Getty Images

In a change made in this year’s process to select the All-Star Game starters, fans constituted 50 percent of the vote, while current players and a media panel accounted for 25 percent each. James and Curry, who squared off against each other in the 2016 NBA Finals as members of the Cleveland Cavaliers and the Golden State Warriors respectively, were the leading vote-getters from fans. The NBA’s two biggest stars will be joined by a galaxy of other talents, with the likes of Kevin Durant, Kyrie Irving, James Harden, Giannis Antetokounmpo, Russell Westbrook, Kawhi Leonard and DeAndre Jordan featuring among the starters and reserves at the All-Star Game. Expect all kinds of show-stopping dunks, fantastic plays and highlight moves to round off the event. More than anything else, the opportunity to see all these transcendent NBA talent under one roof makes the All-Star Game, arguably, the greatest spectacle on earth.

The All-Star game itself will be preceded by a number of fascinating contests that showcase the many dimensions of the NBA athletic talent pool. An interesting recent addition to the All-Star weekend, the Skills Challenge contest will see some of the most versatile big men in the game such as Anthony Davis, DeMarcus Cousins and Joel Embiid in the fray, with the best ‘little’ men in the league like Isaiah Thomas and John Wall trying to outdo them over a basketball-styled obstacle course that tests each NBA player’s skill-set. Last year it was Karl-Anthony Towns who walked away as the Skills Challenge winner, beating Isaiah Thomas in the final round.

Klay Thompson will hope to repeat his dominance at the Three-Point Contest. Thompson is the defending champion and will square off against seven other players, including the likes of Kyle Lowry, Kyrie Irving, C. J. McCollum, Nick Young and Wesley Matthews. Thompson’s biggest threat in the competition, though, could come from Houston’s Eric Gordon, who has made more 3s than anyone this season except for Stephen Curry. Should Thompson catch fire, though, it will be difficult to stop him. And if he goes on to win, Thompson will join the likes of Larry Bird and Jeff Hornacek as players to have won the event on more than one occasion.

Nothing grabs more eyeballs than the Slam Dunk Contest, though. From the time Michael Jordan took off from the free-throw line to Vince Carter’s fascinating performance in 2000, to the memorable face-off between Aaron Gordon and Zach LaVine last year, this event is all about style, gravity-defying dunks and super-human athleticism. Gordon will once again participate in the event, with DeAndre Jordan probably challenging him the most. Don’t be surprised, though, by Phoenix Suns’ rookie forward Derrick Jones, who is nicknamed ‘Airplane Mode’, and is the first player to compete in the NBA Slam Dunk competition and play in the NBA D-League in the same season.

Many fans would also be anticipating the All-Star Celebrity Game. Previous editions of the event have produced among the best moments of the weekend. Take for instance the time when actor, comedian Kevin Hart beat Olympic sprint legend Usain Bolt in a race on court (2013 All-Star) and then beat Draymond Green at a 3-point challenge contest (2016 All-Star) only to realise that Green had rigged the entire gig. Hart had ultimate bragging rights, though, given that he is 4-time MVP at the All-Star Celebrity Game.

On a closing note, there is an interesting Indian angle to this time’s All-Star weekend. Two of our youngsters, Aashay Verma and Priyanka Prabhakara, have been included among the 67 boys and girls as part of the Basketball without Borders (BWB) Global camp taking place at the All-Star weekend. This and a whole lot more make New Orleans 2017 a most anticipated event on the sporting calendar!