The 68th NBA All-Star Game at the Spectrum Center on Sunday retained all the showmanship associated with an exhibition match.
Flashy plays came on both ends of the court. The best of the lot was a jaw-dropping off-the-floor pass from Stephen Curry, who bounced the ball nearly over the shot clock before it came down to find Giannis Antetokounmpo for the dunk. Curry showed his athletic prowess as well, finishing the game with a smooth reverse dunk off the bounce.
Dirk Nowitzki and Dwyane Wade, both special additions to the roster, turned back the clock. Wade reminded fans of the deadly chemistry he once had with LeBron James during their time together at Miami Heat, when he threw a perfect off-the-backboard alley-oop to James in the third quarter. Nowitzki, who like Wade is in the final stretch of his career, sunk back-to-back three-pointers to prove that he has lost none of his shooter's touch.
Milwaukee Bucks star Giannis led the scoring charts with 38 points, to go with 11 rebounds and five assists. But it was not enough to prevent Team LeBron from recording a 178-164 win over Team Giannis.
Kevin Durant won the All-Star MVP award, for his 31 points. The game also broke away from the usual festive spirit, when Durant was challenged by Joel Embiid. The two players exchanged verbal barbs right through the outing, which brought out a fierce competitive spirit that is usually reserved only for regular season and playoff fixtures.
The writer is in Charlotte on invitation from NBA