It’s not just about seeing the best players on display when the 69th annual NBA All-Star weekend kicks off in Chicago on Friday.
You can also expect to see some serious dunks, incredible three-point precision and very emotional tributes.
Here’s everything you can expect from one of the most exciting weekends on the basketball calendar.
This is the weekend: Team Giannis Antetokounmpo against Team LeBron James in Sunday’s All-Star game.
The teams are made up of “all-star” players from all leagues – voted by teammates, fans and the media – and are led by those who received the most votes.
Giannis and LeBron chose their teams in a “playground” format on live TV, so being chosen last added a sprinkling of rooms.
There have been further toppings in the way Giannis snubbed James Harden of the Houston Rockets – claiming that it was because he wants someone “to pass the ball”. Ouch.
LeBron was happy to take Harden, adding him to a team that includes Los Angeles Clippers’ Kawhi Leonard and Anthony Davis, teammate of the Lakers, while Giannis sided with Joel Embiid of the Philadelphia 76ers and Kemba Walker of the Boston Celtics.
The game will also pay tribute to NBA legend Kobe Bryant who – along with his daughter Gianna and nine other people – died in a helicopter crash on January 26th.
Team LeBron will wear the shirts with the number two on the back in homage to Gianna with Team Giannis wearing the number 24 for his father.
At the beginning of the fourth quarter, the game clock will be turned off and a “final score” will be set, to be determined by taking the overall total score of the leading team and adding 24 points: the shirt number of Kobe Bryant.
It will be a more emotionally charged weekend than usual with all the freebies that will arrive for Kobe, especially because he is expected to be nominated for a place in the Sports Hall of Fame on Friday.
Hall of Fame
The announcements are the first on the All-Star weekend agenda. It will likely be one of the best classes in history with the legend of San Antonio Spurs, Tim Duncan and Kevin Garnett of the Boston Celtics, who are likely to take their place alongside Bryant.
Their inductions in the Hall of Fame are even more touching, considering that some of Bryant’s greatest games have clashed with Duncan and Garnett.
Celebrity All-Star Game
Friday night also hosts the All-Star Celebrity Game, with teams this year led by rappers born in Chicago – Common and Chance The Rapper.
This year’s celebrity rosters also present the last two winners of the game’s most valuable player award (MVP). Comedian Famoso Los won the award last year in North Carolina with rapper Quavo who picked up the award in 2018.
Quavo got to work to claim his title, preparing against Justin Bieber and Drake earlier this month.
Game NBA Rising Stars
This is the game that sees the best second-year rookies and students across the league face off in a US-style format Rest of the world.
Atlanta Hawks ‘Trae Young and Dallas Mavericks’ guard Luka Doncic are both second-year players who will be featured in the Rising Stars game and who will start in the All-Star game on Sunday evening.
But the main act of the game will undoubtedly be New Orleans Pelicans novice Zion Williamson. Despite playing only eight games so far this season because of an injury, the 19-year-old striker has had tons of hype around him since he became the first-round pick of 2019.
Slam Dunk Challenge
A huge part of the weekend festivities are Saturday night challenges, including one of the most iconic events of the All-Star weekend: the Slam Dunk Challenge.
It’s really simple: the best dunk wins. This year sees the return of a Slam Dunk legend in LA Lakers’ Dwight Howard. The center illuminated the competition between 2007-09, winning the competition in 2008 with this fantastic Superman-style dunk.
Saturday night also hosts the three point challenge and the skill challenge, so keep an eye out for the shooters chosen as Miami Heats ‘Duncan Robinson, as well as some dribbling techniques from the Boston Celtics’ Jayson Tatum.
So sit down, get the popcorn ready to watch some of the best NBA players who raise money for charity, play for the love of the game – and this year, play for Kobe.