The 2020 NBA All-Star Weekend in Chicago was among the most memorable in recent league history. Saturday night’s events were something else.
The game itself the following night did not disappoint in any way. While the early going lacked defense and intensity, the end of the game was absolutely crazy.
As the teams continued to trade shots, it became apparent that this would end up being the greatest All-Star Game in sports history. Maybe a way to pay homage to one Kobe Bryant.
Team LeBron came out on top over Team Giannis by the score of 157-155. It was something else.
Here are the biggest winners from what was a dramatic exhibition game in Chicago Sunday night.
Winner: Magic Johnson, Common and Jennifer Hudson
We knew that the pre-game festivities inside Chicago’s United Center Sunday evening were going to be Kobe-centric. The backstory to this year’s All-Star Game was the tragic passing of Kobe, his daughter and seven others three weeks ago to the day in a helicopter accident in Southern California.
Not a dry eye was left in the building after Magic Johnson paid tribute to both Kobe and former NBA Commissioner David Stern, the latter of whom he credits with helping him overcome his HIV diagnosis more than a quarter-century ago.
From there, Jennifer Hudson performed an absolutely beautiful solo with Kobe and his late daughter, Gianna, featured in the backdrop. The “American Idol” finalist and Academy Award winner put her heart and soul into the performance. Having dealt with personal tragedy in her life, this hit home for the Chicago native. If that wasn’t enough, Common went up on stage and provided an amazing oral history of Chicago basketball. Just some great stuff right here.
Loser: Chaka Khan
We hate to call out this Chicago native for her National Anthem performance Sunday evening. Unfortunately, it was disastrous from the get-go. More often than not, it seemed like Khan was screaming at the top of her lungs rather than actually singing.
It was a cringe-worthy performance, as evidenced by the reaction on social media. Heck, NBA players listening to the rendition were also thrown for a loop. This really did remind us of Fergie’s anthem performance back in 2018. In fact, many concluded that the former “Black Eyed Peas” vocalist was better. Ouch!
Winner: Kawhi Leonard
The reigning NBA Finals MVP meant business early and often Sunday night. It’s not a surprise that Leonard put on his game face while the rest of the players were pretending like this was a pick-up game early on. Kawhi hit seven three-pointers in the first half alone.
When all was said and done, Leonard scored 30 points on 11-of-18 shooting in a dominant offensive performance. It was enough to keep Team LeBron afloat until a crazy fourth quarter of action.
Loser: Luka Doncic
This super sophomore made sweet music with Ben Simmons early in the game. It’s the type of play we’ve become accustomed to from the NBA MVP candidate.
Unfortunately, the rest of his first All-Star Game did not go too swimmingly for Doncic. The youngster scored eight points on 3-of-6 shooting. In a wide-open game of this ilk, we’d expect this wizard to fill up the box score. That will come in due time. It just did not happen on Sunday.
Winner: Giannis Antetokounmpo
The Greek Freak translates pretty darn well to an open-court environment. Based solely on his athleticism, Giannis was going to put up numbers in the 2020 NBA All-Star Game. However, we did not anticipate his squad keeping it close against Team LeBron after a lackluster performance in the first quarter. That’s especially true after he was dragged during the All-Star Draft.
Individually, Antetokounmpo scored 25 points on 12-of-21 shooting while grabbing 11 rebounds and dishing out four assists. Even in an exhibition game, he’s proving himself to be a cut above the rest.
Loser: James Harden
Taking part in his eighth consecutive All-Star Game, we’re surprised that Harden has never come away with the MVP. This format seems to benefit a player of his ilk. Sadly, that did not come to fruition Sunday evening.
Harden scored 11 points on 3-of-9 shooting and was on the receiving end of a disrespectful nutmeg from Atlanta Hawks star guard Trae Young. This obviously wasn’t Harden at his best.
Winner: Fourth quarter effort
This had to be the single most competitive All-Star Game environment we’ve seen in some time. After some major issues on defense in the opening stanza and throughout the remainder of the first half, things picked up big time in the second half. Maybe the new scoring format paying homage to Kobe played a role in this.
After the third quarter was complete, the “target” score for each team was 157. Team Giannis held a nine-point lead at that time. Effort picked up. The game was ultimately tied at 152 in a fourth quarter that wasn’t timed.
When all ways said and done, the end of the game was about as crazy as it gets. Multiple offensive fouls. Some elite-level defense. Drama. A coach’s challenge. Everything you could ask for. An NBA Finals environment. This new format was something else. The intensity was also yet another way for the game’s best players to honor Kobe. What an amazing job the Association did in Chicago Sunday night and throughout the weekend.
Then, something changed. In a new format that took into account Kobe Bryant’s No. 24 jersey, the final quarter of action was absolutely insane in Chicago. Team Giannis had a nine point lead heading into the fourth quarter, and needed to drop 24 points to reach the target score of 157.
Each side traded shots. This Giannis Antetokounmpo block on LeBron James late in the game was challenged as a goaltend. You be the judge.
In the end, Team LeBron came out on top by the score of 157-155 on an Anthony Davis free throw in what was the best All-Star Game in NBA history. Needless to say, the sports world reacted in a big way to the crazy ending of the game.
They might be rivals during the regular season, but Jayson Tatum and Ben Simmons were cooking up something special for Team LeBron during the All-Star Game.
Check out Tatum with an over the head, no-look pass to Simmons for the flush in the third quarter of the game Sunday night.
We’re not even sure how to explain just how awesome this pass was from the first-time Celtics All-Star.
This is just filthy stuff right there from a rising star who is just now starting to hit his stride.
It might not be as great as this pass from Stephen Curry to Giannis Antetokounmpo. But it’s darn close.
It’s usually Houston Rockets guard and MVP candidate James Harden embarrassing defensive players on the court. With absolutely no defense being played early in the 2020 NBA All-Star game, Harden himself fell victim to a highlight-reel play.
Check out stud Atlanta Hawks guard Trae Young legitimately nutmeg Harden on a fast break. It’s a thing of beauty.
We could tell that Young hand planned this long before. He wanted to humiliate one of the game’s best players in his first All-Star Game appearance. It was coordinated, and it was amazing.
Unfortunately, Young missed the lay-up attempt. That doesn’t take away what he did to Mr. Harden here.
The 2020 NBA All-Star Game started out with a boom. Team LeBron led Team Giannis by the score of 53-41 after the first quarter. You read that right. A total of 94 points in the first 12 minutes.
There were certainly some highlight-reel plays on the offensive end of the court.
However, most of the focus around the NBA world was once again on a lack of defense in the exhibition game.
Fans were not too happy.
The pregame tributes to Kobe Bryant were absolutely amazing leading up to the 2020 NBA All-Star Game in Chicago Sunday evening.
Tenille Arts was tremendous in her rendition of “O Canada.” Unfortunately, the performance we heard from Chicago native Chaka Khan singing the American National Anthem was among the most disastrous ever.
It was bad. Really bad.
And Khan was roasted big time by the NBA world.
The NBA is holding its annual All-Star game in Chicago Sunday night. While it promises to be a festive environment, there’s a sad backdrop to it all.
Just three weeks ago, Los Angeles Lakers legend and future Hall of Famer Kobe Bryant passed away at the age of 41. Bryant and his daughter, Gianna, were among nine people killed in a Southern California helicopter accident on Jan. 26.
Since then, tributes have come pouring in. That includes the NBA announcing that the All-Star Game MVP will be named after Kobe. The teams are also sporting No. 2 and No. 24 jerseys to represent the numbers Gianna and Kobe were on the basketball court.
The entire Association and players around the NBA paid tribute to these two ahead of the game itself on Sunday. They were absolutely amazing.
The most passionate moment came when Chicago native and a victim of tragedy herself, Jennifer Hudson, paid homage to Bryant.
It was something else.
Philadelphia 76ers stars Joel Embiid and Ben Simmons are going up against one another in the 2020 NBA All-Star Game Sunday night.
In the midst of a drama-filled season in Philly, it will be interesting to see what happens when Embiid guards Simmons and vice versa. According to Embiid, he’s simply going to make Simmons shoot the ball.
Simmons’ inability to shoot from the outside has been a major point of contention for Philadelphia heading into the unofficial second half of the season. Heck, head coach Brett Brown has called him out on it. Embiid is now taking a shot at Simmons’ expense.
Meanwhile, Turner Sports personality Charles Barkley played right into it ahead of the game Sunday night.
NBA All-Star Weekend is missing some major star power from Northern California. Three-time NBA champions Stephen Curry and Klay Thompson of the Golden State Warriors are not partaking in the festivities as both rehab from serious injuries.
Specifically, Curry’s absence during Saturday night’s events was noticeable. As the former NBA MVP makes his way back, another MVP had an interesting take on Curry’s injury.
Milwaukee Bucks star Giannis Antetokounmpo indicated that NBA players enjoy that Curry is not playing. The Greek Freak did provide a caveat that makes the statement a little less dramatic. It’s still a rather interesting take.
To be clear, Giannis and Curry are good friends. This obviously wasn’t a knock at the one of the greatest shooters in NBA history. Antetokounmpo is merely talking about how much easier it is to navigate in an NBA that doesn’t include Curry knocking down 30-foot three-pointers with ease.
As Giannis and his Bucks look to win 70 games this season, the injury-plagued Warriors headed into the All-Star Break with a league-worst 12-43 record. Things will certainly change on that front once Curry and Thompson return healthy next season. Until then, enjoy the Warriors’ struggles.
The unofficial second half of the NBA season will get going later this week after what has been an event-filled All-Star weekend.
There’s a whole heck of a lot still in play with about two months remaining on the slate.
Just how bad will the eighth seed in the Eastern Conference be once all is said and done? Will the Philadelphia 76ers retain Brett Brown should the team struggle out of the post-break slate?
Over in the Western Conference, the Denver Nuggets are looking to put both Los Angeles teams on notice. Meanwhile, star rookie Zion Williamson and the Pelicans will continue to make waves.
These are among the six bold predictions for the remainder of the NBA season coming out of the All-Star break.
Eastern Conference team makes the playoffs 10 games under .500
This conference has not been as bad as we’ve seen in recent seasons. A total of five teams are 10-plus games over .500. With this top-heaviness has come a major divide between those teams and the rest of the conference. In fact, the Orlando Magic are currently the eighth seed at 24-31 on the season.
It’s crazy to think about. The 20-33 Washington Wizards are just three games out of that final playoff spot. Heck, the Chicago Bulls (19-36) find themselves just five games out. I’m here to predict that one of these three teams makes the playoffs at 36-46, at best. It will ultimately lead to one of the most lopsided playoff series in NBA history when the Milwaukee Bucks come calling.
Nuggets slip past Lakers in the West
The Denver Nuggets were among the best teams in the NBA heading into the All-Star Break. They got red hot, posting a 24-9 record to close out the first half after starting the season 14-8. This included a 24-point road win against the Lakers back in late December. An overtime loss to those very same Lakers this past Wednesday does not change the fact that Denver is for real.
I’m going to boldly predict that Denver makes up the four games that separates itself from Los Angeles over the final two months of the season. All-Star center Nikola Jokic will finally get into shape. Jamal Murray will continue to play at a high level. Meanwhile, youngster Michael Porter Jr. will be the Nuggets’ ace in the hole. Look for the Western Conference to go through Mile High once the playoffs start.
Sixers head coach Brett Brown is fired
Following what was a uneven pre-break performance, the Sixers head into the second half as the fifth seed back east. Brown’s coaching has come into question, leading to general manager Elton Brand failing to commit to him for the remainder of the season. While a team in playoff positioning firing its head coach is rare, I’m here to boldly claim that’s going to happen.
Philadelphia has an experienced assistant in that of Jim O’Brien who coached the team to the playoffs back in 2004-05. Maybe he can light a fire under this star-laden squad, the dramatic Joel Embiid included. After all, the Sixers are going nowhere fast under Brown. If it’s not in the second half of the season, it will be this coming summer. Brown is not long for the job in Philly. That much is clear.
Pelicans sneak into the playoffs
Boasting a 23-32 record, New Orleans finds itself 5.5 games out of the final playoff spot in the Western Conference. That’s a lot of room to make up with just 27 regular-season games remaining. Though, recent trends seem to suggest that Zion Williamson and Co. could very well sneak into the playoffs.
New Orleans ended the first half winning 16 of its final 25 games. Williamson is playing at an historical level as a rookie. Fellow youngster Brandon Ingram is a first-time All-Star. Lonzo Ball has improved leaps and bounds over the past month or so. Everything seems to be aligning for Alvin Gentry’s squad to earn the eighth seed out west. Expect it to happen.
Bucks win 70 games
Currrently 46-8 on the season, Milwaukee would need to win 24 of its final 28 games to become just the third team to win 70 games in a single season, joining the 1995-96 Chicago Bulls and 2015-16 Golden State Warriors in that elite company. Could Giannis Antetokounmpo and Co. accomplish this feat?
First off, the Bucks are surprisingly just 6.5 games ahead of the streaking Toronto Raptors for the No. 1 seed back east. At the very least, the team will be playing meaningful basketball up until the final couple weeks of the season. Of Milwaukee’s final 28 games, almost half of them are against teams under .500. There’s a darn good chance this team will indeed finish 70-12 or better. What an amazing accomplishment that would be.
LeBron matches Jordan with fifth NBA MVP award
A lot has been made about Giannis Antetokounmpo winning his second consecutive MVP award. Given the Bucks’ success and his absurd numbers, that makes sense. Houston Rockets star James Harden has been a favorite for this individual honor all season.
Neither will come away with the hardware. Instead, it will go to LeBron James. The 35-year-old is playing at an otherworldly level. James is averaging 25.0 points, 7.8 rebounds and an NBA-high 10.8 assists per game. He’s also plus-8.2 per game when on the court. After failing to earn this award since all the way back in 2013, James will hoist the trophy for the fifth time — matching MJ for second on the all-time list.