The 2020 NBA All-Star game tipped off on Sunday night in Chicago with a new set of rules and it did not disappoint. The first three quarters were about the same as it is each year — fast-break dunks and zero effort on defense — however, when the fourth quarter arrived, something we’ve been waiting forever to see happened. The 10 players on the court began to take the game personal.
Charges were drawn, trash was talked, and tons of defense was on display during the untimed fourth quarter as Team LeBron edged Team Giannis 157-155 to take home the crown. Kawhi Leonard was named the NBA All-Star Kobe Bryant MVP after putting up 30 points while knocking down eight three’s in 20 minutes.
Now that we’ve had some time to digest the newly-revamped NBA All-Star game, I figured it would be a good time to jot down a few of my takeaways from the evenings festivities. It’s important to state that a couple of these are for humor purposes and not intended to be taken seriously!
1: LeBron had something to prove
If there is anything we have learned about the guy who dubs himself, “The King”, it’s that he enjoys being at the top. After holding the title of “best player in the league” for more than a decade, it bothers him when younger players get similar recognition, whether he admits it or not. Back in 2016 when Steph Curry was setting the league on fire there was many around the league who believed he had overtaken LeBron as the league’s best player. James never chimed in on the debate but when the two met in the NBA finals later in the year, Bron-Bron seemed to enjoy reminding Curry who the best player in the game was after rejecting one of his shots.
Fast-forward to the present day and there are many who believe that reigning MVP, Giannis Antetokounmpo, has taken over the title of league’s best player. I couldn’t help but sense a bit of animosity between LeBron and Giannis on Sunday night. There were a few times where it seemed like the two were going at each other.
2: Nick Nurse had an agenda
People were left scratching their heads at some of the decisions that Toronto Raptors and Team Giannis head coach Nick Nurse made down the stretch on Sunday. Entering the untimed fourth quarter, Team Giannis was nursing (no pun intended) a 133-124 lead, needing only 24 points to take home the crown. Nurse kept the same lineup out there for the entire quarter — mind you there was no running clock or TV timeouts. Even as Team LeBron subbed in the their well-rested cast of Kawhi Leonard, LeBron James, Anthony Davis, and James Harden — Nick Nurse failed to make any sort of change to his lineup.
Now before you chastise me for critiquing coaching decisions in the All-Star game, the more I looked at Team Giannis’ fourth quarter lineup the more I got the sense that Nick Nurse may have known what he was doing all along. I am beginning to think this was all apart of his diabolical plan to pave the way for another 15 game win streak for his Raptors. He took this as an opportunity to throw some wear and tear on some of the players who pose as the biggest threats to the Raptors in the Eastern Conference. Giannis Antetokounmpo, Joel Embiid, and Kemba Walker, all leading teams who are currently candidates to come out of the East, played a combined 89 minutes in Sunday’s game. For comparison, the trio of LeBron James, Anthony Davis, and Kawhi Leonard played a combined 59 minutes.
If this is indeed true, Nurse deserves some credit for being that petty. On a night that most NBA stars view as a time to rest up and take it easy, it seems that Nick Nurse had other plans for his conference rivals. I guess we’ll see if his plan was successful come playoff time!
3: Chris Paul a candidate for 2021 Dunk Contest?
Obviously, this is a joke. However, the 34 year old caught the first alley-oop of his 15 year career!
I’ve tried, and I honestly cannot remember the last time my cornea’s have seen Chris Paul dunk a basketball so this might have been the most surprising element of the night for me. In a game that was dedicated to paying tribute to Kobe Bryant and his daughter Gianna, who tragically passed away in a Helicopter crash on January 26th, I guess anything can happen. After mustering up every bit of fiber in his calf muscles to get high enough to catch the lob, I can’t help but wonder if CP3 will need some load-managing at times throughout the second half of the season!
4: Eyes were opened
On Sunday night, the NBA saw it’s first glimpse of the “Elam Ending”. Created by Ball State professor Nick Elam, the Elam Ending is a rule that removes the clock at the end of a game and replaces it with a target score. The game ends when one of the teams hits the score. The rule burst onto the scenes in the The Basketball Tournament three years ago and has gained traction ever since. When the NBA announced they would experiment with the idea in the All-Star game, reviews were mixed. Some found the rule to be confusing while others marveled at the idea of adding a new, exciting element to the lackluster All-Star game.
After seeing the Elam Ending in action, I am all in. I believe it would add a unique twist to the way games are decided in the NBA. In a season where ratings are falling, the league needs this. They need something that is new and exciting during an 82 game season. The NBA rarely makes drastic changes or additions to it’s core, fundamental rules, with the only major change in the last 50 years being the addition of the three-point shot in 1979, but the Elam Ending has the makings of something that could positively impact the game for decades.
The league has not yet decided if they will use the Elam Ending in next years All-Star game or ever, but one thing is certain — eyes were opened to the fact that change isn’t so scary after all!
5: Kobe would be proud
In light of the tragic passing of NBA legend Kobe Bryant, his daughter Gianna, and seven others in a helicopter crash on January 26th, the NBA aimed to take advantage of the All-Star game to pay their respects. Team Giannis wore the number 24 while Team LeBron sported the number 2 in honor Kobe’s daughter Gianna and in honor of Kobe, 24 points were added to the leading teams score heading into the fourth quarter, which set the target score. The league also announced they would be permanently changing the All-Star MVP trophy to the Kobe Bryant All-Star MVP trophy.
All of those tributes were special in their own way, but one of my favorite tributes was the way the game was played. If you have watched Kobe play, you know he was one of the fiercest competitors the game has ever seen. He was obsessed with his craft and his will to win was so unique that he was difficult to play with at times. It didn’t matter if it was a preseason game or game seven of the NBA finals, Kobe was going to break you, both mentally and physically.
The effort we saw from both teams during the fourth quarter on Sunday would have made Kobe proud. The competition that was on display was reminiscent of the way Kobe treated every game. There was trash-talk, charges taken, players diving on the floor for loose balls. Personally, I saw a glimpse of Kobe in each of the players on Sunday and it was beautiful. On a night where so much was made in the remembrance of Kobe “Bean” Bryant, the most memorable tribute to me, was the effort given by the players in a meaningless All-Star game in late February. Kobe would have been proud.