A lot was riding on this year's NBA All-Star Weekend, though it didn't fell like that at all. This was the first full All-Star Weekend since the pandemic hit. Last season, we only got one day with the Saturday events moved to Sunday with the All-Star Game.
This year we got to experience the full All-Star Weekend showcase. Despite some grumblings, there were plenty of bright moments in Cleveland. Here are our five favorite moments.
Myles Garrett being a monster
This year's Ruffles NBA All-Star Celebrity Game didn't feature as many big-name celebrities as past editions but it might have had the most legitimately scary participant in the event’s history.
Myles Garrett is the Cleveland Browns’ All-Pro defensive end. Like most football players, Garrett is massive standing at 6-foot-4 and weighing nearly 280 pounds. The big difference between Garrett and a lot of NFL defensive ends is his athleticism. On the basketball court, we got to see the full scope of his athleticism.
DUNK CONTEST BEHAVIOR FROM MYLES GARRETT 💥 pic.twitter.com/K9vAcF1jDI— SportsCenter (@SportsCenter) February 19, 2022
He was basically Zion Willamson but with a workout plan. He had a couple of monster blocks and a few more dunks, including a windmill at the end of the game. One of the biggest talking points, when the NFL and NBA season crossed over, was which NBA player could play in the NFL. We should probably ask Myles if he could moonlight in the NBA.
The new Rising Stars format was actually great
There was a bit of skepticism when the league announced its tweaks to the Clorox Rising Stars event this year. Four teams? A snake draft? Another convoluted scoring system? Was a regular basketball game not good enough to showcase the next generation of stars?
But the whole ordeal was more fun than anyone expected. While not having clocks did take away the excitement of buzzer-beaters, the target scores have made the games more competitive, adding tension to an event that usually turned into a romp for one side with barely any defense being played. This new format made the whole event feel like a top-flight pickup game. The winner stayed on the court.
The young stars definitely put on a show. In the end, 2021 NBA Draft top pick Cade Cunningham got his time to shine, earning MVP after tallying 18 points, seven rebounds, and nine assists across the two games Team Barry played. The Pistons rookie didn’t have the best start to his season but has been terrific over the last two months.
?? CAD3. CUNNINGHAM. ??#Pistons | CadeCunningham_ pic.twitter.com/lGXBUcIgPq— Detroit Pistons (@DetroitPistons) February 19, 2022
Karl-Anthony Towns is the best shooter
After everything he’s been through over the last few years, Karl-Anthony Towns deserves all the good things the world can offer. Towns’ Timberwolves are in the middle of a low-key renaissance as an exciting and young playoff team.
Last Sunday, he got his chance to prove his bold claim as the best shooting big man ever. Towns scraped by the first round of the Mountain Dew 3-Point Contest then dominated the final round by putting up 29 points against Luke Kennard and Trae Young.
The most points EVER in a final round.— Minnesota Timberwolves (@Timberwolves) February 20, 2022
That man is different.@KarlTowns
Three-Point Champ 🐺 pic.twitter.com/SZTsb0BR0O
The league even let KAT wear his late mom’s necklace despite discouraging players from wearing jewelry while competing in events. This was an all-around cool moment for one of the coolest guys in the league.
The Taco Bell Skills Challenge might have gone on too long. The AT&T Slam Dunk Contest might have had one too many misses. The 3-point Contest saved this year’s All-Star Saturday slate.
The 75 Greatest
The NBA shines the most when it honors its past.
At halftime of the All-Star Game on Monday (PHT), the league honored its 75th Anniversary Team. Legends from each era were represented. The best part was how these players of different generations interacted. Legends showing love will never get old.
In the middle of the lovefest, the two greatest players ever collided… in a hug. Michael Jordan, the brash star of the ‘90s, dapped up LeBron James, the league’s torchbearer since he got drafted in 2003. There has been tension between the two over the years as both have rightfully tried to stake their claim as the undisputed GOAT. This was a nice, unexpected change of pace for the two.
LEBRON x MJ. #NBA75 pic.twitter.com/96W7h8924b— NBA (@NBA) February 21, 2022
This speech from Shaquille O’Neal summarized why this event was special and important. The NBA is a special league. Few are talented enough to make the league, even fewer are lucky enough to become superstars. Shaq’s stories showed just how small the NBA world is with how he interacted with fellow legends in the past.
.@SHAQ delivered a powerful, emotional tribute to all of those who inspired him to become one of the most dominant NBA big men ever. @NBAonTNT #NBA75 pic.twitter.com/DzUgKkm0r6— TurnerSportsPR (@TurnerSportsPR) February 21, 2022
The King is from Akron
The All-Star game could have been a movie. The plot was too good. With the game being played in his home state of Ohio, LeBron James returned and delivered the biggest moment on a night that also honored legends of the sport. Cut, print, send the test to Hollywood.
Luckily, it wasn't too good to be true. James, with both his team and Team Durant one bucket away from the win, posted up Zach Lavine, spun into from Joel Embiid’s help defense, and drained the game-winning fadeaway in front of his hometown fans.
LEBRON JAMES WINS THE #NBAAllStar GAME FOR #TeamLeBron IN CLEVELAND.— NBA (@NBA) February 21, 2022
Another kid born in Akron won the MVP. Steph Curry didn’t get much of an ovation from the Cleveland crowd during events before the game but he still put on a show. He dropped 50 points, including an All-Star Game record of 16 triples. The Chef was cooking right from the first quarter and his team made sure he kept cooking throughout the game.
Steph had an UNREAL performance at #NBAAllStar— NBA TV (@NBATV) February 21, 2022
🔥 50 PTS
🔥 16-27 3PM
What a game pic.twitter.com/D3ElsrGiIh
All of this was made possible by the Elam Ending, one of the riskiest changes to the All-Star Game by the Adam Silver regime. Add this classic game to the growing list of reasons to make this format permanent.