The Rundown: Cavs trio, KAT, Toppin winners of All-Star Saturday

Published February 20, 2022, 1:40 PMMiguel Flores

In the 2022 edition of All-Star Saturday, the Cavaliers won the Skills Challenge, Karl-Anthony Towns became the new 3-point king, and Obi Toppin lorded over the Slam Dunk Contest.

Taco Bell Skills Challenge

There has been a ton of tinkering with the Skills Challenge over the years. This year, the league tried a format that incorporated having teams like the old Shooting Stars Contest and the obstacle course of the new Skills Challenge.

What we got was an hour-long competition that lasted four rounds. In the end, Team Cleveland outlasted Team Antetokounmpos and Team Rookies. The Cavaliers definitely showed out for their home fans as Darius Garland and Evan Mobley flashed their potential.

The league still needs to iron out a few kinks for this format to truly shine but having teams should stick. This had every chance to be a drag but it turned out to be one of the most entertaining parts of the night.

Mountain Dew 3-Point Contest

There’s a method to picking winners in the 3-point Contest. The best shooters in the league don’t always shine in this contest because there’s a massive difference from spotting up or pulling up in a game to grabbing balls off a rack and running around the 3-point line.

The best shooters in the contest are usually natural set-shooters – guys who don’t need to jump high to get their shots off. They also tend to have quicker releases with fewer mechanics involved. Think Larry Bird, Jason Kapono, and Peja Stojakovic.

This was why Karl-Anthony Town being the underdog heading into the contest was pretty ridiculous. Towns is not only shooting 40 percent from deep this season, but he also possesses the traits mentioned above. Towns got into the final round by scoring 22 in the first round then clinched the title with a 29-point explosion in the final round to overwhelm Luke Kennard and favorite Trae Young.

Is KAT the best big man shooter ever? Dirk Nowitzki, who also has a 3-point Contest trophy in his resumé, might have something to say about that. For today, KAT can call himself the best shooter in the league.

AT&T Slam Dunk Contest

Dwyane Wade summed up this year's Dunk Contest perfectly right at the end of the broadcast.

“This dunk contest,” Wade said while reaching for his scorecard, “is a six.”

For once, Wade's scoring wasn't at all controversial. This year's Dunk Contest featured plenty of misses. Still, it had some memorable moments that made the lack of aerial showmanship easier to swallow.

First, Cole Anthony paid tribute to his father and former New York Knick Greg Anthony by rocking his dad’s jersey and putting on some Timbs. This was, in fact, the first time anyone has competed in Timbs in Dunk Contest history, making the New Yorkers in the arena and around the world weep with pride. 

Anthony didn’t get a 50 for that dunk nor did he make the final round, but he definitely got the contest off with the perfect vibes.

Obi Toppin followed this up with his own tribute to New York by dunking over Bing Bong messiah and rapper Nems. This was probably Toppin’s hardest dunk of the contest.

The rest of the contest wasn't as hype after that. Juan Toscano-Anderson had moments, trying to pay tribute to Vince Carter with all his dunks. While he didn’t fail, Toscano-Anderson also proved that it’s almost an impossible feat trying to recreate the magic of Vinsanity.

Filipino-American Jalen Green had a whole country skip morning service to watch him compete. But nerves got the best of the rookie as he failed to complete his first dunk. His second dunk – a 360, between-the-legs joint – probably should have gotten a 50.

In the end, Toppin took home the title after Toscano-Anderson whiffed on his dunk in the final round.

When the Dunk Contest doesn’t deliver a ton of excitement, there are always calls to move it earlier on the All-Star Saturday schedule, perhaps having the 3-Point Contest finish the festivities. This would be an overreaction. While we do get stiff dunk contests from time to time, we do also get ones where guys like Aaron Gordon or Zach LaVine put on a show. Have a little faith in the dunkers.

Did you see that?

There were plenty of other peripheral activities you might have missed today. Here are some highlights:

  • Team LeBron and Team Durant had their “practice” for the 71st All-Star game tomorrow. There wasn’t a lot of conventional practicing going on, but Nikola Jokic definitely starred as his goofiness made rounds on social media.

  • LeBron James made quite a few headlines when he said that a return to Cleveland “wasn’t out of the question.” He also stated that he does plan on playing with his son, Bronny, in the league before retiring. This has never happened in the NBA. LeBron and Bronny could become the league’s Griffeys.
  • Giannis Antetokounmpo made every event he attended more fun. He was a joy in the Skills Contest and his attempts at filming the Dunk Contest through his phone was hilarious.