What went down
All-Star Weekend in Salt Lake City officially kicked off today. While there are usually more eyes on the Saturday and Sunday festivities, the NBA's Friday offerings are usually underrated treats.
The main event today was the Rising Stars event, which rehashed last year's pickup ball-lite format. There were again four teams represented by four captains—Pau Gasol, Joakim Noah, Deron Williams, and Jason Terry—and each captain got to draft their teams. Gasol, Noah, and Williams picked from the best rookies of sophomores this season while Terry got a set collection of the best young talent from the G League. They then played in a single elimination knockout with the semifinals being a race to 40 and the finals a race to 25.
In the end, Gasol’s squad reigned in the event. Bannered by 2022 Draft top overall pick Paolo Banchero, Indiana rookie Ben Mathurin, and New Orleans’ Jose Alvarado, Team Gasol knocked out the Bones Hyland-led Team Williams in the first round before dispatching Josh Giddey and Jeremy Sochan’s Team Noah.
But no one watches these events for the winners, we watch these for the moments. We did get plenty of that, starting with social media star Mac McClung stealing the show for the G League All-Stars in their game against Team Noah.
Mac McClung SHOWED OUT tonight, leading #TeamJason in scoring in an exciting performance during #JordanRisingStars! 🔥 @blue_coats pic.twitter.com/yauh8b7J8W— NBA G League (@nbagleague) February 18, 2023
For those who are always online, McClung should already be very familiar. He first started making waves in 2016 and 2017 as his glitzy highlight reels racked up millions of views on Instagram and YouTube, almost more than the views on Zion Williamson’s videos.
His NBA journey has been rough. After four years in college, he went undrafted in 2021. He’s since bounced around several G League teams. He scored 10 points today in the Rising Stars event, an apt preview for his Dunk Contest participation tomorrow.
We also saw Jose Alvarado playing up to expectations. He didn’t get the memo of taking it easy in events like this.
JOSE ALVARADO CALLED GAME ??— NBA (@NBA) February 18, 2023
TEAM PAU WINS #JordanRisingStars pic.twitter.com/EqyNmSdlWT
He earned MVP after scoring 18 points combined in the two games he played. He also called that game-winner.
🎙? MIC'D UP 🎙?— NBA (@NBA) February 18, 2023
Jose Alvarado calls his #JordanRisingStars game-winner to Donovan Mitchell 🥶 pic.twitter.com/LAR8yKo2p6
The NBA is taking a page from the MLB and putting a mic and earpiece on players while they play. Alvarado showed why this is both an awesome and risky idea.
The Celebrity Game doesn’t usually get a lot of shine, which is a shame since it’s pretty much basketball maximalism. Sure, there are a few celebrities, but the main attraction is the near-absurd rules.
In line with this extremism, the NBA has also had several NFL players dominate the event in the past few years. The NBA athlete is sleek, skilled, and graceful. Most NFL athletes are built to deal blunt trauma damage.
Last year, it was Cleveland Browns defensive end Myles Garrett crushing the rim. This year, Seattle Seahawks wide receiver DK Metcalf looked like a big brother playing against his younger siblings.
NOW PLAYING 🎬— #NBAAllStar (@NBAAllStar) February 18, 2023
The DK Metcalf 2023 #RufflesCelebGame MVP Mixtape pic.twitter.com/PkHD60KvhJ
Metcalf won MVP with 20 points and 10 rebounds. The NBA really should consider working with the NFL to bring more of their behemoths to play in an event like this. Who knew watching 280-pound dudes run and jump like gazelles would be this fun?
What he said
All-Star Weekend always has juicy conversations and quotes every day. We had several spicy takes to get things rolling, but this apology from Shaquille O’Neal to Rui Hachimura has to be the best.
Shaq:— Legion Hoops (@LegionHoops) February 17, 2023
“Let me apologize to Rudy Hachimura. I didn’t know who he was because I never watch the bull play, but he’s a fine role-player… So Rudy Hachimura I apologize I didn’t know who you were, I know you are now and I wish you well…”
(via The https://t.co/QwhPu9ISdf… https://t.co/4dFsF50zp3 pic.twitter.com/MImtaIU7zz
From mispronouncing Hachimura’s name to calling the Wizards “Bullets”, Shaq showed why he’s a Hall of Fame troll, among many plaudits. Just look up what he said about Christian Wood a couple of years ago.
Did you see that?
The Hall of Fame announced their stacked lineup of finalists for induction this year, headlined by Dwyane Wade, Dirk Nowitzki, Pau Gasol, Gregg Popovich, and Tony Parker.
NBA players named 2023 @Hoophall Finalists:— NBA TV (@NBATV) February 17, 2023
- Pau Gasol
- Dirk Nowitzki
- Tony Parker
- Dwyane Wade pic.twitter.com/faV6nq02pr
Odds are they all make it in, especially since the Hall of Fame also greatly values international accomplishments.
The NBA also announced a massive innovation for the app – a feature that allows fans to edit themselves into highlights.
NBA Commissioner Adam Silver unveils streaming experience of the future via the NBA App - and you can be in it! pic.twitter.com/FKYJvskf0H— NBA (@NBA) February 17, 2023