Pages: Star-studded

John Z. Pages
·3 min read

IN THE 2020 NBA All-Star Game in Chicago, a total of 17,808 spectators filled the United Center to witness Team LeBron defeat Team Giannis in a thrilling 157-155 encounter.

This weekend, the All-Star Game continues. What’s the difference? Plenty. First, the people on the rafters will not exceed 1,500. Considering that the State Farm Arena has a capacity of 16,600, that’s less than 10 percent attendance.

Last year, the All-Star Weekend was held early—Feb. 16, 2020—before the lockdown was enacted. Thus, a full capacity crowd was invited.

We’re even lucky the All-Star Game is pushing through this 2021. Originally, it was to be held in Indianapolis. Then, the league officials said it would be cancelled. It reversed course and said it would continue in Atlanta, Georgia. From the usual whole-weekend spectacle, it has also been reduced to one day.

The Three-Point Contest and Skills Challenge will be held before the game. Then, during halftime, instead of the sexy dancers entertaining the audience, it will be the Slam Dunk Contest.

These are the changes. What won’t change are the words “all stars.” The planet’s best ballplayers will converge in a high-scoring, plenty-of-dunks, minimal-defense, lots-of-laughing contest that will be played (Phil. time) tomorrow at 9 a.m.

LeBron, Giannis and Steph Curry in the same team? Wow, this hasn’t happened before. Add the Slovenian 22-year-old Luka Doncic and the 26-year-old Serb Nikola Jokic and that’s a mighty Avengers-type squadron. Team LeBron is the favorite against any other team in the universe—well, except this team being assembled in Space Jam: A New Legacy.

Kyrie Irving, Joel Embiid, Kawhi Leonard, Bradley Beal and Jayson Tatum lead the starting five of Team Durant. I’m excited with the first All-Star game of Zion Williamson. During the Draft Pick, as soon as Kevin Durant picked the 20-year-old Pelicans star to be part of his line-up, you could hear a sigh from LeBron. He, too, wanted to play alongside the 6-foot-7, 248-lb. monster-dunk specialist.

The NBA All-Star Game dates back to 1951 when the East defeated the West in Boston Garden. For 70 years, it has been one of the sporting world’s highlights. It also produces the most number of points of possibly any basketball game in the world. The record, back in 2017, was the 192-182 win by the West. That’s a whopping 374 points scored in 48 minutes.

Tomorrow, I’m also excited with the three-point shootout. Steph Curry, the 2015 winner, is the perennial favorite. The interesting fact this 2021: Zach LaVine and Donovan Mitchell are joining. They are former Slam Dunk champs—and no one in history has gone on to win both the dunking and three-point events. Will tomorrow be the first?

In the Slam Dunk contest, only three are joining: Anfernee Simons, Cassius Stanley and Obi Toppin. I’ll make an admission: as I typed their names, it was the first time I’d heard of these three. They’re young (21, 21 and 23) and hungry for that prestigious high-flying title.