The 2011 NBA All-Star Weekend is upon us (almost, as soon as Thursday's two games end). Los Angeles and its Staples Center -- so magnificent two teams call it home -- will host the NBA's grandest annual spectacle beginning on Friday.
The schedule is as packed as ever, as long as you excuse the lack of a H.O.R.S.E. contest, which has been discontinued by the NBA and broadcast partner TNT after two years of boring infamy. Here's the run-down on the weekend's events. All times Eastern.
FRIDAY, FEBRUARY 18
BBVA Celebrity Game, 7 PM, ESPN. Bill Simmons and Jimmy Kimmel will serve as the coaches and choose teams among the illustrious stars of Hollywood and beyond on hand for the BBVA Celebrity Game. Justin Bieber makes his Celebrity Game debut, and would be a shoo-in for No. 1 pick overall if fellow contestant Scottie Pippen hadn't been prepping for weeks for his appearance. Magic Johnson, Bill Walton, Jason Alexander and Common are among the other players available. Terrible basketball guaranteed.
T-Mobile Rookie Challenge and Youth Jam, 9 PM, TNT. Blake Griifin will kick off his premier All-Star Weekend by heading into battle with John Wall and all the top picks of the 2010 NBA Draft not named Evan Turner. On the opposite side will be James Harden, Tyreke Evans and all the top 2009 NBA Draft picks not named Hasheem Thabeet, Ricky Rubio or Jonny Flynn. Amar'e Stoudemire and Carmelo Anthony will coach the rookies and sophomores, respectively. 'Melo is definitely sending Serge Ibaka after Derrick Favors' knees.
SATURDAY, FEBRUARY 19
Haier Shooting Stars, 8 PM, TNT. Team Texas starring Dirk Nowitzki, Roneeka Hodges of the San Antonio Silver Stars and former Houston Rocket Kenny Smith will look to repeat as champions against a field that includes Taj Gibson and Rick Fox. This event is also known by its alternate name "Sandwich Time."
Taco Bell Skills Challenge, 8:30 PM, TNT. The Taco Bell Skills Challenge does not include an engineering task involving the creation of a triple-decker taco or a 17-layer burrito, but should! Derrick Rose and four contestants voted on by fans but not yet announced by the league will
jog through a mundane obstacle course compete for eternal glory and, I assume, tacos. This event is also known by its alternate name "Second Sandwich Time."
Foot Locker 3-Point Contest, after the Skills Challenge, TNT. Paul Pierce looks to defend his shoot-out championship belt against teammate Ray Allen, 30-percent three-point shooter Kevin Durant, former LeBron James posse member Daniel Gibson, current LeBron James posse member James Jones and former Heat benchwarmer Dorell Wright. As such, this is a proxy war in the Heat-Celtics rivalry.
Sprite Slam Dunk Contest, after the 3-Point Contest, TNT. Blake Griffin is the overwhelming favorite on his home court against Serge Ibaka, JaVale McGee and DeMar DeRozan. Even if the dunks are uncreative, the contest is worth watching to see what ridiculous Tucker Carlson tribute Dwyane Wade will wear, to see Kobe Bryant pretend to like other human beings and to hear Charles Barkley's xenophobia live.
SUNDAY, FEBRUARY 20
NBA All-Star Game, 8 PM, TNT. The big show everyone is waiting for, with Kobe Bryant starring for the West team on his home floor. He'll be joined by teammate Pau Gasol and the previously discussed L.A. darling Blake Griffin. Seven of the 12 East All-Stars belong to the Heat and Celtics. It should be great fun seeing Chris Bosh and Kevin Garnett team up to defend pick-and-rolls.