Saturday is generally viewed as NBA All-Star weekend’s marquee evening. The opening Friday with the celebrity and rookie-sophomore games always has moments, and the All-Star Game conclusion on Sunday should be even more interesting this year due to the new format. But Saturday has the dunk contest, and memories of a good dunk contest will outlast anything else.
Here’s what happened all night.
Finally, the guards got the win! After big men won the first two editions of this new format, Brooklyn’s Spencer Dinwiddie routed the Bulls’ Lauri Markkanen in the final to restore order to this event.
Also, Joel Embiid never took the tag off his shorts. (He lost in the semifinals to Markkanen. Alas).
The 3-point Contest
This thing took a while to get going, with most of the shooters clanking shots off the rim and even air-balling a couple. Paul George was especially horrible, much to Russell Westbrook’s delight.
But the finals made up for it. Devin Booker put on a show toward the end of his rack to put up a record 28 points, beating the 27 that Stephen Curry and Klay Thompson put up in separate years. Thompson finished with 25 this time, while Tobias Harris was third.
The Dunk Contest
Did the best dunks win? Probably not. Donovan Mitchell took the crown from Larry Nance due mostly to nailing all his dunks on the first couple tries. He ultimately won it with his homage to Vince Carter’s famous dunk to kick off the 2000 contest.
Mitchell put up a 48 in his first slam and a generous 50 for flying over a kneeling Kevin Hart. Dennis Smith Jr. had the best dunk of the night with this reverse 360, but his first dunk score wasn’t good enough.
Larry Nance advanced to face off against Mitchell after replicating his father’s rock-the-cradle dunk in the opening round.
It looked like Mitchell would cruise to victory, but Nance sewed doubt with the most creative slam of the night: a double-tap off the backboard while in mid-air.
Alas, it wasn’t enough. Mitchell had the showmanship and the consistency, and that got him the win.