“Well I hear there was a wonderboy. That many teams would not employ”.
This kid is no rookie.
But he’s for sure the Rookie of the Year right now, no doubt.
Late last night catching a stream of the Texas Rodeo derby out in Dallas, it looked like Houston and reigning MVP James Harden’s 33 were going to cut a win against the hometown team in the American Airlines Arena. That was until a true Maverick rocked the Rockets for an instant vintage performance of NBA History worthy of Most Valuable Players, let alone ROY’s.
“Colder than a tall glass of Kombucha”. Word to The Ringer’s Issac Lee and Jason Gallagher’s ‘Hallujah’ parody. Everyone was singing that (sort of) and the Slovenian rooks Luka Doncic’s praises (for sure) as he even gave Houston memories of Tracy against San Antonio in another classic clash of Texan titans. As the kid went 11-zip to close out the contest, 107-104 for the homestand Dallas.
With the game on the line and his team on the ropes, Luka stepped up with the knockout. When everything and everyone else was falling apart, he kept it together and then took it all down. He clutched after clutched. Whilst league legends turned into “just one of those games”. As CP3 turned into LeBron at the line for two (Paul did have 23 and 8 though). And Harden turned into Kobe against the Jazz in his rookie year as he airballed a downtown chance to even it all up and keep the Rockets in this game. One mere minutes ago they looked like landing.
But the coolest head belonged to the youngest cat in the building who scratched away at the wall until it all came down. Doncic iced the game on his signature move that is becoming as iconic as James’ Eurostep. As the Eurostar ran the lane, dribbled around like the baby faced assassin he looks, bully bumped his defender, switched hands back downtown and hit a switchblade three that was truly the dagger in the heart of their fellow Statesman in Texas.
This is what the NBA is all about. And this is what legacy making legends like Luka could be too. Number 77 have them a seal from heaven with 21 as the basketball God’s looked on. And this teenager isn’t even 21 yet. He can’t legally drink, but he’s carding everyone under the table right now.
And with the greatest European player of all-time not named Drazen, Dirk injured. All rounds are on him.
As Canadian and fellow Maverick point God, Steve Nash’s tweet said, “goodness gracious”.
Maybe he should have been your pick, because now he’ll never fall and be a Knick now.
Leonard Cohen would be proud.
Canadian’s rise to the occasion at 2020 NBA Rising Stars game
Without a doubt, one of the brightest spots of the NBA All-Star Weekend, is the Rising Stars game.
Since it’s inclusion in the 1994 All-Star game in Minneapolis, it has seen multiple formats and renditions — becoming a fertile playground for “phenoms” and “sensations” to showcase their gifted basketball talents to a global audience.
Orlando Magic point guard Anfernee “Penny” Hardaway won MVP of the inaugural edition of the rookie challenge game which at the time featured a true all-rookie affair with the likes on Chris Webber, Sam Cassell, Isaiah Rider taking on Jamal Mashburn and Nick Van Exel.
Toni Kukoc + Dino Rađa first International Players
The original 8-player team rosters comprised of only two international players – both Croatian/ Yugoslavian greats Toni Kukoc and Dino Rađa made the phenom cut.
In addition to Kukoc and Rada, and up until 2000, when the NBA made it’s first format change, from a all-rookie game to a rookie versus sophomores soiree — the game had only featured a grand total of nine (9) non-American players. Arvydas Sabonis (Lithuania/1996), George Zidek (Czechoslovakia/1996), Vitaly Potapenko (Ukraine/1997), Zydrunas Ilgauskas (Lithuania/1998), Michael Olowokandi (UK/Nigeria/2000) and Dirk Nowitzki (Germany/2000) providing a blueprint for international expansion.
Steve Nash first Canadian selected in 1997
Steve Nash broke the Canadian trend and became the country’s first representation at the event, playing alongside Lakers’ great Kobe Bryant in the 1997 rendition. Winnipeg, Manitoba’s own Todd MacCulloch added his name to list in first year of the new millennium, and twelve (12) years later Tristan Thompson (2012-2013) started what is now an eight-year streak of Canadians in the NBA’s Rising Stars’ Game.
Andrew Wiggins opened the flood-gates winning the MVP trophy in 2015 with an electric 22-point performance. Jamal Murray topped his scoring efforts with one of the best games in the events’ history with a 36-point MVP outburst in 2017.
History of Canadian’s NBA Rising Stars Game
Back then it was hard to imagine the impact that the NBA would have internationally, and across Canada. Despite multiple formats and various renditions, there’s little to no doubt that the idea of what has now become the World versus USA game has been a large contributing factor to the multiplier effect.
Record four Canadians in 2020 World vs. USA game
Now in its 26th year and in the sixth edition of the it’s latest format, the 2020 game showcased a record four (4) Canadian’s. Rookies RJ Barrett of the New York Knicks, Brandon Clarke (Memphis Grizzlies), Nickeil Alexander-Walker joined sophomore Shai Gilgeous-Alexander in the NBA’s Tupac themed me against the world game.
Barrett poured in a game-high 27 points, 6 rebounds, 5 assists and 3 steals. Clarke, arguably the steal of the 2019 NBA Draft was equally impressive with 22 points and game-high 8 rebounds on a 11-of-15 shot attempts. Gilgeous-Alexander razzled and dazzled his way to 16 points, 3 rebounds and 3 assists while his cousin Alexander-Walker added 6 points, 4 assists and 2 steals.
The Canadian’s contributions helped Team World race out to a 39-30 first-quarter lead over Team USA. A big second-half surge saw the all-American squad turn a 81-71, 10-point half-time deficit into 151-131, 20-point victory.
Outcome aside, the game featured a bevy of highlights including an impromptu dunk contest in the last minute that included some big time dunks by Brandon Clarke and RJ Barrett.
With such an impact internationally and responsible for giving many rising Canadian basketball players their first true taste of NBA All-Star weekend — it will only be a matter of time before one or two of them makes the leap from Saturday to Sunday like Nash did, becoming an official NBA All-star — five years after his appearance in the Rookie Challenge.
How’s This For An All-Star People? Common Takes Home Celebrity Game MVP In Chicago
“You love to hear the story again and again, about these young brothers from the city of wind”.
How’s this for the food? Jesus is King, but Yeezus was nowhere to be found this All Star weekend before Sunday service in Chicago. No matter. The eyebrow Ruffles of Anthony Davis is for all the chips. Like the Bulls will want for the Lakers forthcoming free agent this Summer. Expect a lot of him out the bag tomorrow putting on for his city in the same weekend his frontcourt teammate and back-to-back returning Slam Dunk Champion Dwight Howard looks to honour Kobe with that Mamba Mentality. You just know he’s going to rock the eighth wonder as he rocks the cradle. Give him the trophy now, unless Bull boy Zach Lavine can land that viral practice 360 from the Jordan bar raising free throw line.
But today he opened up the NBA All Star Celebrity Game in Chicago this weekend with a weird bag toss deciding challenge that along with a one handed tissue grab (What?!) for possession (guess celebrities like people who go to the bathroom before the cheque can’t tip) and some rock, paper, scissors (just playing ball beats all) between two of Chi-towns hottest M.C.’s made for some wheel spinning gimmicks the epic events could do without before tomorrow’s 24 second tribute to Kobe that really makes a fitting point.
Because Team Giannis and Team LeBron wearing 24 and 2 respectively and beautifully for Kobe and GiGi come tomorrow. Today saw Team Common and Team Chance The Rapper battle off wax for something straight out a court cipher. Okay so it was actually Team (Michael) Wilbon vs Team Smith (who else but Stephen A? But how about a face off with his brother (Jamie Foxx) Cleveland A. Smith on the ‘Saw’ trike…”he’s a close personal friend of mine”). But that like the 62-47 final score to Wilbon changing Chicago clothes under his suit barely mattered. This was all about fun, the love of the game and having a good time. And the city of Chicago that could sure use a break like the All Star one surely got that today.
After 24.2 seconds of silence for the late Bryant’s and the fellow victims of last months horrific helicoptor crash the game got underway in the same day as the Team USA vs World Rising Star preview to this year’s Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games in Japan (Konichiwa Rui!). And apart from some WNBA greats and NBA legends, despite the lack of professionals this was all a showcase of a mixed bag of talent that was all professionalism and some sweet skill. Despite ‘Get Out’ and ‘Uncle Drew’ star Lil Rel Howrey breaking the bandana headband rule (beautiful) and taking a turnover mid-court tumble (graceful). Somebody get him in ‘Space Jam 2’ too because that’s the only way like Wayne Knight he’ll play (I’m just kidding this guy is motherf###### NBA like he is TSA). And what would it take to get ‘Garfield’ star Bill Murray in one of these games? Probably the same chance as it would to get him in LeBron’s Monstar hoops solar system sequel out in Hollywood’s Lakerland.
Even without the balling Bieber there was still plenty of celebs who could ball like halftime show performer Quavo of Migos (who right now is forming a dynamic radio duo with good ‘Intentions’ alongside Justin). But it was WNBA leaders like the purple and gold of Spark Chelsea Grey who kept this game going like the green of Chance’s jerseys against Common’s ‘Electric Circus’ pink. Alongside former Clippers and podcast stars Darius Miles and Quentin Richardson going bam, bam, sneaker head-to-head, toe-to-toe. Miles being mic’d up to hilarious “I’m tired as hell” and swearing soundbites (“it’s a family show I apologize” Miles mused).
And then Chicagoland brought out the big dogs. Or the legends. As Chicago Bulls own Krypto-Nate dunk champ Nate Robinson put some heavy D on the boys and comedian Famous Los. I may be too old to know what a social media influencer is, but I know this kid can play (a like Mike 23 in the town M.J. put on the Jumpman map) like digital, video game 2K sports own marketing director Ronny 2K with his own custom jersey. And three-peating Bull-pen legend Horace Grant strapping the 54 and goggles back on like former NFL player, comedian and actor Anthony ‘Spice’ Adams (who was drawing “Zion in two years” social media comments. Well look at the man today) as he showed midrange vision off the glass, that was clear to see that even deep in the living well age of retirement he still had polish to his plays.
The homecrowd loved to see it.
But in a game that featured all sort of lists and rosters of owners (the Bucks money of Marc Lasry) and gymnasts (how about Katelyn Ohashi’s flipping introduction entrance?) it was Common that would ‘Be’ the Celebrity MVP with his Windy City skyline wood ingrained on the parquet. The before he was ‘Can I Borrow A Dollar’ famous the former Bull ball boy who used to mop up sweat off Jordan’s court wiped the floor with everybody. The ‘Just Wright’ Basketball movie star, ‘Let Love’ album and ‘Let Love Have The Last Word’ author artist coming off one of his ‘Finding Forever’ best years in the game ‘Like Water For Chocolate’ had the last word with a nice line of 10 points, 5 rebounds, 3 assists and 4 steals like his raps. Even if Smith’s mouth gave him lip service to the first Celebrity Game tech.
Only Stephen A.
What better way to start the All Star weekend with some real famous stars?
Basketball’s Hollywood takes stage tomorrow in Chi-city.