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La La Lakerland Played Host To A City Of All-Stars At The Weekend

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La La Lakerland Played Host City Stars Weekend
Like Father, Like Slam,

Los Angeles, it doesn’t get much more Hollywood than this. Even if Beyonce, Queen Latifah, Chris Tucker and even the other Michael (B) Jordan were taking in all the lights, camera action court-side.

After the 2017 Mardi Gras in New Orleans last year and two calendar’s after our native Toronto held the All Star Weekend in Canada, the sixth A.S.G. in the Clipper and Lakerland of the downtown STAPLES of L.A. was the first of it’s kind. As two of the best players in the association and reigning finalists decided to draft their own pool of players against the wall for the ultimate black and white pick-up game between ‘Team Stephen’ and ‘Team LeBron’, for all the marbles of which of the last two champions would be King.

Well it certainly helps if James picks his rivals reigning MVP teammate Kevin Durant and his own former partner in pine championship crime Kyrie Irving for the big shots first.

But before all that it was down to regular festivities to begin the weekend of All-Star. Basketball’s equivalent of music’s Grammy’s or movies Oscars in Superbowl February. Opening these ceremonials Team World beat down Team USA 155-124 in the Rising Stars game that should really tell you something. Despite home court advantage rookie steal, Kyle Kuzma notching 20, fellow Californian franchise face Buddy Hield was king as the Sacramento star hit 29 as the two sides wore Clipper and Laker interloped Buffalo and MPLS throwbacks for the Hollywood script. And after Quavo of hit duo Migos took home the Celebrity Game MVP as Team Clippers beat Team Lakers 79-66, Spencer Dinwiddie paid the bills in a superior skills comp. Before scorching Sun in California Devin Booker showed his career high 70 was no one-hit wonder as he burnt down all the nets and the money-ball rack. Winning the three-point contest showdown from reigning winner and sixth man Eric Gordon. Grounding the Rocket as this Phoenix rose. Book it!

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But after the most therapeutic competition of All-Star weekend it was time for the most exciting one just as compelling. And in honoring his father Larry Nance, the 1984 winner of the inaugural Slam-Dunk contest, Larry Nance Jr. rocked the baby cradle, like father, like dunk. As he even rocked the old-school Phoenix Suns jersey, short shorts and high-socks for an inspired imitation. But under the magicians cloak, those Los Angeles natives in attendance draped in gold wish he had turned into someone turning back the clock and wearing a Lakers jersey (those Lonzo assists with the ball would have helped). As what would have been a long awaited, eagerly anticipated home-team representation turned into an Akron homecoming for the Ohio hometown hero like LeBron in the Kings land once the trade deadline passed.

Pops Nance loved it though after he himself played the lions share of his career in Cleveland as a Cavalier. Even assisting his boy on his second slam, before he blew the house down with a windmill that even rocked Chris Rock and then double tapped an Instagram worthy picture perfect dunk that if your phone blinked, you’d have had to instant replay it to not miss it and believe it. But all this court creativity wasn’t enough like Maverick rookie Dennis Smith Jr.’s 360 reverse, through the legs 50. Or All-Star Victor Oladipo getting an assist off King T’Challa himself Chadwick Boseman, suiting up in the Black Panther mask and clawing a tomahawk. And if you think that was special, if only you were a fly on the wall for the moment entertainment megastar Jamie Foxx told Vic he loved his album and started singing ‘A Song For You’ with him in the parking lot (as told by Sports Illustrated’s Lee Jenkins).

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As Utah’s jazz man Donovan Mitchell won by jumping over Kevin Hart and his family (Come on! How hard is that? The comedian was even crouched down. Seriously?! He could have even been sat on his shoulders and Mitch would have been good), and then breaking out the classic Vince Carter Raptor jersey and doing you know what.

The whole weekend turned out to be a testament to a throwback tribute despite Nike’s brand new Team LeBron and Steph duds. Last years All-Star representative, Pelican Anthony Davis paying tribute to his injury fallen teammate brother Cousins by wearing what would have been his numero zero jersey. Free agent suitors beware, DeMarcus is going nowhere now this summer after this. You see he saw on I.G. but look at the shot. How s### was his seat for a would be player?

But after Black Eyed Pea Fergie caught flack for her soulful and sultry rendition of the Star Spangled Banner national anthem (hey, you didn’t complain when Marvin did it) the game hit all the high-flying, dunking high-notes. So much so fans needed throat lozenges like Pink! Even if there wasn’t a single Clipper or Laker representative in the game itself. Despite the lobbying for 6 Man, Lou Will and new Laker Isaiah Thomas only recently being LeBron’s actual teammate.

The King took the MVP crown himself as his 29 points, 10 rebounds and 8 assists helped turn a 15 point hole into a 148-145 victory. And from the look on his face as he leapt into Kevin Durant’s arms of all people, it looked like he just won the NBA Championship back. And from the look on Steph’s face on the receiving end reply it was hard to disagree.

You may be the champion, but I’m the best in the world those eyes said.

Well it’s up to you to decide when round 2 of the All Star draft is televised next year for all to see in M.J.’s land of the greatest.

Charlotte’s going to be good!

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Chicago, All-Star 2020 blows in the Windy City for Kobe

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lebron james throws down two hand dunk 2020 nba all star game
Finding 24 Forever...

Untouchable.

Like Eliot Ness, that’s what Common’s city of Chicago is when it comes to this court. All greatest of all-time thanks to the statue outside the United Center that they have to bring in from the cold when ice gets in it’s cracks like the veins of new Minnesota Timberwolves cold front player, D’Angelo Russell (he should be here. These lost Lakers are just glad Brandon Ingram is). Forming a duo with Karl-Anthony Towns as dynamic as that one of Star Marbury and the uncut gem of Chi-towns own Kevin Garnett heading for the Hall.

And just like the Big Ticket, the Rose that grew from concrete and the way of Wade who was moved to tears, the rapper slash actor, author and Microsoft poet Common (who fittingly won MVP of the Celebrity Game in his city. Even after Kenny ‘The Jet’ Smith said “c’mon Common you can’t even dunk donuts in coffee” after giving Dwight Howard’s athletically graceful, camera flash freeze, cheese smile, spin dunk an 8 (Kobe?)) put on for his city like Barack Obama and of course the statue of the G.O.A.T. M.J. with a poetic rap that waxed lyrical on hoops history and it’s nuanced nostalgia.

Shouting out the real King MLK and Kobe before Magic made a moving speech, all players behind him dressed in warm-up white and Jennifer Huston brought the not a dry eye in the arena, house down with her tribute that beat the hardwood like the commercial Dr. Dre one for this California love in Chicago, like the National Anthem of treasure Chaka Khan in a 23 jersey.

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Common also had rhymes for each player introduction for all those who would take to the floor dribbling across the Chicago skyline, as he rocked the mic like fellow Chicagoland legend Chance The Rapper halftime and injured All-Star Dame Lillard, who still got to play this weekend as Dame D.O.L.L.A. The first player to perform on this stage of Basketball’s Grammy’s, bringing out ‘Tha Carter’ himself Lil’ Wayne and a Mamba Forever leather that we all want to cop for this year’s Winter jacket.

From saying “Sixteen-time all-star, three-time NBA champion/ We continue to witness his reign / One of the greatest to play the game/ From the Los Angeles Lakers, LeBron James”, to “A four-time all-star / He handles the rock like Gibraltar / From the Boston Celtics / Give it up for Kemba Walker”.

But hey, I’ve got one for you all, “like the Beard and the Brow he runs the show/so where the f### is Alex Caruso”.

But to the beat of his own raps and his milk carton brother Kanye, even if every event was set off by the “GO” vocal of guitar hero John Mayer on his Common collaboration with ‘Jesus Is King’ walking God, Mr. West (from the bam, bam Bam Adebayo BAM Skills Challenge bucket win. To the Buddy Hield buzzer beating on the last ball of the last rack, Devin booking, beating and winning the Three-Point Shootout (still one of the best and most underrated events of the weekend)), this night of all the All-Stars was all about the one who should have been in the crowd cheering with his daughter courtside.

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From Superman, Dwight Howard returning and bringing back the red cape out of the phone booth, with 24 on the chest, to Man Of Steel and former Lex Luthor like enemy Shaq filming on that old camcorder again. In one of the best but most controversial dunk contests that saw an all 50 and 7-foot-5 Tacko leaping Aaron Gordon robbed again like when he cleared the mascot (seriously I don’t mean to leap to conclusions, but these guys need to get over jumping over things…literally. Only Leonardo DiCaprio gets over this many people).

This time by the South Beach, bringing the Heat in the Windy City, tornado storm of Derrick Jones Jr. Air Gordon won’t be back (thanks for that judges. Dwayne Wade said in the Skills Challenge his mind can be changed…ain’t that the truth), but let’s hope the backboard ball touching, Woody Harrelson Venice Beach wear honoring Pat Connaughton will be. Because white men can jump too in an epic exciting weekend of Chicago, 2020 that in the Olympic year of Tokyo, 2020 showed all the world’s a Basketball stage like the Rising Stars game (Konichiwa Hachimura).

lebron james throws down two hand dunk 2020 nba all star game
Lebron James throws down two hand dunk during 2020 NBA All-Star Game in Chicago

For the main event of the biggest weekend on the schedule itself Team LeBron all wore number 2 on their blue jerseys for GiGi and Team Giannis 24 forever for Kobe (a bald Khris Middleton even sometimes from the nose bleeds making it look like Mamba was there…which spiritually he was like his mentality), to another LeBron like Kobe dunk running the floor like Bean and the 24 second shot clock that decided the fourth quarter of an entertaining All-Star Game that was more than the legendary lay-up line and was actually a competitive affair.

kawhi leonard 2020 nba all star game mvp
Kawhi Leonard 2020 NBA All-Star Game MVP

That’s just what happens when you win the game on a free throw (157-155, King over Freak) as Laker and hometown Chicago hero Anthony Davis did the honors after filling the stat sheet with the game on the line. But, the All-Star MVP now beautifully renamed the Kobe Bryant award went to another Los Angeles King in Clipper Kawhi and his 30 points. Who dedicated his award to the late legend it’s named after, as fans had their fill of their favourite weekend of the mid-season they love like the hearts of a mid-Feb Valentine.

Just don’t ask him what he had for dinner.

Answer…Team Giannis.

For Team LeBron. For Kobe. For GiGi.

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Canadian’s rise to the occasion at 2020 NBA Rising Stars game

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brandon clarke registers a layup for team world 2020 nba rising stars game
Canadian Brandon Clarke rises for a lay-up 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 of 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.

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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) helped provide 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 the 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 cock-back dunk NBA Rising Stars Game
Andrew Wiggins throws down big dunk at 2015 NBA Rising Stars Game in Brooklyn

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, 11 assist 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.

rj barrett and shai gilgeous alexander 2020 nba rising stars game
Canadian’s RJ Barrett and Shai Gilgeous-Alexander at 2020 NBA Rising Stars Game – Photo: NBA Canada

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 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.

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