Zion. Zion. Zion.
Cause for celebration, or at least a premature parade in a conclusion as foregone as the Anthony Davis trade with the Lakers. The Duke KABOOM of all the all dunking Zion Lion is a YES for N.O. As with the first pick in the 2019 NBA Draft live from New York City a few days before Saturday Night, Williamson is a New Orleans Pelican.
The most exciting league prospect since LeBron James may not get to play with the King’s new man after the Davis trade. But he has all the toys in the form of all the boys that would have been the future of the Lake Show (out of a lucky 13 over the last half-decade of drafts only Kyle Kuzma remains) in the young princes of soaring, scoring Brandon Ingram, true teammate Josh Hart and the alley-oops to be thrown by point man and former number 2 pick like B.I., Lonzo Ball (have you noticed that since this trade there has been little word of Zion dropping out the draft and heading back to college like Yeezus in reverse?). Not to mention Julius Randle if they can convince the big to stay and bolster their Davis-less frontcourt with the top picks of guys like Okafor. And not to forget like Jrue Holiday all the draft choices over the next few years the Pels will get. Just like the one they’ve just traded on draft night. As with the fourth pick in the 2019 Draft the Los Ange…sorry the New Orle…excuse me, the Atlanta Hawks select DeAndre Hunter.
Good will hunting. See what you could have won Lake Show?
I guess the Duke isn’t going back to college anymore.
What a way to replace Davis in a matter of days with the Thanos game changing, season of wind in a draft snap.
But like the year the King took his throne with the likes of Carmelo and the Flash of Dwyane for his first dance, the NBA Draft isn’t just about one man, Sam Bowie.
And as the Just Do It Nike campaign “from underated to undeniable” don’t write off Murray State’s Ja Morant like people did and for some reason still do (Hello Brooklyn?!) D’Angelo Russell. Replacing veteran the Grizz grit legend of Mike Conley Jr. traded to Utah, Morant will bring that grind. Rolling, expect Ja to rule Memphis like another King with the rock.
Now the New York Knicks may have wanted to make Zion their new King, but the lottery that New York didn’t win weeks ago already said balls to all that. But judging from the reaction of ‘BlackKklansman’ director Spike Lee with the big three pick, the Mecca made the right choice with the franchises new face of Madison Square Garden and Big Apple in another Duke standout in R.J. Barrett, for their post Porzingis and ‘Melo era. It almost looked on the cards, or in the bag like his shot on the Late Night with Jimmy Fallon show. Where he bucketed a Knicks mannequin head (don’t ask) after trying the cap it wore on first to which Jimmy replied after he nailed it, “it must be the Knicks”!
Darius Garland completed the top five for the Cleveland Cavaliers still searching for that new Land owner after the King took his talents to Hollywood. The Timberwolves got the sixth of Texas Tech’s Jarrett Culver after a trade with the Suns that will soon be as official as the AD one. Whilst coming in seventh and eighth, the Bulls got Coby White and the Pelicans after a trade with Atlanta further their Lake Showtime future with two top tens and Texas’ blocking and dunking with a Texan name straight out of ‘A Star Is Born’, Jaxson Hayes.
Big in Japan. History was made last night in a draft that was already one for the record books as straight out of Gonzaga and now a Wizard like Harry in Washington D.C., Rui Hachimura became the first ever Japanese player to be drafted in the first round with the ninth. But don’t sleep on last year’s rookie out of Memphis, Yuta Watanabe who still has all the tools to be the future next to Morant.
But in one of the best drafts in recent years in a class of its own, there was so much talent to choose from in this pool that there was always bound to be players that missed the top ten cut, way below their deserved position. But just making it to the first block, Duke’s Cam Reddish taken at ten by the Hawks (who also have their talons in two top tens for their Trae Young lead future) still seems like a sleeper. This Laker fan who when we originally held the fourth wanted us to go with Cam or Manute’s son Bol Bol (second round slide? Really? This guy with the spiders’ web suit has the length and versatility to be a game changer). But just wait until this fire under him proves everyone (or at least nine or so other teams) wrong this killa season.
This draft is so Method Man abyss deep that it won’t just be the Pelicans who fly this season in Crescent City. With so much uncertainty this free agency at least some teams that hit the lottery have just the ticket punched for the future of their franchises with what the draft blew in.
But reaching the mount with Zion at number one is a gift from the Basketball God’s.
Chicago, All-Star 2020 blows in the Windy City for Kobe
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.
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.
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).
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.
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.
For Team LeBron. For Kobe. For GiGi.
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 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.
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 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.
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.