Reigning NBA champion and last year’s All-star game MVP Steph Curry was M.I.A. Whilst team captain’s Giannis Antetokounmpo and LeBron James also left the contest with injuries. But the 2023 All-star game in Utah was still a glittering affair.
Before ‘Bron left, the scoring King threw a pass off the glass to himself like Tracy McGrady in 2002 to get past new Cleveland hero Donovan Mitchell. Going at it from deep with Jayson Tatum, this year’s Most Valuable Player.
The Spida Mitchell made his own case for MVP with 40 points. As did Tatum’s Celtic teammate Jaylen Brown. Battling his Boston brother himself with his own 35 points and 14 rebounds on the double/double. The pair playfully teasing that the other was too small as they knocked jumpers over each other from downtown Salt Lake City.
No one was going to take the Kobe Bryant MVP trophy from his greatest fan Jayson though. Beating Anthony Davis 52-point ASG record, Tatum hit 55 to lead Team Giannis over Team LeBron 184-175.
It’s Team Tatum now.
The Celtic added 10 boards and six dimes to his legendary 55 that often kissed the sky in celebration. Twenty-seven of those points coming in the third quarter alone.
Yet it was Damian Lillard’s (26 points) “next basket wins” three that iced the victory. It was Dame time all weekend. D.O.L.L.A won the three-point contest in his Weber State college jersey and hit from behind the half-court, with a pure effortlessness like only he can.
“Winner, winner, chicken dinner,” Giannis proclaimed after frying the King for the first time. Giving James his first loss in six-times as team skipper.
In a starry night like a Tupac Shakur poem, Jay-Z introduced the evening’s proceedings. Ones that saw new Maverick Kyrie Irving finish strong again-after-again with 32 points and 15 assists. Joel Embiid added his own 32 points.
Raising money for the Big Brothers Big Sisters of Utah ($200,000 from Team LeBron) and Raise the Future ($700,000 from Team Giannis) charities, the first All-star game in Utah for 30 years was a downtown and above the rim showcase as per.
Mac McClung is the real dunk hero, mind you. The 2023 slam-dunk champ single-handedly saved a waning dunk contest, despite those calling for Ja Morant and Anthony Edwards (spoiler alert, they won’t do it). The former Ballislife mixtape sensation who has logged time with the Warriors and Lakers was the first G-league player to be invited to what was (and is again) the weekend’s most exciting contest.
Thanks to this, the new Philadelphia 76er made more money in one night than he had done in his entire career to go with all that brotherly love. A 540 dunk in his high-school jersey to get all 50s? Beating the likes of Trey Murphy III and K.J. Martin with a little help from his pops Kenyon? The iron McClung may be the most exciting dunk champ since Jason Richardson.
In a weekend that saw Pau Gasol, Dirk Nowitzki, Tony Parker, Dwyane Wade and Gregg Popovich announced as Hall of Fame finalists and famous folk ruffling the All-star celebrity game, the desert was not dry of talent.
A hoop hotbed that featured the Jordan Rising Stars and G-league next up game, an NBA x HBCU classic and a skills challenge won by the hometown Jazz. All fixing your basketball Jones before the 72nd ASG game put a cherry on top of the birthday cake whose candles Tatum blew out.
Now let’s race to Indianapolis, where the next All-star weekend will motor on.
Gentlemen, start your engines.