While they did not get the outcome they wanted, Giannis Antetokounmpo and Cole Anthony put on a show in Cleveland. Here are the biggest winners of the night.
1. Giannis Antetokounmpo
Nobody has ever approached the Skills Challenge like Giannis Antetokounmpo, a reigning Finals MVP who really had no business participating and behaved like his life depended on the outcome.
Giannis only finished with eight points in the Team Shooting portion, but what’s more significant than that score (which isn’t very good) is how this man treated a meaningless event he’s immeasurably overqualified for like it was the NBA Finals. Giannis sprinted through the exercise after opening it up by drilling a 5-pointer.
When the Antetokounmpo Brothers were victorious in the passing round, Giannis acted like the Bucks just advanced in the playoffs. He then struggled in the relay but, again, attacked it with maniacial intensity. Even though he lost, Giannis’s care factor made a confusing, ridiculous spectacle more entertaining than it had any right to be. He was legitimately upset when he got eliminated. Heroic!
(Also, during the dunk contest, Giannis was everybody’s number one hype man. Bless his heart.)
2. Evan Mobley
He won the Skills Challenge by flicking in a half-court shot on his first try. He’s also, according to Cavs point guard Darius Garland, “literally a unicorn”, which, hard to argue!
3. Karl-Anthony Towns
His case for the best shooting big man of all time took a boost it didn’t really need tonight. First, Towns finished with 22 points in Round 1 of the three-point contest, tying him with Trae Young, sending him to the final round with Luke Kennard. Then, a few minutes later, Towns dropped an absurd 29—the highest score in the last round…ever—and became the only center in NBA history to win the three-point contest. (Dirk Nowitzki is the only player taller than Towns to win.)
Towns was also the only contestant who didn’t really have to bend his knees when he let every shot go. Nobody makes swishing threes look easier than Towns.
How anyone performs on All-Star Saturday night has no bearing on whether they’ll qualify for an All-NBA team. But this was a good reminder of how incredible KAT has been all year. Behind Nikola Jokic and Joel Embiid, no big man has been better this season.
4. DJ Khaled
They said he’d never perform at All-Star Weekend. But this was his third performance at All-Star Weekend. And for it, Khaled brought Mary J. Blige, Ludacris, Lil Wayne, Migos, Gunna and Lil Baby to the same stage. All this man does is win. Don’t hate. Be great.
We’re trying to be positive here. This is a winner’s column. But even though Obi Toppin won the worst slam dunk contest in years by converting a weird between-the-legs layup type of thing, let’s go in a different direction: I don’t care what anyone says, Cole Anthony was robbed in the first round. Wearing tightly laced Timberlands in a Greg Anthony Knicks jersey, he snatched the ball out of his father’s hand and threw down a thunderous windmill. Unfortunately, the judges didn’t appreciate the dunk’s immense degree of difficulty and Cole didn’t advance past the first round. This was a travesty of the highest order.
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