NBA All-Star Saturday Night is a celebration of the NBA through competitions different than the standard exhibition match format. Held after the NBA trade deadline, this is a preview of players’ skill before the final stretch of the NBA season.
The evening is filled with some fantastic events that have come and gone, but a select four have been the mainstays since their introduction.
The newest event, the G League All-Star Game, the Skills Challenge, the Three-Point Contest, and the main event the Slam Dunk Contest.
Players have made their names and hosted their coming out parties to the world via their participation in these competitions. On a national stage, with some of the NBA’s best competing beside them, All-Star Saturday Night has become the place where players stake their claim over one domain of the NBA.
?: A look back at his BEST NBA G League plays! pic.twitter.com/sVKhKVfHUo
— NBA G League (@nbagleague) June 3, 2019
Certainly not the main event of All-Star Saturday Night, the G League All-Star Game isn’t even held in the same complex as the other proceedings. Instead, the G League game is held off-site, usually at the NBA Jam Session complex. Allowing for a more accessible, family-friendly atmosphere.
Founded in 2007, the G League All-Star Game has been a boon to the popularity of the G League. The G League All-Star Game also hosts its own Dream Factory event, which puts on display competitions like a three-point shooting competition and a slam dunk contest for G League players only. Players like James White and John Jordan thrilled crowds with Slam Dunk Contest wins, while Andre Ingram and EJ Singler have more than shown their ability by winning the three-point shootout.
The G League All-Star Game itself has shown itself to be quite the showcase for rising stars in the NBA. G League All-Star Game MVP’s Pops Mesah-Bonsu, Gerald Green, Robert Covington, and Quinn Cook have all gone on to have incredible NBA careers.
In 2017 the G League All-Star Game was replaced with the G League international challenge. Where a select group G League players compete against international clubs and teams. In the inaugural competition, Team USA defeated Team Mexico. In the 2019 outing, the G League Elite team lost to Bayern Munich.
Jayson Tatum became the first Celtics player in franchise history to win the NBA Skills Challenge. pic.twitter.com/9VbN1QuYD7
— Boston Celtics (@celtics) February 17, 2019
The NBA Skills Challenge is a type of race, allowing competitors to show off their abilities going up and down the court. In a full-court scenario, players are asked to finish at the rim, weave through obstacles, hit jumpers, and race back at top speed to garner the best time.
The competition itself has always been biased toward skilled guard play. Due to the well-rounded abilities needed to succeed at the event, the competition has been dominated by point guards and shooting guards due to their versatility and speed. Winners of this event are also some of the best to play at the guard position. Jason Kidd, Steve Nash, Dwyane Wade, Derrick Rose, and Stephen Curry have all dominated the competition, until a recent change to the format.
In 2015 the Skills Challenge format changed to a bracket-style. Due to the ever closing gap in skill between guards and frontcourt players, the format change was meant to encourage the participation of so-called “Big Men” in the competition. They did not disappoint when they got the chance.
Brackets are formed to divide the backcourt and frontcourt players, as they compete in a similar obstacle course to determine the best at their position. The winner of each bracket then faces off, to determine the best of their side. The big men have shown their quality, with Karl-Anthony Towns and Kristaps Porzingis accounting for two of the last five Skills Challenge Champions.
Kyle Korver catches fire in the 2004 NBA Three-Point Contest! pic.twitter.com/TuLLqAkFnp
— ThrowbackHoops (@ThrowbackHoops) February 11, 2020
Possibly one of the most exciting events on Saturday night is the Three-Point Contest or Three-Point Shootout as it is interchangeably named. The NBA’s best marksmen come together in order to test their shooting against the clock, to see who is the best in the league.
Beginning in 1985, the three-point shootout has always been a simple affair. Racks are set up around the three-point line, with players trying to sink as many as possible to garner the best score against a minute long timer. Some of the best three-point shooters in NBA history have participated and won the event.
Larry Bird was the inaugural champion of the event and won three consecutive times. Craig Hodges, Jeff Hornacek, Mark Price, Peja Stojakovic, and Jason Kapono have all joined the club of winning consecutive titles. As the game has changed we’ve even seen a seven-footer like Dirk Nowitzki be name champion of the event.
With the improvement of shooting every season, the 2020 event has added a new wrinkle to the format. Ten seconds have been added to the clock, with players being able to attempt two shots from six-feet behind the three-point line for three additional points each. With the advent of deep range shooting, as seen through players like Steph Curry, Damian Lillard, and Kyle Lowry, the Three-Point Contest looks to be more exciting than ever!
(2000) 20 years ago today, Vince Carter shut DOWN the Dunk Contest!
“It’s Over!” ?
— Timeless Sports (@timelesssports_) February 12, 2020
One of the many fun prop bets we discuss in this week’s prop drop video is “Who will win the slam dunk contest?”. Go check it out!
The main event of the evening, the NBA Slam Dunk Contest, surprisingly has its beginnings in the ABA and not the NBA.
A more forward-thinking league in terms of entertainment, the Slam Dunk Contest was founded in 1976 and featured some of the games most legendary dunkers – Julius Erving, David Thompson, Artis Gilmore, George Gervin, and Larry Kenon.
Once the ABA was merged with the NBA, the Slam Dunk Contest was reintroduced in 1984 at its birthplace in Denver, Colorado. Despite the original dunk contest winner Julius Erving competing, he was defeated by young upstart Larry Nance via his patented cradle dunk.
The Dunk Contest popped off in popularity after that, leading to some incredible events over the next 20 years.
Unfortunately, circumstance and a lack of creativity and interest eventually led to the demise of the NBA Slam Dunk Contest for two years in 1998 and 1999. It wasn’t until 2000 that the NBA Slam Dunk Contest returned. Its return was spectacular!
Led by the greatest dunker to grace NBA courts, Vince Carter won the 2000 Slam Dunk Contest to make it one of the greatest to ever occur to this day. It was a difficult act to follow, as gimmicks have since been implemented and removed into competitions to try and reach the heights of Carter’s and his competitor’s performance.
The Slam Dunk Contest will seemingly always be the main event of NBA All-Star Saturday Night. One of the purest athletic showcases in all of sports, the Dunk Contest is likely the most exciting exhibition in sports. While the stars of the NBA tend to decline participation in recent history, new stars have always stepped into the spotlight.
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Christian Jope is a writer, social media strategist, and data analyst. A Queen’s University Alumni, Christian is an author and social media strategist with Raptors Cage, while also working closely with MLSE and Canada Basketball through community-driven events.
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