Slam dunks and 3-pointers: NBA All-Star weekend

Kolby KickingWoman

#KickinWithKolby — Thoughts from a Native sports fan #Sportzball

Growing up, watching sports with my dad and the rest of the family was something I always found solace in.

One weekend we rarely missed was the NBA All-Star weekend. From the celebrity game on Friday night to All-Star Saturday night with all the fanfare to the main event on Sunday. It was a weekend of the best players in the game being showcased.

I’ve always wanted to attend All-Star Saturday night, one-day I’ll make it happen.

Celebrity games have always been interesting to me. It’s fun to see who surprises you as a decent baller and who doesn’t. For a few years there, former Secretary of Education Arne Duncan tore it up.

Certainly makes me wonder how intense games got with former President Barack Obama, whom we know was an avid hooper himself. And to this day, I don’t know how Kevin Hart won the game’s MVP award four times but that game is always a crapshoot.

As much fun as the game can be on Sunday, to me the real showcase of the weekend are the Saturday night festivities. Over the years it has undergone a few makeovers with different events that have come and gone but mainstays continue to make it a blast to watch.

Although, there is one change I’d make to the events (and it’s not originally my idea but I forget where I heard it first) so I apologize to whomever thought of it first.

I don’t have all the kinks worked out to exactly how it’d work but the NBA needs to add a “King of the Court,” one-on-one battle among the league’s best players. Most ball players take pride in their one-on-one skills and you know the top talent would love to be crowned best one-on-one player in the league.

In fact, we already have an example of how it might be able to work.

Every couple years, when Team USA is either qualifying for the Olympics or en route to the games, videos will go viral of members on the team playing one-on-one. If you haven’t seen one and love basketball, they are pretty entertaining.

Other than that, I think the NBA has it pretty well figured out. The dunk contest fell off for a few years there but Aaron Gordon and Zach LaVine resurrected it with their wild back and forth in 2016.

Everyone never forgets the 2000 dunk contest when Vince Carter blew everyone’s mind with the “Honey Dip” and other gravity-defying dunks and that has certainly earned its place in NBA lore.

Yet, for what it’s worth, my favorite dunk contest was the 2003 contest that came down to Jason Richardson and Desmond Mason. (Side note: I think we all miss the Seattle Supersonics.)

Richardson had a three-year run there in the dunk contest that was just a lot of fun to watch and will forever be in my basketball memory bank.

As we approach NBA All-Star weekend in Chicago this weekend, here are my picks for Saturday night’s events and a prediction for Sunday.

Skills Challenge participants: Bam Adebayo, Miami Heat; Patrick Beverley, Los Angeles Clippers; Spencer Dinwiddie, Brooklyn Nets; Shai Gilgeous-Alexander, Oklahoma City Thunder; Khris Middleton, Milwaukee Bucks; Domantas Sabonis, Indiana Pacers; Pascal Siakam, Toronto Raptors and Jayson Tatum, Boston Celtics

Outside of the 3-point contest, the skills challenge is something that I’ve always wanted to take part in. It used to be a guard heavy competition but in recent years the NBA has allowed more and more big men to take part. Which I think makes it more fun to watch.

Who doesn’t enjoy watching Nikola Jokic or Joel Embiid lumber weave and lumber down the court?

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The key in the in the skills competition is hitting both the bounce pass and the mid-range jump shot on the first try. If you can do that, you have a good chance at moving on to the final round and eventually winning it.

Celtics wingman Jayson Tatum won last year and while I think he has a decent shot at repeating, I'm going to go a different route. The 2020 skills challenge champion will be Shai Gilgeous-Alexander, for no other reason than it’s just a random guess. Ha!

3-point contest participants: Davis Bertans, Washington Wizards; Devonte' Graham, Charlotte Hornets; Joe Harris, Brooklyn Nets; Buddy Hield, Sacramento Kings; Zach LaVine, Chicago Bulls; Damian Lillard, Portland Trail Blazers; Duncan Robinson, Miami Heat and Trae Young, Atlanta Hawks.

Some people have argued in recent years that this should go replace the dunk contest and be the last event of the evening. The dunk contest may have lost some of its luster because it can’t attract the huge names but let’s keep things the way they are.

One thing I will say though on behalf of basketball fans across the country and world is what are you doing Zach LaVine?! You robbed us of a dunk contest rematch with Aaron Gordon and I’m not sure you will ever be forgiven.

With that being said, I’m sure the sexy pick to win it this year is Trae Young or Damian Lillard, and while I respect those selections, I’d take Lillard out of the two. Yet, I’m going to pick a dark horse to win!

It might be a bit of a homer pick but I’ve seen this guy rain trey’s this season, that’s why I believe Davis Bertans will come out of nowhere and win the 3-point contest. You heard it here first!

Dunk contest participants: Pat Connaughton, Milwaukee Bucks; Aaron Gordon, Orlando Magic; Dwight Howard, Los Angeles Lakers and Derrick Jones Jr., Miami Heat

The field for this year’s dunk contest is an interesting one. Dwight Howard has come a long way since he won it in 2008 and I don’t know if he has the same hops as he did back then. I’m not too sure how he will fare.

As for Pat Connaughton, I think he is more of an in-game dunker than a guy that can put on a show.

So with that being said, you can write in the finals to be Aaron Gordon vs Derrick Jones, Jr., which I think will be fascinating to watch. Jones, Jr. has thrown down some insane dunks in games over the past few years.

The dude is looking down through the rim on some dunks and those are in a game! I can’t wait to see what he can do when he’s got a wide-open floor and an entire arena gassing him up.

We all know what Aaron Gordon can do but I’m not sure how much experience factors into a dunk contest. Most of these guys have been dunking for years. Gordon shouldn’t be counted out and probably has a trick or two up his sleeve but I just have a feeling Jones, Jr. is going to do something we’ve never seen before.

Ladies and germs, the 2020 NBA slam dunk champion, Derrick Jones, Jr.!

We’ll revisit these picks next week to see how spot-on I was. Hope you enjoy All-Star weekend as much as I do.

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Kolby KickingWoman is a reporter/producer for Indian Country Today. He is Blackfeet/Gros Ventre from the great state of Montana and currently reports and lives in Washington, D.C. Follow him on Twitter - @KDKW_406. Email - kkickingwoman@indiancountrytoday.com

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