NBA ALL-STAR WEEK-END 2020
I wasn’t planning to write about this past week-end at all, (I did tweet a tiny bit about aspects of it, though,) but I was so upset by the results of the Slam Dunk Contest that I just had to get it off my chest a bit more. The mere two hundred forty-eight characters that Twitter allows just did not cut it for me on this topic. (Also, I have many more of you readers, in general, than Twitter followers, so more people will see this rant right here!)
I usually love the NBA All-Star Week-end. You know what a fan of basketball I am, and I adore seeing all the different skills, and all the guys cutting loose and having fun, along with discovering some players I’m not that familiar with.
Most aspects of this 2020 edition were either fun or fabulous or both. But the Slam Dunk Contest, which is looked-upon as the Crown Jewel of All-Star Saturday Night, made me sick this year. It was a whole shameful display on the part of both the judges and the NBA. (Even more shameful is the lack of anyone, outside of Charles Barkley and me, commenting about it the next day! It should have been a major topic of outrage!)
The quick synopsis is this: There are four competitors who each do two dunks in the first round. Then the two highest scores of that quartet move on to the final. Each of those two guys do two more dunks, and whoever has the highest combined score at the end of that is the winner. Period. Easy enough, right?
Well, Aaron Gordon, (who had been robbed of this same title two years ago, according to everyone who saw it,) and Derrick Jones, Jr. were going head to head. There are five judges, and they can give any whole number score up to10. That means there are no fractions, which would really help all the time, and especially in this case.
So both guys had two 50s at the end of those two final rounds. At that point, it should have either been declared a tie, or they could have brought the first round scores into the equation, which would have made Aaron Gordon the winner. But no, they made them each do two more dunks! I’m sure their home team coaches and owners were not pleased because of the great potential for injury.
So they each did one more dunk which, of course, got them each another 50. So it was coming down to the very last dunks because the powers-that-be over there said that after that, it would either be a fan vote or something else they would figure-out on the spot to determine the winner. It would have been great to give them each a trophy, and something interesting for the fans, as well. But God forbid they would do the right thing. I really feel that the NBA Commissioner, Adam Silver, should have stepped in at that point. But he stayed in the audience, smiling away, which made me lose a tad of respect for him.
So Derrick went first, and scored just a 48, even though it was, once again, a really fabulous dunk. So, in order to win, Aaron would just have to score 49. Now, all of these dunks have been planned by each guy in advance, and if they had one of their pals assisting with it in some way, they have practiced it. But, for his final dunk, Aaron did something unprecedented—he took someone he hadn’t practiced with at all to help him, and that someone was fellow player, 7’6” Tacco Fall, over whom he jumped and put the ball in the basket! It was beyond spectacular. We here at home, and the TV commentators, all gave him the win, and were just waiting for the scores to come up. We assumed that they would be all 10s; some of the NBA commentators even said it should have been a 12, (which they do not have, by the way—the highest score available is 10.)
All the players in attendance were congratulating Aaron Gordon, and then…the scores came up, and he received…a 47!!! I’m still sick to my stomach over that injustice. I swear—the feeling I had when I saw those scores, and it dawned on me that Gordon had not won, was very akin to the one I had in 2016 when the Presidential Election results were coming in, and we started realizing that Hillary Clinton had not won. It was just about that awful.
I would have loved them to declare it a tie, but if there was one winner, it really needed to be Aaron Gordon. The whole thing put such a damper on the end of the evening. (One judge, Dwyane Wade, said afterwards that the judges planned to give him the same score they had given Derrick Jones, Jr., but one of the three judges who gave him a 9 messed-up. But it should not have come to that.) [Note: By the way, many viewers think that Wade “messed-up” on purpose because he’s basically a Miami Heat lifer, and Jones currently plays for…the Heat, of course!]
The whole thing was disgusting, but winner Derrick Jones, Jr. really disappointed me more than anything. Mr. X and I both assumed that when he received the trophy, he would say that it should be shared with Aaron Gordon, but not only did he not do that, but in the post-event press conference, he said he’d be happy to give Aaron a re-match!!! How classless of him.
All that being said, I did love the Skills Challenge, (won by surprise All-Star, Bam Adebayo,) and the very exciting Three Point Challenge, won by my favorite NBA player, Buddy Hield, of the Sacramento Kings, (which is why most of you have never even heard of this lovely guy!)
The Friday night Celebrity Game was just a waste of time, with not many real celebs this year, (outside of Common and Chance the Rapper.) And that night’s USA vs. the World game, with just first and second year players, was not great, either, outside of seeing amazing rookie Zion Williamson and fabulous sophomore Luca Doncic, who hit an incredible half-courter with two seconds left in the first half. (It doesn’t hurt that he’s gorgeous!)
And then the week-end’s festivities culminated in yesterday’s All-Star Game. Common did great with the teams’ rhyming introductions. And then Chaka Khan did the most ear-bleed-inducing, self-indulgent National Anthem ever!
This year brought a new format to the game, which you have to research for yourselves because I’m too drained to explain it. I hate change, and do like the usual way better, (except for it now benefitting charities,) but this was an exciting game, especially the fourth quarter. And it was fair. And the correct player, the Clippers’ Kawhi Leonard, won the MVP trophy, so that was all good.
You know what was so delightful about this game? There was not even one Golden State Warrior!!! My, how the mighty have fallen. The three-time Champs are now at the bottom of the Western Conference! I never thought I’d see that day.
My last All-Star Week-end topic is this: I could not be more disappointed in two NBA superstars. First of all, where was Michael Jordan??? He’s the Chicago Bulls greatest legend, (if not the entire League’s,) and this game was played in Chicago for the first time in thirty-two years!!! He could have shown-up, for even a little bit of the week-end’s festivities. That was super shameful of him! (And, he’s still very involved in the NBA, as owner of the Charlotte Hornets!)
LeBron James disappointed me, as well, although not as much. He was the captain of one of the two teams, and the league’s premiere player, bar none. So why did he show-up for only the actual game he was a participant in, and not as a spectator to catch at least some of the action on All-Star Saturday Night? The guys who are not competing in those three special competitions that night always sit courtside to not only cheer their colleagues on, but to just enjoy the abilities of their compatriots, and have some fun. We viewers love seeing their reactions. It’s disgraceful that LeBron was in Chicago, but did not see fit to join in those festivities. Shame on him.
I just hope that everybody does better for next year’s NBA All-Star Week-end. They need to put me in charge, so it will all be done perfectly!