AP Photo / Ron Schwane
Sunday, Feb. 20 marked the close of the National Basketball Association’s (NBA) All-Star weekend in Cleveland, Ohio, which concluded with a fun, high-scoring All-Star game that promoted two charitable causes at the behest of each team.
The two teams, captained by Los Angeles Lakers forward LeBron James and Brooklyn Nets forward Kevin Durant respectively, competed to win money for a charitable organization of their choice. Team James played for the benefit of the Kent State Promise Scholars Program, while Team Durant played for the benefit of the Greater Cleveland Food Bank.
After recently changing the rules for the 2020 All-Star game, the NBA kept the same format in place for 2022 to help keep the competition fresh and exciting. Under the new format, teams compete to win each of the first three quarters for $100,000 ($300,000 total) to their respective charities. The scoreboard is reset to a 0-0 score after every 12 minute quarter, which encourages teams to stay focused for the entirety of the game. Both teams start with an unconditional $150,000 contribution toward their charities, and the winner earns $150,000 bonus donation.
Unlike the first three quarters, the fourth quarter is untimed and incorporates a scoring target of the leading team’s cumulative score plus 24 points. The NBA introduced this scoring target of 24 points to honor the passing of Kobe Bryant in 2020, who wore No. 24 on his jersey for most of his career.
With each team one-score away from victory, James called game with a ridiculous turnaround jump shot in his hometown. James had been public about looking forward to his return to Cleveland leading up to the game, and used that energy to power a storybook-ending finish. The 163-160 win marks the fifth consecutive All-Star victory for Team James, but perhaps this one means more to him than any of the others.
The “Kid from Akron” relished the special moment, saying, “I could not have dreamed of that moment, any better than the actuality that just happened.” James also captioned a social media post after the game, “Cleveland! This is for you. AGAIN,” mimicking his 2016 Championship speech with the Cleveland Cavaliers.
Golden State Warriors guard Stephen Curry led the team with an astounding 50 points, notching himself his first All-Star Game MVP. “Chef” Curry splashed from behind the arc with a record-setting 16 three-pointers, shattering the previous All-Star Game record of nine three-pointers. Adding this legendary performance to his resume, Curry continues to build his case as the best three-point shooter in the history of the NBA.
“When you play with the best of the best, it brings the best out of you,” Curry said.
On the other side of the court, Philadelphia 76ers center Joel Embiid led Team Durant with 36 points and 10 rebounds. The five-time All-Star shot 14-20 from the field, 5-8 from three-point range and 3-3 from the line. Embiid has taken a step up this season and is currently the odds-on favorite (+200) to win Kia NBA MVP, per DraftKingsSportsbook.
Most exciting, though, were the outrageous dunks from Memphis Grizzlies guard Ja Morant and Chicago Bulls guard Zach LaVine. Assisted with lobs by Atlanta Hawks guard Trae Young, the two brilliant dunkers seemed to overshadow the lackluster 2022 Slam Dunk Contest which occurred earlier in the weekend. LaVine already won a Slam Dunk Contest in the famed 2015 competition against Denver Nuggets forward Aaron Gordon, but many are still eager to see Morant finally compete in one and bring new life to the contest.
Speaking on his flashy play, Morant said, “I had the opportunity and I’m just living it out right now”.
The 2022 All-Star Game also continued its tradition of fostering a basketball brotherhood with the honoring of the NBA’s 75th Anniversary Team at halftime. Players from every decade of the league’s existence, including greats like Chicago Bulls guard Michael Jordan and Los Angeles Lakers guard Magic Johnson, attended and got to chat with the current stars of the league. Many of the young players cherished meeting their heroes and hearing their stories.
“When you start playing basketball when you’re young, you never imagine to be, you know, next to all these all-time greats,” Milwaukee Bucks forward Giannis Antetokounmpo said.
With the exciting, charitable weekend finished, the All-Stars will head back to their teams and focus on finishing up the regular season, which ends on April 10.