Dunk Contest Fails to Impress at All-Star Weekend

Dylan Pulver

Throughout the 2014 NBA All-Star Weekend, there were moments that left fans disappointed and wanting more, and others in which players shined more than anyone would have ever guessed. The big weekend in New Orleans started Friday night, with the Sprint NBA All-Star Celebrity Game and the BBVA Compass Rising Stars Challenge. While the fans voted actor and comedian Kevin Hart to what would have been his third-straight Celebrity Game MVP, Hart ceded the award to U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan, who rocked the West with a record-breaking 20 points, in addition to 11 rebounds and six assists. Duncan’s East beat Hart’s West, 60-56. Next up, in the Rising Stars Game, Andre Drummond showed that he was a man among boys, amassing 30 points and a game-record 25 rebounds to put Team Hill above Team Webber, 142-136. The State Farm All-Star Saturday night featured an array of competitions that brought out the best in some and laziness in others. The night started off with Team Bosh (Chris Bosh, Dominique Wilkins and Swin Cash), defending their Sears Shooting Stars title. Bosh sank the half-court shot for his team in both the preliminary and final rounds, both on his first attempt. Then, Damian Lillard, who set a record this weekend by competing in five major All-Star events, defended his Taco Bell Skills Challenge title with the help of Trey Burke in the new two-player team format. Lillard and Burke were able to beat the time Michael Carter-Williams and Victor Oladipo put up in the final round by a tenth of a second. In the Foot Locker Three-Point Contest, famed sharpshooter Stephen Curry turned in a shaky performance, which led the way for Marco Belinelli and Bradley Beal to reach the final round. Beal matched Belinelli’s 19, which led to a sudden death round in which Belinelli put up a night-high 24 points, against Beal’s 18.

The final event of Saturday night was the always anticipated Sprite Slam Dunk contest. The dunk contest was somewhat of a

disappointment like it has been over the past few years, but not because it featured no great dunks. In fact, there were many great dunks throughout the show. The new 90-second freestyle round let the players of the East (Paul George, John Wall and defending champion Terrence Ross) and West (Lillard, Harrison Barnes and Ben McLemore) work with each other to create some great dunks. Unfortunately, this took away from the individual spotlight that some of the players, George and Lillard in particular, deserved for their efforts in that round. The East vs. West battle rounds also robbed the fans of what could have been an amazing dunk-off between the three East competitors, arguably the three best dunkers in the field. The three East competitors beat each individual West dunker in convincing fashion, and Wall won the fan-voted dunker of the night award thanks to his mesmerizing backwards, double-clutch jam after jumping over the Wizards mascot and taking the ball from him.

The last event of the weekend was, of course, Sunday night’s 63rd NBA All-Star Game. For the first time in four years, the East beat the West, 163-155. While LeBron James started off the game with a few ferocious dunks and Carmelo Anthony set a game-record eight three-pointers, Kyrie Irving put the East over the top with 31 points and 14 assists, including some clutch buckets and dimes down the stretch of the game. This earned the young point guard the fans’ vote of MVP in his first All-Star start. For the West, Blake Griffin and Kevin Durant put on huge shows, scoring 38 points a piece (Griffin also broke the record for most field goals made with 19), and Chris Paul notched 13 assists in a return to his old stomping grounds. All-Star Game records for most combined points, most combined three-point attempts, and most three-point attempts and makes for a single team were broken.

The rather unimpressive Dunk Contest may have left a sour mark on this year’s All-Star Weekend, but the excitement and surprise that all of the weekend’s other events brought to the table easily made up for it.