Scheduling a weekend is never easy. There’s just too much stuff to do. Way too much. Sometimes you might even get lost. So now think about the NBA. They’ve only got one weekend to squeeze in a celebrity game, a rising-stars challenge, a skills challenge, a three-point shootout, a dunk contest and of course a main event. Three days full of action. Three days that demand a tight, well organised schedule in order to keep an overview. Not easy, right?
Welcome to the 2016 NBA All-Star Weekend. Toronto is the place. February 12th is the day. 1am CET (Saturday) is the time. That’s when the magic starts happening. And it starts with a four-time MVP. The name? Kevin Hart. Kevin Hart? You’re right. The man who, in recent years, has been dominating the All-Star Celebrity Game by pure power, size and ahtleticism – or rather power of talk, lack of size and no fear for athleticism – has just been promoted.
Before we go into detail with each event we have to make you an offer you can’t refuse. You can by the NBA League Pass for the whole weekend for only $9.99. If you like basketball you will love this. For more information visit the official NBA website.
Apparently people found out about Hart’s vocal skills and want to let him use them big time now. As coach of Team USA which features an NBA-Finals MVP (Chauncey Billups), the smallest guy with the biggest heart in NBA history (Muggsy Bogues) and the reigning WNBA MVP (Elena Delle Donne). The US squad is completed by Jason Sudeikis, Anthony Anderson, Joel Moore, Nick Cannon und Marc Lasry complete.
Looks pretty competitive, right? Well, so does Team Canada which is going to be coached by Drake, Steve Nash and Toronto Blue Jays right fielder Jose Bautista. The team is headlined by former Toronto Raptor and seven-time NBA All-Star Tracy McGrady, Rick Fox and former WNBA player Tammy Sutton-Brown and completed by tennis player Milos Raonic, Stephan James, Win Butler, Kris Wu and Drew and Jonathan Scott.
BBVA Rising-Stars Challenge (13.2., 3.30am CET)
Could be an interesting matchup. Could be pure show. Could be both. Be that as it may, same goes for the BBVA Rising-Stars Challenge (Saturday, 3.30 am CET). However, it is save to say that the game between the world’s best rookies and sophomores and their US counterparts features a lot more pure basketball action and athletic ability.
At least it wouldn’t come as a surprise in a clash between Zach LaVine, Nerlens Noel, Jahlil Okafor, Jordan Clarkson, Jabari Parker, Elfrid Payton, D’Angelo Russell, Marcus Smart, Karl-Antony Towns and Rodney Hood on one side and Mario Hezonja, Emmanuel Mudiay, Andrew Wiggins, Kristaps Porzingis, Clint Capela, Bojan Bogdanovic, Nikola Jokic, Trey Lyles and Dwight Powell on the other. Highflying action guaranteed. And maybe even some competitive edge. At least if Team USA wants to take revenge for last year’s loss.
KICKZ MVP Picks
Rob: Karl-Anthony Towns – Karl Anthony Towns as a rookie is already one of the most versatile players in the league and the ASG will help him to showcase his many talents. If he gets the touches, he will dominate the competition but watch out for Porzingis to be a force to be reckoned with.
Martin: Kristaps Porzingis – Let’s pierce those arrogant Knicks fans who didn’t want him with one more needle!
Dustin: Kristaps Porzingis – Maybe the surprise of the season for me … He’s showing off the complete range of skills and he’s a fan favorite – I expect him to be extra motivated on the big stage.
Max: Andrew Wiggins – Playing in your home country, in front of a home crowd. Doesn’t get much better than that. Wiggins will cease the moment and show once more why he is one the best young players in the league.
Manu: Kristaps Porzingis – The Latvian rookie is a shooting star in the league. His big dunks and blocks are in all highlight videos. Plus he has „the European swag“, haha!
Alex: Kristaps Porzingis – Porzingod. This dude is a beast straight up. It will be an impressive end to the drawn-out draft night discussion.
All-Star Saturday (14.2., 2.30am CET)
Taco Bell Skills Challenge
One way or the other, the Rising-Stars challenge will bring All-Star Friday to a close and leave the stage for the big show. For incredible shooting. For mindblowing dunks. For All-Star Saturday. That kicks of 2.30 am CET (Sunday) with the Taco Bell Skills Challenge. A format that comes across with a whole new twist.
For 14 years, guards have been the natural – and dominating – competitors in a challenge that tests dribbling, passing and shooting skills. But the game has changed. Big men have changed. And therefore this year marks the first year where multiple bigs will compete for the title of the NBA’s most diversely skilled player. And who would be better suited to challenge the guards’ dominance than the one big man who plays the least like a big man? Mr. Triple Double. The Point Power Forward/Point Center. The champion’s 6 foot 7 playmaker: Mr. Draymond Green.
Does he have a chance to wrest the title from reigning champ Patrick Beverley? Mos’ def! Will it be easy? Mos’ def NOT! Or to put it in Jalen Rose’s words: BOOGIIIIE! Yes, you’re right, DeMarcus Cousins is as much competing for the title as Anthony Davis and Karl-Anthony Towns, completing the big-man phalanx who will challenge guards CJ McCollum, Isaiah Thomas, Jordan Clarkson and champ Pat Beverely.
Rob: Jordan Clarkson – Sometimes you gotta pick with your heart not with your head. As a Laker fan and fellow Filipino I gotta go with my boy Jordan. Kobe doesn’t call him Baby Westbrook for nothing. Clarkson will make some heads turn.
Martin: Karl-Anthony Towns – Gotta go with KAT. He’s my rock in fantasy league.
Dustin: Isaiah Thomas – I just love to watch the little guy having some fun with his great handles. He will have a big confidence boost by the All Star selection
Max: DeMarcus Cousins – BOOGIIIIE!
Manu: Isaiah Thomas – He found his place at the Celtics this season. Great ball handling and passing skills and he is quick.
Alex: Draymond Green – He gon’ do it for the Bay. He gon’ rep the Bay. Cavaliers? Nope. Draymond Green? Yup.
Footlocker Three-Point Contest
I don’t know about you, but I can’t wait. Simply the thought of Boogie running up and down the court, dancing through the parcours, passing, dribbling, shooting, makes me wanna watch the event. On the other hand, All-Star Saturday wouldn’t be All-Star Saturday if that was it. Well, it’s not. We’ll get the answer to the question whether Steph Curry will finally hit 25 threes in a row. Ok, that might be a bit too much to ask for but the reigning three-point champion will better bring his A-shooting if he wants to defend his title.
After all the starting field of the Footlocker Three-Point Contest is once again a playground for the NBA’s hottest hands and potential instant microwaves. Take Curry aside and you still got James Harden, Klay Thompson, Khris Middleton, Kyle Lowry, JJ Redick, Chris Bosh and sharp shooting rookie Devin Booker. Predictions? Impossible! So better tune in Sunday morning 2.30 am. The three-point contest will definitely be worth the lack of sleep, simultaneously serving as the perfect appetizer for some highflying action that is second to none.
Rob: Steph Curry – If you have watched him play this season you cannot pick anybody else. Not even as a joke.
Martin: Steph Curry – Not a single doubt. Let’s pick the runner-up instead: Devin Booker, the youngest player ever competing.
Dustin: Steph Curry – beacuse… duh
Max: Steph Curry – A set, open three for Steph is like an open dunk for Boban Marjanovic. Too easy!
Manu: Steph Curry – Curry just can’t lose this. He would even with eyes closed. Period.
Alex: Steph Curry – SC30, hands down. Although JJ will be right behind chasing him.
Verizon Slam-Dunk Contest
Some might still remember Zach LaVine taking off like there was nothing to it. Hammering the Spalding through Brooklyn’s Barclay’s Center with ease, making incredibly difficult slam dunks seem like everyone could try them after a feasty Sunday afternoon barbecue. Therefore LaVine is one of the reasons the Verizon Slam Dunk Contest is back to becoming what it once was: the biggest show on earth.
Nevertheless giving the title to LaVine even before the event starts Sunday morning would be pretty premature. Too good are his contestants. Too big the potential for mindblowing slams that will make the Air Canada Centre go wild. Will Andre Drummond follow in the footsteps of Dwight Howard and become another center to win the Slam-Dunk contest? Or will Will Barton transfer his ferocious in-game dunks to the big stage? And what will Aaron Gordon be able to do if there is no opponent in the way? I guess, we’ll just have to wait and see …
Rob: Zach LaVine – Lavine has serious hops and is one of the most spectacular dunkers in the league. Drummond and Gordon have the power but no one cares about tall people dunking. I just hope the creativity will be better this year.
Martin: – Boooring. I secretly hope Vince Carter appears out of nowhere. Good ol’ times.
Dustin: Zach LaVine – I think he will be able to step up his performance from last year. Currently the most athletic dunker in the league.
Max: Andre Drummond – Dunks without the fear of having to go to the freethrow line afterwards are simply too much of a liberating feeling for Drummond. No one can keep up with that.
Manu: Will Barton – Barton showed vicious dunks throughout the season. He has hops and will come up with some creative dunks.
Alex: Aaron Gordon – I’m with Gordon on this one. But this will definitely be the closest competition if everbody gets their moves right.
2016 NBA All-Star Game (15.2., 2.30am CET)
…and wait a little longer. For the weekend’s main event. For the 2016 NBA All-Star Game. And as if the 65th edition of the matchup between the NBA’s best players itself wouldn’t be enough, this year’s clash features the most special of storylines. The farewell of a legend. The weaving goodbye to one of the best to ever play the game. Or a little less melodramatic: Kobe Bryants final NBA All-Star Game.
The Mamba called quits. This season will be his last. Therefore his 18th All-Star nomination will as well be his last. That’s special. I mean, it has been 13 years since we’ve last said goodbye to one of the games greatest during an All-Star game. In 2003 Michael Jordan passed on the torch and did so by giving an emotional speech during halftime. Maybe Kobe is about to do same. Maybe he will hit an almost gamewinner as MJ did in Atlanta. And maybe one of the Eastern All-Stars like Carmelo Anthony, Paul George, LeBron James, Kyle Lowry, Dwyane Wade, Pau Gasol, John Wall, Andre Drummond, Chris Bosh, DeMar DeRozan, Paul Millsap or Isaiah Thomas will spoil the big exit by sending the game to overtime – just as Kobe did to Jordan.
Well, it wouldn’t matter. It’s about seeing Kobe among the game’s best for one last time. Watching him enjoy himself while finally being surrounded by incredible talent again. By his fellow starters Steph Curry, Kevin Durant, Kawhi Leonard and Russell Westbrook. By Draymond Green, Klay Thompson, Chris Paul and James Harden. By Anthony Davis, LaMarcus Aldridge and DeMarcus Cousins. Great company for a great player. And most importantly, great preconditions for an All-Star Game to be remeberred for ages.
Especially since we haven’t talked about that it is the first ever outside the US. Or about Paul George, who has come back from his horrendous injury in style and will start in Toronto only 18 months after breaking his leg. Or about Kawhi Leonard who got rewarded for his outstanding season with a starting spot in his first ever All-Star Game. Or about Kyle Lowry starting in front of his homecrowd. You see, there are more than enough reasons to skip a night’s sleep, get some snacks and hit the couch at 2.30am Monday morning.
KICKZ MVP Picks
Rob: Kobe Bryant – Like in Magic’s and Jordan’s last All-Star Games the players and coaches will try everything to send Kobe off with the MVP. I expect Lebron, Melo and Wade to challenge Kobe 1-on-1 like Isiah and Michael did in ASG92.
Martin: James Harden – ‘Cause the beard game is strong with this one.
Dustin: Kyle Lowry – Hometown Hero playing a great season and he is definitely capable of putting on a great show.
Max: Kobe Bryant – Since Jimmy Butler is out, I have to go with Kobe. He is going to make the best of him finally playing with a great „supporting cast“ again. And I guess everyone wants to let him enjoy his last ride at the ASG. Meaning: lots of shots and lots of buckets.
Manu: Russell Westbrook – Russ is a triple double monster this season. He is a complete player and unstoppable once on fire. Everybody thinks Kobe will retire as All-Star MVP but Westbrook is too competitive to let him win.
Alex: Russell Westbrook – Russ, KD or Steph Curry. These guys are in their own sphere right now putting up incredible numbers night after night. I think Russ will come out on top in the end.