By Jake Antonucci
Salt Lake City, Utah, was the home for the NBA All-Star weekend this year. Starting with the Kia Skills Challenge Contest, this years contestants included the hometown Utah Jazz team with Jordan Clarkson, Collin Sexton, and Walker Kessler.
Next you had the Antetokounmpo brothers, Thanasis Antetokounmpo, Alex Antetokounmpo, and Giannis Antetokounmpo who had to be replaced by his Bucks teammate Jrue Holiday due to a wrist injury. Last you had Team Rookies which included Paolo Banchero, Jaden Ivey, and Jabari Smith Jr. The Kia Skills Challenge is a three-round competition where the teams of three players amass “Challenge Points” throughout each round. The team with the most points is crowned champion, but tie-breaker rules are in place if necessary.
The first round is Team Relay, which required players to make a 35-foot outlet pass, dribble through three moving pilons and attempt three different shots (one in the lane, a left corner 3-pointer and a layup or dunk). Team Rookies took this round and were in the lead with 100 challenge points.
The second round is Team Passing, which required players to make passes to varying lengths and types. These included a 35-foot outlet pass, a 20-foot bounce pass and a 25-foot chest pass through moving targets in 30 seconds. This round was taken by Team Jazz as the ran wild down the stretch to win the round. The final round is Team Shooting, which has players taking turns shooting from five different spots, which had values of anywhere from one point to five points. This round was again taken by Team Jazz, winning on a corner 3-pointer from Walker Kessler. The hometown Team Jazz took home the 2023 Kia Skills Challenge trophy with a total of 200 challenge points.
The next event was the Starry 3-point contest, which included eight players from around the league. Only three of those eight move onto the second and final round, where a champion will be crowned. This years contestants were Tyrese Haliburton from the Indiana Pacers, Tyler Herro from the Miami Heat, Buddy Hield from the Indiana Pacers, Kevin Huerter from the Sacromento Kings, Damian Lillard from the Portland Trail Blazers, Lauri Markkanen from the Utah Jazz, Julius Randle from the New York Knicks, and Jayson Tatum from the Boston Celtics.
This years 3-point contest consisted of the usual racks containing five balls apiece spaced around the 3-point line. Four of the five racks are the traditional four regular orange balls worth one point apiece, and one multi-colored money ball, which is worth two points. The fifth rack is the all-money-ball rack, which could be placed anywhere, and consists of five money balls, each good for two points. This year the league added the two “starry” balls for the long range specialist, which are placed deep behind the 3-point line on each side of the middle rack past the top of the key.
After the end of the first round, the three players moving on were Portland’s Damian Lillard with 26 points and the two Indiana representatives, Buddy Hield with 23 points and Tyrese Haliburton with 31 points. In the second round, Haliburton struggled to find his shot but Hield and Lillard didn’t dissapoint. Hield had a terrific round with 25 points putting pressure on Lillard going last. Lillard knocked down two shots from “Starry” range, and those buckets counted for three points apiece in the final round as he edged out Hield 26-25. Lillard’s last attempt from the corner with a two-point money ball gave him the victory.
The last event of the night was the AT&T Slam Dunk Contest, which not many people were excited for this year given the participants were not familar names in the NBA. This years contestants included Kenyon Martin Jr from the Houston Rockets, Mac McClung from the Philadelphia 76ers, Trey Murphy III from the New Orleans Pelicans, and Jericho Sims from the New York Knicks. Mac McClung executed perfect 50s on all but one of his dunks to win the contest over Trey Murphy III of the Pelicans in the final. This was a weird dunk contest given that the winner was technically not even in the NBA, as McClung was still part of the sixers g league team.
This years all-star weekend recorded the lowest audience ever recorded for an all-star weekend in NBA history, proving that the league needs to find a way to get the top tier players to be more involved with this weekend.