Westbrook, Curry, shine over NBA All Star Weekend

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NBA by Ryan Paice

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February 25, 2015 / Volume XXXVII / Issue 2

Lately the NBA All Star Weekend has been fading in popularity, with basketball fans tired of watching a few tired competitions. Not this year. With possibly the best Three-Point Shootout group of all time, explosive young talent putting on a show in the Slam Dunk Contest, and Russell Westbrook dominating the All Star Game, the weekend was a huge success. Ratings spiked after last year’s snooze, seeing the All Star Game’s ratings increase 12 percent and a 54 percent increase for live video streams, while Saturday’s competitions saw a 10 percent rise from last year. The NBA has been incredibly competitive this year, and the All Star Weekend was a reflection of that, with its competition and intrigue on full display for the world.

The All Star Game – the main attraction of the weekend – saw records almost be set and a multitude of stars doing their best to claim the status of best in the world. James Harden – a legitimate MVP candidate – almost put together a triple-double for the West with 29 points, 8 rebounds, and 8 assists, with an additional 2 steals. For the East, LeBron James re-established his superstardom after a year plagued with injuries, with 30 points, 7 assists, and 5 rebounds.

Despite all of the impressive play Russell Westbrook stole the show, with his 41 points breaking Michael Jordan’s record of 40 points in an All Star Game, but just missing out on passing Wilt Chamberlain’s record-high 42 points. Westbrook also finished with five rebounds, one assist, and three steals to claim the Most Valuable Player award.

“He definitely earned the acknowledgement and he definitely surprised me,” basketball fan Maria Calas said. “Russell’s career average is what, like 20-22 points? But he goes off for 41 points!” The West beat the East 163-158 on the back of Westbrooks huge night.

Continuing his meteoric rise to superstardom, MVP-candidate Stephen Curry put on a show, making what might have been the most talented group of players the Three-Point Shootout has ever seen look like amateurs. Hitting an incredible 27 three pointers in the championship round, Curry beat former “Splash Brother” Klay Thompson and last year’s winner Kyrie Irving.

“I was excited to see Klay and Curry go up against each other,” a second-year psychology AOC Evan Murphy said, who deemed the shootout the best competition of the weekend. “The Three-Point Contest is one of those contests over the weekend where people are actually willing to participate,” Murphy continued. “In the Three-Point Contest you’ll get the best players out there.”

The Dunk Contest, while lacking in the stardom of the Three-Point Shootout, featured explosive young athletes that put on the best show since Blake Griffin jumped over a car to a choir singing “I Believe I Can Fly” in 2011. Zach LaVine, the winner of the competition, grabbed a hold of the lead quickly with two perfect-scoring dunks. LaVine seemed to defy gravity with his opening dunk, going between the legs to hit a reverse dunk while dressed as Michael Jordan in Space Jam. Victor Oladipo sung Frank Sinatra’s “New York, New York” before slamming down a 360 reverse dunk that got him his one and only perfect score of 50.

The Rising Stars Challenge had a new format this year, with first and second year players from the USA playing first and second year players from all around the world. Last year’s first overall NBA draft pick Andrew Wiggins scored 22 points to lead Team World in scoring. Rudy Gobert provided Team World with stellar low-post play, getting 18 points to go with his 12 rebounds and three blocks to put a cherry on top of his breakout year. Victor Oladipo and Zach LaVine – both of whom were the finalists in the Dunk contest – scored 22 points apiece for Team USA, but ultimately the recent boost of foreign talent in the NBA saw Team World win it 121-112.

After years of the NBA All Star Weekend becoming less and less exciting, this year was a refreshing change to that trend. With Westbrook almost breaking a record that has held firm since 1962, a talent-packed Rising Stars Challenge, a Three-Point Shootout for the ages and the best Dunk Contest in four years, there is nothing to do now but sit back and enjoy some highlights.

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