This year's NBA All-Star Weekend was full of exciting events that showcased some of the league's biggest stars in Salt Lake City, Utah.
The festivities kicked off on Friday evening with Team Pau winning the Jordan Rising Stars Challenge. The game featured four teams—Team Pau, Team Deron, Team Joakim, and Team Jason—made up of 21 rookie and second-year NBA players along with seven players from the G League. New Orleans Pelicans guard Jose Alvarado was named MVP of the tournament.
The Ruffles NBA All-Star Celebrity Game was a showcase for Seattle Seahawks wide receiver DK Metcalf who was named MVP of the exciting contest with his display of powerful dunks. Metcalf scored 20 points, pulled down 10 rebounds, and added 4 blocks, to propel Team Dwyane (Dwyane Wade) to a 81-78 victory defeating Team Ryan (which was captained by the governor of the Utah Ryan Smith).
WWE Superstar The Miz hit a half-court desperation shot that tied the game. Eventually, the 3-pointer was waved off after an official review.
Other celebrities who participated in the game included Janelle Monae, 21 Savage, Kane Brown, Cordae, Sinqua Walls, Frances Tiafoe, Arike Ogunbowale, Everett Osborne, and Calvin "Megatron" Johnson.
Wade was assisted by Giannis Antetokounmpo along with his brothers Thanasis and Alex. Lisa Leslie and Fat Joe assisted Smith.
On Saturday, the highly-anticipated NBA HBCU Classic took place at the Huntsman Center on the campus of the University of Utah where Grambling State University defeated their long-time rival Southern University. Shawndarius Cowart of Grambling State led all scorers with 18 points as the game went down to the wire. NBA analyst Stephanie Ready and Hall of Famer Grant Hill called the nationally televised event that put a global spotlight on the storied traditions and exceptional talent of HBCUs.
“It’s basically a recruiting tool for national exposure for us,” Grambling State coach Donte’ Jackson said following the game.
“The NBA has given us this platform, but this isn’t the end,” Southern coach Sean Woods added. “We’re getting more TV exposure, so you’re starting to see really big-time games. And with the transfer portal now, we’re getting transfers coming in from Power 5 schools. The talent pool is rising in our league.”
As part of their ongoing commitments to HBCUs, NBA and AT&T each donated $100,000 to Grambling State and Southern University.
In the 2030 Kia Skills Challenge, Team Jazz, which comprised of Jordan Clarkson, Walker Kessler and Collin Sexton, won the trophy in front of the hometown crowd defeating Team Rooks and Team Antetokounmmpo. Team Jazz made a comeback after being in last place bringing the raucous hometown crowd to their feet. Team Rooks (Paolo Banchero, Jaden Ive, and Jabari Smith) and Team Antetokounmpo (Thanasis, Alex and Jrue Holiday, who filled in for Giannis who sat out with a wrist injury).
Portland Trailblazers superstar Damian Lillard won the 2023 Starry 3-Point Contest by besting some of the best shooters in the league. The 8-man field included Tyrese Haliburton of the Indiana Pacers, Tyler Herro of the Miami Heat, Buddy Hield of the Indiana Pacers, Kevin Huerter of the Sacramento Kings, Lauri Markkanen of the Utah Jazz, Jayson Tatum of the Boston Celtics and Julius Randle of the New York Knicks (who replaced Anferenee Simmons of the Portland Trailblazers).
“Dame Dolla” defeated Hield, a former champ by a single shot, making the last moneyball on his last rack in the final round. Regarded as an all-time great shooter, Lillard said that the win offcially validated his status as one of the greatest marksmen ever.
"I think all the best shooters in the history of our game, most of them have one of these… I just wanted to get it done at least one time. So I'm happy I got it, now I can retire from it,” he said.
The last event on Saturday was the AT&T Slam Dunk Contest which was one of the best in recent years. Philadelphia 76ers guard Mac McClung thrilled the crowd with gravity-defying dunks taking home the top prize. After Kenyon Martin Jr., of the Houston Rockets, and Jericho Sims of the New York Knicks were eliminated, Oklahoma City Thunder forward Trey Murphy III battled McClung in an epic duel where neither contestant missed a dunk.
On an average night, Murphy would have easily won the contest with his impressive array of dunks but McClung was no ordinary opponent. Although he’s only played two games this season and signed a two-way deal with the Philadelphia 76ers earlier this week, he put on an incredible performance that will go down in the annals of Slam Dunk Contest history.
"It kind of feels, ever since the beginning, I was the underdog," McClung said. "Even when I was younger. ... Just proving yourself right, not others wrong, it brings a little more satisfaction."
In the main event of the weekend, Boston Celtics superstar Jayson Tatum was named MVP of the 2023 All-Star Game by setting a new scoring record with 55 points leading Team Giannis to a 185-175 over Team LeBron. Tatum earned 11 of the 12 votes for the award, with Donovan Mitchell receiving one fan vote.
In a tremendous shooting display, Tatum scored 27 of his 55 points in the third quarter and shot 22-for-31 from the field (10-for-18 from 3) adding nine rebounds and six assists. Mitchell poured in 40 points in his return to Salt Lake City where he spent the first five seasons of his career.
The game also featured a pre-draft where All-Star captains Giannis Antetokounmpo and LeBron James picked their rosters. Each captain played limited action with Antetokounmpo nursing his wrist injury while James left the game after injuring his hand.
During the halftime show, Grammy-winning singer, songwriter, and producer Burna Boy, Grammy-winning and Oscar-nominated singer Tems, and rapper Rema brought all the Afrobeat vibes to Salt Lake City. Antetokounmpo and Toronto Raptors star Pascal Siakam were on the court for the entire performance.
"I'm about to take you on a journey to Africa without even going on a plane," Burna Boy said as he took the stage.
He then performed his hits "It's Plenty," "Alone" and "Last Last."
Rema came in next to perform "Calm Down" and "Holiday." To close things off, Tems danced her way through a medley of her hits "Crazy Tings," "Free Mind" "Essence" and "Higher."
Closing the electric performance, Tems performed a medley of her hits "Crazy Tings," "Free Mind" "Essence" and "Higher."
When the game resumed and Tatum realized that Anthony Davis’ scoring record was within reach, he made it his business to try to break it.
"I found out midway through the fourth [about the record]," Tatum said after the game. "I think I had like 49 and Dame Lillard was like, 'Yo, the record's 52.' He was like, 'Go get it.'"
Tatum also shared how honored he was to win the Kobe Bryant All-Star MVP trophy, which was named after his idol.
"It's extremely special to me," he said. "My first All-Star Game was in Chicago in 2020 when they renamed the MVP after him and I remember telling myself that someday I got to get one of those."