Each year, millions of people forgo Cupid and his machinations to descend upon the NBA’s host city of choice in favor of something we all know and love: NBA All-Star Weekend. Sadly, I won’t be in attendance, but here’s a preview of what’s in store.
Eerily reminiscent of the MTV Rock & Jock games from yesteryear—minus Queen Latifah embarrassing Shawn Kemp on national TV—the celebrity game provides every recording artist, comedian, and bootleg celebrity with the opportunity to showcase their skills and bust each other’s asses on the basketball court. Now, do I ever watch this shit? Nope. But dudes like Quavo can legit hoop, so it might be worth checking out just to catch the “Stir Fry” rapper bring fire and brimstone to an unsuspecting Instagram “influencer” or retired basketball star.
The full rosters of each squad can be found here.
Now, the Rising Star Challenge is worth a look. Teams are broken down by players who are from either the USA or the rest of the world and every single participant is either a rookie or in their sophomore season—hence the name of the challenge. It’s a dope opportunity to witness future faces of the league like Memphis Grizzlies guard Ja Morant blossom before our eyes, and also catch players you might not ever see otherwise because they play on terrible-ass teams—like Charlotte Hornets guard Devonte’ Graham.
For some inexplicable reason, the Skills Challenge is still somehow a thing. But nobody is here to see Tito or Marlon, dammit—we’re here for Michael. And with the Slam Dunk Contest being about as close to the Thriller Maker as we’ll get at this point, we, unfortunately, have to sit through the opening acts beforehand.
I won’t pretend to give a shit about the Skills Challenge, but the 3-Point Contest has low-key been must-see TV in recent years. Watching superstar players like Steph Curry, Klay Thompson, and Kyrie Irving battle for the crown has been a delight, and with flamethrowers like Kings guard Buddy Hield and future MVP Trae Young participating it should be fun.
Now as for the main event, we already know Aaron Gordon is about to wreck shit. Who can forget his classic duel with two-time dunk champ Zach LaVine, who sadly—or allegedly—won’t be participating this year.
Thankfully, the rest of the field is filled out with some high flyers who should give the Magic forward some good competition, including Derrick Jones Jr. of the Miami Heat and White Men Can’t Jump detractor Pat Connaughton of the Milwaukee Bucks.
We’ll also be treated to a live performance by Damian Lillard’s rapper alter-ego, Dame D.O.L.L.A., at some point during the evening.
Prior to the big finale, the NBA All-Star Game, expect to see plenty of love for Kobe Bryant throughout All-Star Weekend. Be it shoutouts, messages written on sneakers, or whatever else, Kobe and his late daughter, Gianna, will be the stars of the show the entire weekend.
But in an official capacity, songstress Jennifer Hudson has been tapped to pay tribute to the five-time NBA champion with what promises to be a spellbinding performance during player introductions. Of additional note, the All-Star Game itself will incorporate both Kobe and Gianna with its newly revealed format that includes the jerseys each team will wear and how the winner will be determined.
Oh, and guess who’s singing the national anthem? Chaka Khan!
Will LeBron channel the spirit of Kobe and blackout for 50-plus points? Will Devon Booker, a late replacement for the injured Lillard, do the damn thing and put the league on notice for his initial snub? Will Joel Embiid wreak havoc in the paint since he finally doesn’t have to share the court with Ben Simmons?
I have no idea, but I can’t wait to find out.
NBA All-Star Weekend kicks off tonight at 7pm EST on TNT.