The NBA’s Winter Break

As you may know, today begins the world’s most televised and most expensive State Fair, NBA All-Star Weekend. Over the next three days, we will watch in awe as the good people at BBVA Compass, Sears, Foot Locker, Sprite, and, because why not, Taco Bell, combine to bring us the answers to more ultimately irrelevant basketball questions than we would ever really think to ask. Here’s a rundown of what we can expect from this year’s festivities:

Friday:


All-Star Celebrity Game: Every year I forget that this exists, and I always rejoice at the fact that such a flawless idea can come to fruition. It makes me feel marginally better about the world. A hodgepodge of C-list celebrities, NBA greats, and current WNBA players descends upon some small arena in the host city. And this year, we’re probably only getting to the C-list when you take the curve into account, because we’re getting both Mikes from ESPN’s Mike and Mike in the Morning, Nick Cannon, and some actors from Scandal and Grey’s Anatomy who probably aren’t the ones that are coming to mind for you right now. But we have subplots! Will Michael B. Jordan play with a chip on his shoulder after he was snubbed for an Oscar nod? Will Bruce Bowen cause an international incident with a hard foul on U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan? Will Kevin Hart just stop already? Who knows!


Also, as a note, it wasn’t always this way. This cast of so-so celebrities pales in comparison to the 2008 lineup. In that game, widely regarded (by me) as the Citizen Kane of celebrity basketball games, a team featuring Terrell Owens, Master P, and American Idol winner/omnipresent post-up threat Taylor Hicks banded together to defeat Terry Crews, Floyd “Money” Mayweather, and Deion Sanders by one point.


Rising Stars Challenge: It appears that Grant Hill and Chris Webber have each selected teams for this event, which pits combined teams of marquee first and second year players against each other. We have the chance to see a Plumlee v. Plumlee battle in the post, and that’s the only part of this game that seems interesting, so I don’t really know how exciting this is going to be. BUT, we get to watch basketball Twitter’s favorite guy, Giannis Antetokoumpo, do whatever it is the public at large hasn’t seen him do because he’s on the Bucks. And there IS the possibility that Damian Lillard will throw Andre Drummond some crazy alley-oops in the absence of real defense. And Kelly Olynyk is probably in a Dave Matthews cover band that can play at halftime.


So, which team is 2013’s first overall pick, Cleveland’s Anthony Bennett, on? Neither. Cleveland.


Saturday:


D-League All-Star Game:


Person 1: “Hey, I have an extra ticket to see S. Curry of the Warriors play in the All Star Game! Do you want to come?”


Person 2: “Of course! OMG! I love the Warriors.”


Little does Person 2 know that his or her friendship with Person 1 is about to come to a screeching halt unless we have a big Ike Diogu or DeAndre Liggins fan in the house, because Seth Curry of the Santa Cruz D-League Warriors will be participating in the game.


Three-Point Shootout: Okay, so I can’t actually complain about this one. It’s got everything you need in a three-point contest field and they’ve expanded to an 8-man format. You’ve got the big-time, unapologetic gunners (Stephen “Not Seth” Curry, Damian Lillard,) former shootout champions (Kevin Love, Kyrie Irving,) a rising star from a middling team (Bradley Beal,) the role players from good teams (Marco Belinelli,) and even someone under “players whose names you can never spell correctly” (Arron Afflalo.)


Dunk Contest: Some have said that since the 2012 triumph of basketball luminary Jeremy Evans, that the All-Star Dunk Contest had lost much of the star power that had ever made it a notable event on the league calendar. People weren’t yearning for the days of Vince Carter or Kobe Bryant’s wins. Not even. They would have been satisfied with a mere Dwight Howard Wearing a Cape or Nate Robinson Wearing a Different Cape. Simply put, in recent years, the contest simply hasn’t left very many with their fill of over-the-rim theatrics.


We, the audience, were expecting another letdown this year. That is, until this year’s participants were announced. At that point, we were forced to pause and ruminate on the fact that this was not a lay person’s dunk contest. This, what we have here before us, is a DUNK CONTEST. People are doing and saying things that point only to Dunkmageddon: Paul George pulled a 360 windmill dunk out of his hat IN A GAME. Ben McLemore is planning, THREATENING, to attempt a 720 dunk. Toronto’s Terrence Ross, a virtual unknown when he won last year’s (all lowercase) dunk contest, has suddenly turned into someone who can drop 51 on a real NBA team. And all of this comes without even mentioning the other three participants, all exciting, young, well-regarded names: John Wall, Harrison Barnes, and Damian Lillard. This contest is so loaded with talent that the fact that Lillard is attempting to compete in all five All Star Weekend events is the least exciting thing about it that I’ve mentioned, and that can only bode well.


Sunday:


The Game, itself: The participants are, obviously, always a laundry list of the game’s best. That’s beside the point. The point is that this is the one time a year that the sport’s simplest but most satisfying aspect, putting the ball in the net, is placed at the forefront of the action. Unless you’re a Knicks fan, you rarely get to see NBA players play with such wanton disregard for anything even resembling defense. None of this is to say that a well-orchestrated backdoor screen or good ball rotation doesn’t have value. Obviously, these things are what separate good teams from bad teams, they’re components of real basketball. Luckily for us, we get to watch real basketball over a hundred times a year. They only let Shaq take threes once.

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