Diehlman at Halftime: An NBA Weekly Column

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And just like that, the 2022 NBA All-Star Weekend in Cleveland, Ohio has come to a close.

Friday, Feb. 18, showcased the Celebrity All-Star game and the Rising Stars Challenge. Saturday, Feb. 19 featured the first-annual Historically-Black Colleges and Universities (HBCU) Classic between Morgan State and Howard University, as well as the usual Skills Challenge, Dunk Contest and Three-Point Contest.

And Sunday, Feb. 20, we saw the G League Next Gem Game and the main event: the All-Star Game. What a nice variety!

We also learned something interesting this weekend. LeBron James announced that his last season in the league will occur when his son, Bronny James, gets drafted. Basically, whoever drafts Bronny will get LeBron to play for a season as well.

Although the Cleveland Cavaliers are a rising threat in the East, I wouldn’t be surprised if they tried to make a trade in the next few years to acquire Bronny. This is because the elder James was drafted first overall to Cleveland in 2003.

LeBron also added that the “door’s not closed” on a potential return to the Cavs. Woah.

So, who’s raising eyebrows at the moment?

Highlight, Lowlight, Random Stat

Highlight

I don’t think we could’ve asked for a better All-Star Game than what we were treated to on Sunday.

To celebrate the NBA’s 75th anniversary, the league’s 75 greatest players, living and deceased, were honored at halftime.

Earth, Wind, and Fire performed their hit song, “Shining Star,” at halftime. Team LeBron defeated Team Durant 163-160.

Stephen Curry won the NBA All-Star Game Kobe Bryant Most Valuable Player award for dropping 50 points and making an All-Star Game (and NBA record) 16 three-pointers. He was turning around before shots went in and pulling up from everywhere.

Teammate LeBron James hit the game-winning shot on a fadeaway jumper. For James to hit the last shot in his former team’s arena is something that was meant to happen.

On the other end, for Team Durant, Joel Embiid had 36 points and ten rebounds. Even with the great efforts from both squads, the one downside was that Chris Paul apparently fractured his thumb last week and will be re-evaluated in six to eight weeks. That’s rough.

The good news is that he was allowed to sub in the game for a few minutes before sitting out the rest of the night.

Lowlight

Aaron Gordon was robbed of two Dunk Contest wins in 2016 and 2020 might have cursed the competition. The Dunk Contest on Saturday was awful.

The lineup consisted of Cole Anthony of the Orlando Magic, Juan Toscano-Anderson of the Golden State Warriors, Obi Toppin of the New York Knicks and Jalen Green of the Houston Rockets. The five judges gave each dunk a one to ten rating, with a max score being 50 per round.

We witnessed missed dunk after missed dunk. Some of them weren’t even that creative. It’s odd that the judges gave the dunkers a six, or 30 overall, even if a player didn’t complete the dunk in that round. Is it like a participation trophy or something?

To sum up the contest, Toppin was basically handed the award by default.

Green whiffed in the first round. Anthony choked in the second. And Toscano-Anderson couldn’t get it going in the final round.

To think of dunk contests of the past and then see the product today is embarrassing.

The dunk contest of 1988 featured Michael Jordan and Dominique Wilkins, a.k.a. “The Human Highlight Reel,” in the final round. Vince Carter defied logic in 2000. And Zach LaVine versus Aaron Gordon in 2016 was otherworldly.

Heck, Gordon said he won’t compete anymore because of some questionable scores from the judges that cost him two wins. Hopefully, next year’s contest will be better– maybe.

Random Stat

Is he the greatest shooting big man in NBA history?

At 6’11”, the Edison, NJ native Karl-Anthony Towns, or KAT, won the Three-Point Contest, making him the first center to win it.

The participants, besides Towns, were Fred VanVleet of the Toronto Raptors, Patty Mills of the Brooklyn Nets, Luke Kennard of Los Angeles Clippers, Zach LaVine of the Chicago Bulls, Trae Young of the Atlanta Hawks, CJ McCollum of the New Orleans Pelicans and Desmond Bane of the Memphis Grizzles) At least this had a little more flare than the dunk contest.

Towns had a three-point-contest record of 29 points in the final round. Devin Booker held the previous record with 28. Minnesota’s center is shooting 40.9% from downtown this season, which is bonkers to wrap your head around.

The last big man to win the three-point contest was 6’8” Kevin Love although Love isn’t a center. Ironically, Love was on the Timberwolves at the time. But, this year’s festivities were in Cleveland, which is Love’s current team. 

The bombardment of threes from Curry in the All-Star Game might take Towns’ spotlight temporarily, but we won’t forget about the latter’s showing anytime soon.

Now, how much do you want to bet that centers Joel Embiid or Nikola Jokić will try to be the champion next year?

For comments/questions about this story tweet @TheWhitSports.

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