The NBA league opted to hold the 70th All-Star weekend with several years past changes due to the ongoing coronavirus pandemic. One of the most notable changes was closing the event to the public, except for 1,500 guests made up of frontline workers and members of the Historically Black Colleges and Universities community.
Instead of holding its All-Star events over multiple days, the NBA league stuffed everything into one evening. The finest players from around the NBA gathered at State Farm Arena in Atlanta, Georgia, with the All-Star Game and skills competitions taking place for a few hours.
The 2021 NBA All-Star Game was between Team LeBron and Team Durant. Unlike last year’s drama-filled exhibition, this year’s game failed to deliver an exciting ending. Still, Damian Lillard and Steph Curry gave us something to hark back by sending the opponent team home with a half-court jumper to close out the game. Damian’s walk-off bucket gave Team LeBron a 170-150 victory over Team Durant.
On the other side, Team Durant seemed to be missing just a bit of that scoring punch from their own General Manager. Durant didn’t play because of his injury. While the team got balanced efforts from their stars like James Harden and Kyrie Irving, each scoring 20+ efficiently, as did Jayson Tatum and leading-scorer Bradley Beal, it was clear that they needed an extra punch to keep up with the long-range mastery of Team LeBron.
After the game, the All-Star festivities started with the Skills Challenge, which became the Domantas Sabonis Show. The Pacers big man defeated Robert Covington, Paul, Julius Randle, Luka Doncic, and Nikola Vucevic to capture the title.
Stephen Curry unsurprisingly emerged as the 3-point Contest champion, scoring 31 points in the first round and 28 points in the last, though Mike Conley did give him a challenge.
The Portland Trail Blazers’ Anfernee Simons did just enough to win the Slam Dunk Contest that was moved to halftime of the All-Star Game this year.
Giannis Antetokounmpo took home the All-Star MVP (Most Valuable Player) trophy after scoring 35 points and 7 rebounds on the perfect 16-of-16 shooting. He lucked out by knocking down a few shots off the glass, but the bank always stays open for the Bucks’ star.
Before Giannis Antetokounmpo’s scorching night, the most field goal attempts without a miss by a player in an NBA All-Star Game was in 1968, when Hal Greer connected on 8 of 8. Antetokounmpo’s numbers register as an NBA All-Star record for the highest field goal percentage in an All-Star Game with a minimum of fifteen attempts.
Following similar efforts by the league throughout 2020, this year’s event emphasized supporting minority communities. This was implemented in several ways, including the All-Star Game’s court featuring art paying tribute to Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCUs).
The league also provided over $3 million to the UNCF (United Negro College Fund), National Association for Equal Opportunity (NAFEO), Thurgood Marshall College Fund (TMCF), and Direct Relief’s Fund for Health Equity, as part of All-Star Weekend.