Sports Opinion: NBA All Star game offers old, new heroes

By: Isaac Turner-Hall

NBA All-Star voting ended on Monday, Jan. 18. Kobe Bryant led all vote getters with 1,891,614 votes, which destroyed the record for votes set last season by MVP favorite Stephen Curry. Bryant has held a firm lead the entire voting process despite not posting All-Star numbers and the Lakers failing to even win 10 games at this point in the season, so, of course, there has been some controversy in whether the Hall Of Famer should be an All-Star starter or even be playing in the game at all, but the fans have voted him in as one last farewell, and many players around the league have supported the fans’ decision, such as fellow Western Conference All-Star Starter Kevin Durant in an interview with Erik Horne of the Oklahoman.

“He’s a legend. He’s our heir to MJ, and he definitely deserved to be in there.”

Bryant starting in the game has also caused a couple players that people think are “deserving” to be snubbed of a starting spot like Portland Trail Blazers guard Damian Lillard and Sacramento Kings center Demarcus Cousins, who are both having great seasons posting career numbers. In the Eastern Conference, players like Chicago’s Jimmy Butler and Detroit Pistons center Andre Drummond didn’t make the list because of Hall Of Famer Dwyane Wade, who, like Bryant, was having a below average year but was voted in by the fans.

But despite the snubs, All Star weekend still looks to be lots of fun. There are many competitions that players compete in by themselves. The Foot Locker 3-Point Contest fan vote hasn’t ended yet, but this year it looks like the favorite is Curry, who’s been lights out this year for three. This weekend will also feature the Verizon Slam Dunk Challenge, which was brought back to life last year by Zach Lavine who shocked everybody watching with his impressive leaping ability and creative dunks.

The last of the player challenges is the Taco Bell Skills Challenge. This competition isn’t as flashy as the dunk or 3-point contest, but this truly tests a player’s basketball skills as they wind their way through an obstacle course that tests their passing, dribbling and shooting. All of these contest will be extremely exciting to watch and many of the players in this will also be playing in the All-Star game as well.

There are also multiple games during this All-Star weekend like the NBA All-Star Celebrity Game, which is more of a game for fun, but it still draws a large crowd in the stadium and on television. This year the celebrity teams will be coached by Grammy-winning artist Drake and former Celebrity Game MVP Kevin Hart, and some of the notable names playing in the game are actor and singer Kris Wu, seven time All-Star Tracy McGrady, actor Jason Sudeikis, actor Michael B. Jordan, Nick Cannon and WNBA MVP Elena Delle Donne.

There is also the BBVA Compass Rising Stars, which is a game the pits the league’s best rookies against the league’s best sophomores in two 20-minute halves. With no foul outs, this game will feature a lot of future NBA superstars, legends and Hall Of Famers.

And then there’s the game that features many Hall Of Famers, the best players in the world and the future faces of the NBA. This year’s Western Conference starters are Curry, Russell Westbrook, Bryant, Durant and Kawhi Leonard. The Eastern Conference will feature Kyle Lowry, Wade, Lebron James, Paul George and Carmelo Anthony.

All Star Weekend is Feb. 12-14 this year, and it will be a great one as we wave farewell to one of the greatest players to ever play the game of basketball: Kobe Bryant.

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