Fans in attendance at 2019 NBA All-Star Saturday Night in Charlotte were treated to an unconventional Taco Bell Skills Challenge, lights-out shooting in the MTN DEW 3-Point Contest, and more creativity with the AT&T Slam Dunk competition.
All three saw new champions as Spencer Dinwiddie unable to participate in the Skills Challenge, Devin Booker was eliminated in the first round, and Donovan Mitchell did not return to defend his title after edging hometown representative Larry Nance Jr. at Staples Center in 2018.
The Los Angeles Lakers have a presence throughout All-Star Weekend, which began with Kyle Kuzma winning MTN DEW ICE Rising Stars MVP, though he couldn’t replicate that success in the Skills Challenge. LeBron James will represent the team on Sunday in the All-Star Game.
Taco Bell Skills Challenge
After first-round matchups were set via blind draw, Nikola Jokic defeated Nikola Vucevic, Jayson Tatum raced from behind to beat Mike Conley, Trae Young did the same to De’Aaron Fox, and Kuzma’s three-point shot let him down in an eliminating loss to Luka Doncic.
Tatum and Young won their respective second-round matchups, with the Boston Celtics forward edging the Atlanta Hawks rookie to win the trophy. Tatum struggled with the passing portion, which put him well behind Young, but he made up for it by banking in a halfcourt shot on the run.
Tatum became the first Celtics player to ever win the Skills Challenge.
MTN DEW 3-Point Contest
It was evident early a new champion would be crowned as Booker struggled to start the first round before recovering some to finish with 23 points. However, he trailed hometown hero Stephen Curry (27 points), Buddy Hield (26) and Joe Harris (25).
Curry ignited the crowd with a typical shooting flurry, connecting on his last 10 attempts. Included in that were making all five attempts from his Money Ball rack.
Harris built off his impressive showing by starting off the championship round with 26 points. Hield struggled in his second time up, turning in 19 points.
Matters initially appeared bleak for Harris as Curry strung together nine consecutive makes. But even one of the greatest shooters of all-time couldn’t prove completely immune to a cold streak. That put the pressure on Curry heading into his Money Ball and final rack.
He needed to make all five to tie Harris, and nearly did so. Curry’s third attempt rimmed in and out, resulting in him going 4-for-5 from the corner and finishing with 24 points.
AT&T Slam Dunk
Hornets forward Mile Bridges had the crowd behind him but couldn’t convert on a pass to himself off the backboard and between the legs flush. Bridges earned 33 points for the attempt, which was the lowest mark in the first round among the four contestants.
Hamidou Diallo received the highest score after the participants’ first dunks, garnering 48 points for taking a pass off the back from teammate Russell Westbrook for a windmill dunk with his off (left) hand.
Bridges helped atone for a subpar showing by donning a Larry Johnson retro jersey and incorporating Kemba Walker for a pass off the side of the backboard and 180 slam dunk. The effort earned him a perfect score.
John Collins followed by flying over a plane, then Dennis Smith Jr. upped the ante by bringing out rapper J. Cole. Smith also changed into Cole’s high school jersey and took a pass from him and earned 50 points to advance to the championship round against Diallo.
The edge quickly went to Diallo, as he soared over Shaquille O’Neal, albeit with a slight boost. Diallo — with a Superman shirt under his jersey — finished the dunk with his right elbow in the rim, a la Vince Carter, earning 50 points.
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