On Sunday, March 7, the National Basketball Association (NBA) celebrated the 70th edition of the All-Star Game at State Farm Arena in Atlanta, Georgia, home of the Atlanta Hawks. Rather than having the events spread out over a few days, the All-Star game took place in one night. Team LeBron, led by captain LeBron James of the Los Angeles Lakers and coached by Utah Jazz head coach Quin Snyder, beat Team Durant, led by Kevin Durant of the Brooklyn Nets and coached by Philadelphia 76ers head coach Doc Rivers, by a final score of 170-150. Milwaukee forward Giannis Antentokumpo won the NBA All-Star Game Kobe Bryant Most Valuable Player Award after scoring 35 points in 19 minutes, including shooting a perfect 16-for-16 on field goal attempts and scoring all three of his three-pointers. Other notable game performances came from Golden State Warriors guard Steph Curry, who scored 28 points, and Portland Trail Blazers guard Damian Lillard, who scored 32 points, both for Team LeBron. Additionally, Brooklyn Nets guard Kyrie Irving scored 24 points and Washington Wizards guard Bradley Beal scored 26 points, both for Team Durant. Before the game, Indiana Pacers forward Domantas Sabonis won the Skills Challenge and Steph Curry won the three-point contest, while guard Anfernee Simons of the Portland Trail Blazers stunned the audience by winning the Slam Dunk Contest during half-time.
After Kobe Bryant’s tragic passing in January 2020, the NBA changed the All-Star game’s format to honor Bryant and add a new twist to scoring—this year was no different. Similar to last year, both teams competed to win each of the first three quarters, with each quarter lasting the standard 12 minutes. However, at the beginning of the fourth quarter, the shot clock was turned off and a final target score was set based on the leading team’s total accumulated points through the first three quarters. The target score would be the leading team’s score plus 24 points (to honor Kobe Bryant). Thus, on Sunday, after Team LeBron scored a cumulative 146 points through three quarters, the quickest team to reach 170 won—that being Team LeBron.
While a variety of NBA players publicly expressed their disapproval with the NBA holding an All-Star game this year amidst the coronavirus pandemic, where families and players travelled from around the country to congregate for one night and then returned to their home cities, per an ESPN report, the league announced that no players, coaches or game officials tested positive for COVID-19 while in Atlanta. Players, coaches and game officials were tested three times after arriving, and submitted a final test before departing for their home cities. Additionally, the NBA acted promptly on Sunday afternoon after it was revealed that Philadelphia’s Joel Embiid and Ben Simmons, both All-Stars, came in contact with a barber in Philadelphia who tested positive. Subsequently, both players were held out of the All-Star game as a precaution and no replacements were added; instead each squad played with 11 players. Players, coaches and officials also did not stay in Atlanta for more than 48 hours, as they arrived on Saturday and left late Sunday night after the game.
While the NBA utilizes the annual All-Star game as a way to increase revenue, the league also focuses on raising funds to donate to charitable causes. This year, $3 million was distributed to historically Black colleges and universities (HBCUs). Additionally, the last shot of Sunday’s game (a half-court heave by Lillard) was worth $300,000 for either the Thurgood Marshall College Fund or United Negro College Fund, and each assist in the game generated $1,900 in scholarship funds. As a way to promote and honor HBCUs in the Atlanta area (Clark Atlanta University, Morehouse College, Morehouse School of Medicine and Spelman College) the basketball court was designed by HBCU artists. Furthermore, marching bands from Florida A&M University and Grambling State University, both HBCUs, performed the team intros while Gladys Knight, an alumna of Shaw University, sang “The Star-Spangled Banner.” The refereeing crew also consisted entirely of HBCU graduates—the first time ever in league history.
Next year, Cleveland, Ohio will host the NBA All-Star game as the league celebrates its 75th anniversary. The game will take place at Quicken Loan Arena, home to the Cleveland Cavaliers, on Sunday, Feb. 20, 2022.