For the second consecutive season, the Minnesota Timberwolves’ young talent dominated the Friday and Saturday events of All-Star Weekend.
It began Friday night with the Rising Stars game. The past two number one overall picks, Andrew Wiggins and Karl-Anthony Towns, suited up for the World and U.S. teams (respectively), but it was Minnesota’s third representative, Zach LaVine (also suiting up for the U.S.) who stole the show, winning game MVP honors:
LaVine finished with 30 points, 7 rebounds, and 4 assists. Towns chipped in 18 points, 7 rebounds, and 4 assists for the U.S. team, who emerged with the 157-154 victory. Wiggins, playing in front of his hometown fans in Toronto, put up 29 points and dished out 5 assists in the loss.
For most rebuilding teams, having three great performances in the Rising Stars game would be enough positive publicity for the weekend. But these young Wolves were just getting started.
There was a slight tweak to the Skills Competition this year – four big men competed in one bracket, four guards in another, with the winners facing off head to head for all the marbles. Towns is nimble and coordinated for a big man, with a pretty decent handle, but he was still facing stiff competition among his fellow bigs – Draymond Green, DeMarcus Cousins and Anthony Davis are all frontcourt players with serious backcourt skills.
But Towns was just a bit better – he knocked out Draymond in the first round, annihilated Boogie in the second, and edged the Celtics’ Isaiah Thomas in the title round to win the Skills Competition crown:
If you scrolled right down to this, I understand. There’s a pretty good chance you’ve seen each of these videos already, but what the hell, why not take one more spin through one of the most epic Slam Dunk contests in All-Star history?
It was, for all intents and purposes, a two man show. Andre Drummond underwhelmed on both of his opening round dunks, and while Will Barton came out with a terrific first effort, he never even completed his second slam. That left it up to Aaron Gordon and Zach LaVine to carry the load.
They did not disappoint.
To the tape:
Let’s break a few of these down, shall we?
First things first, it sucks that there had to be a winner and a loser in this competition. I know that’s probably a really lame thing to say, but seriously – both LaVine and Gordon brought their A-games, and each made it look so effortless. It was one of the most entertaining contests of all time. As someone said on Twitter immediately after it ended – Gordon didn’t so much lose as he ran out of amazing stuff to do. Because this is, for instance, is the most bonkers dunk I’ve ever seen:
And this one’s right up there, too…
But LaVine’s overall theatrics just couldn’t be matched. His first dunk (even though it got a 50) was really underrated, I felt…
What won the competition for Zach, ultimately, was his long-jumping abilities. Three times he took off from the free throw line area – once to catch a lob from Andre Miller, once to do a tomahawk, and once to go between the legs.
It was almost as much fun watching the reactions to the dunks as it was to watch the dunks themselves…
KAT and Wigs pic.twitter.com/PH8lH82Rpu
— Dr.LawyerIndianChief (@DrLwyrIndnChf) February 14, 2016
Perhaps the nicest reaction came after it was all done, on Zach LaVine’s own Instagram account. We’ll close on this…