Usually the NBA All-Star Game is reserved for stars like LeBron James, Kevin Durant and Blake Griffin to show their leaping prowess with Chris Paul and Kyrie Irving acting as the suppliers.
This year’s edition, which is being held at the iconic Madison Square Garden on Sunday night, instead focuses on two individuals from Barcelona that will be in the starting five of their respective Conferences.
Chicago Bulls’ Pau Gasol will square off against younger brother Marc of the Memphis Grizzlies next Sunday, becoming the first brothers to start an NBA All-Star Game in its 64-year history.
“This moment is a moment of prize, of enjoying a weekend, and a unique experience winning not as players, but as brothers, and it’s a prize with recognition and honour to be able to be in the league that we’re in,” Pau said.
“So the only objective is to enjoy it to the maximum potential and also try to enjoy the people who have encouraged us and want to see us in that game.”
“It’s a good moment to play in the NBA; it’s a good moment,” Marc commented. “We’re both at a really good point in our careers and we feel healthy. We feel like we have a lot left in the tank.
“It’s a long season, it’s a challenging season, and now we’re going to get to enjoy a few days in New York, where we get to spend time with our family. That doesn’t happen very often in the hectic up-and-down season of the NBA.”
You have to go back to 1971 when you saw the last brotherly affair, as Dick and Tom Van Arsdale faced each other in consecutive All-Star contests. But no sibling rivalry will be as anticipated as the match up between the two Spanish internationals.
And even though they will be wearing different coloured uniforms, both Gasols are looking forward to the experience. Their parents, Marisa and Agusti are proud, and hopeful that the brothers play well.
“No, our family isn’t divided by any means,” says Pau. “I think it’s a gift for the family as well, so our parents and friends always want us to play well and when we play against each other, they know one is going to win and the other will lose, but in our case it’s a gift and there’s no division between who’s going to win and who’s going to lose this particular match.”
REST OF THE WORLD LOOKS TO DETHRONE USA
While the USA hold the crown of world basketball dominance, the Rest of the World are looking to claim a little of the bragging rights in the BBVA Rising Stars Challenge on Friday.
The Americans have conquered the international stage since the 2008 Beijing Olympics with their most recent success being at the FIBA World Cup last summer, when a supposed under-strength unit destroyed all before them en route to gold.
It might not be an official FIBA-sanctioned game, but the Rest of the World, led by Greece international Giannis Antetokoumpo, Croatia’s Bojan Bogdanovic and Canada’s Andrew Wiggins are looking to extract a measure of revenge.
And the odds look good for the World side to triumph in what will be the fourth change to the contest that originally was a rookie game.
The sophomores were then included in 2000 due to the previous year rookies not being able to participate due to the 1999 lockout. While the format has mainly stayed the same up until this year, the layout has been given fresh makeovers in a bid to entice the fans.
The Rest of the World do not want to just win on Friday against effectively a USA Select side, they want the NBA audience to know that they can be amongst the best in the league in years to come.