The NBA All-Star Game has new life.
With the Conference format scrapped and the teams mixed up, Team LeBron secured a highly competitive 148-145 win over Team Stephen with LeBron James himself bagging his third All-Star Game MVP award.
James ended with 29 points, 10 rebounds and eight assists in a game that was a massive improvement from last year’s All-Star Game that featured walking pace basketball, zero defence throughout and countless amounts of uncontested three-point attempts, culminating in the highest-scoring game in history with a total of 372 points.
And while this year’s version started off with a cringing rendition of ‘The Star-Spangled Banner’ by “singer” Fergie that has since gone viral plus the opening minutes showcasing its share of playground antics, captains, LeBron James and Stephen Curry had gameplans as both teams contested shot attempts, we saw presses, the two sides turned the ball over due to defensive intensity and perhaps the most memorable stop came in the last seconds when Team Stephen had enough time to score a three-pointer to take what was a physical encounter that featured 11 lead changes and five ties to overtime.
But with the ball in Curry’s hands ready to take aim for that game-tying triple, James, together with Steph’s team-mate at Golden State, Kevin Durant, blitzed on him, who was forced to pass it off to DeMar DeRozan, who was unable to get a shot off as time expired.
That last 10.7 seconds featured perhaps the most defence ever played in the All-Star Game in the last three years. The fans were all on their feet, the atmosphere generated was fierce as a once dying product was given an injection of life that it was badly needed.
“I think myself and Steph, we took it upon ourselves when we decided to do this format that we had to change the landscape of how the All-Star Game was played,” James said to reporters afterwards.
Durant added 19 points, six rebounds and five assists for Team LeBron while Kyrie Irving had 13 points, nine assists and seven rebounds. DeRozan scored 21 points to lead Team Stephen. Joel Embiid added 19 points and eight rebounds and Giannis Antetokounmpo ended with 16 points in vain.