The NBA All-star weekend was in its element on Saturday evening in New Orleans, Louisiana as the festivities continued from Friday with the skills challenge; the 3-point shooting and the Slam Dunk Contest. As the evening proceedings got to its height TNT lead broadcaster Ernie Johnson took a moment from the celebrations to honor late TNT NBA Journalist Craig Sager who died from Cancer to raise funds for the Sager Strong Foundation in support of the continuation of the battle against Cancer. Johnson was then joined on the court by Hall of Famer Reggie Miller who in turn called on celebrities and athletes present at the event to join to shoot a 3-point shot and raise $10,000 for every shot made. Athletes, movies stars and rappers like DJ Khaled all joined in on the action and at the end of a 1 minute a total of $ 130,000 was raised.
Johnson would then proceed to call on 2 time MVP Stephen Curry to lend his support by making a half-court shot to raise $500,000 (half a million dollars) to which Curry gladly obliged, but after 10 attempts it will be to no avail as none of Curry’s shots went in ... however as a gesture one of Sager’s kids with the help of Shaquille O’Neal will end up making a basket for the $500,000 purse.
On the court, however, the Skills challenge was surprisingly won by 7ft 3in big man Kristaps Porzingis of Latvia who is making quite a name for himself ever since being drafted in 2015 by the New York Knicks. Porzingis outlasted all the Guards like Isaiah Thomas of the Boston Celtics and Gordon Haywood of the Utah Jazz as well as the bigs who entered the contest. During his trophy acceptance interview he dedicated the win to all the ‘bigs’ in the game.
The Three (3) Point Contest went to Guard Eric Gordon of the Houston Rockets who outlasted last year’s champion Klay Thompson of the Golden State Warriors and Cleveland Point Guard Kyrie Irving with whom he had to have a one on one shootout to determine the eventual winner of the contest.
The event was well attended and so far, has come of as a success given that the festivities themselves had to be moved less than a year ago from the host City of Charlotte, North Carolina over a disagreement about the politics of the use of bathrooms by people of all genders between the NBA and the State of North Carolina. The celebrations and showcase will continue today Sunday February 19th 2017 with the All- Star Game when the West ALL Stars take on the East All Stars.
By Leslie Koroma Sr