After finishing the Super Bowl, now it’s the NBA’s turn

The great figures of the basketball league will meet from Friday to Sunday in Indianapolis (Indiana) for an event with significant casualties such as Joel Embiid (Sixers), the current MVP, and in which LeBron James (Lakers) will break the record of shares with 20.

The event, however, has lost much of the luster of yesteryear. The disinterest of the stars in participating in the legendary dunk contest and their absolute lack of intensity in the All-Star game ended up boring the public and the audience plummeted until it hit the ground last year.

“When you connect to an NBA All-Star Game, people expect to see some competitiveness,” acknowledged Joe Dumars, executive vice president of the NBA, anticipating the changes in the format.

For this edition, the league resumes the classic duel between teams from the Eastern and Western Conference.

Thus ends the experiment of the last six years in which the teams were mixed, with two captains (the players with the most votes) who divided up their teammates.

LeBron James, who was always one of the captains, was once again the most voted in the West and will surpass the previous best mark of 19 elections for the event by Kareem Abdul-Jabbar.

‘King James, 39, will be part of the West’s starting quintet along with Luka Doncic (Mavericks), Shai Gilgeous-Alexander (Thunder), Kevin Durant (Suns) and Nikola Jokic (Nuggets).

In the East, Damian Lillard (Bucks), Tyrese Haliburton (Pacers), Jayson Tatum (Celtics) and Giannis Antetokounmpo (Bucks) will start, in addition to a fifth starter who will replace Embiid, who is out due to injury.

Haliburton will be the representative of the Indiana Pacers before their Gainbridge Fieldhouse audience while Jalen Brunson (Knicks), Tyrese Maxey (Sixers), Scottie Barnes (Raptors) and Paolo Banchero (Magic), all of them East substitutes, will make their debut in this exhibition match.

The NBA also ends the scoring system it has used since 2020 with an untimed fourth quarter, in which the team that reached a previously defined number of points won.

Jáquez Jr. for dunk title

The festivities will start on Friday with the Rising Stars Game, in which the French phenomenon Victor Wembanyama will live his All-Star experience.

The Spurs center, the new great jewel of the NBA, is dazzling in his first season in the league (20.5 points, 10.0 rebounds and 3.2 blocks on average) but did not achieve a place in the competitive Conference West for Sunday’s big game.

Mexican-American rookie Jaime Jáquez Jr. (Heat) will also compete in the ‘Rising Stars’, where first- and second-year promises and players from the G-League affiliate compete divided into four teams, one of them led by the Spanish Pau Gasol.

Wembanyama, 2.24m tall, will jump onto the court again for Saturday’s first competition, the skills competition, teaming up with two other young people chosen in first place in a Draft, Paolo Banchero and Anthony Edwards (Timberwolves).

Subsequently, Damian Lillard will defend his title as winner of the three-point contest against seven contenders: Haliburton, Brunson, Malik Beasley (Bucks), Lauri Markkanen (Jazz), Donovan Mitchell (Cavaliers), Karl-Anthony Towns (Timberwolves) and Trae Young (Hawks).

The big news on Saturday will be the duel between Stephen Curry (Warriors), the best shooter in NBA history, and Sabrina Ionescu (New York Liberty), one of the stars of the women’s league (WNBA).

Ionescu had a record three-point contest last year in the WNBA, missing only two of her 27 shots, unleashing praise from the basketball world including Curry, double winner of the NBA contest (2015 and 2021).

Both challenged each other on social networks and now they will star in the first battle of its kind in the All-Star.

The second day will conclude with the dunk contest, once again featuring the most spectacular fliers in the league.

Mac McClung of the G-League team Osceola Magic returns to the event after his unexpected victory last year.

In front of him will be Jaylen Brown (Celtics), Jacob Toppin (Knicks) and Jaime Jáquez Jr., the second player of Mexican descent to participate.

The weekend will conclude on Sunday with the highlight of the 73rd All-Star Game.