When it comes to celebrating its players, past or present, no league does it better than the NBA. And this weekend was no exception.
New York City hosted this year’s festivities, and the Big Apple got a real treat. It started with a spin move by a 13-year-old Little League World Series sensation in the Celebrity Game that nearly blew up Twitter. It progressed to a spectacular All-Star Saturday Night with a stacked field in the 3-point shootout and a one-man show in the dunk contest. And it culminated in a record-setting All-Star Game on Sunday that nearly saw Wilt Chamberlain’s 53-year-old scoring record.
Here are the five best moments from the 2015 All-Star Weekend:
Russell Westbrook earns MVP after 41-point performance
The Oklahoma City Thunder guard lit up Madison Square Garden with a performance for the ages, joining Wilt and Michael Jordan as the only players to score 40 points in an All-Star Game. Westbrook made 16 of 28 shots from the field, and he could have easily surpassed Wilt’s 42-point mark set in 1962 had he not missed at least four easy layups. Westbrook started simmering in the second quarter when he knocked down back-to-back-to-back 3-pointers from Midtown Manhattan. He broke the record for most points in one half when he had 27 after the first two quarters. Westbrook also delivered two monster dunks that got the Garden crowd on its feet. On one of his dunks, the Thunder guard was up so high he hit his head on the backboard cushion. LeBron James called Westbrook “unbelievable.”
Steph Curry proves he’s best shooter in the world
With a lineup featuring the NBA’s leading scorer, last year’s All-Star Game MVP, a player who recently set a record for points in a single quarter, last year’s champion, two MVP candidates, and perhaps the greatest 3-point shooter ever, the Footlocker 3-Point Shooting Contest figured to be one of the greatest the event has ever seen. And it certainly didn’t disappoint. You know this contest was serious business when 22 wasn’t enough to make it to the final. The competition came down to Kyrie Irving and a pair of Splash Brothers — Curry and Klay Thompson. Curry bested his GSW teammate when he swished 13 straight in the finals en route to 27 out of a possible 34 points. The win cemented Curry’s place as the game’s best pure shooter.
Zach LaVine puts on out-of-this-world dunk act
Minnesota Timberwolves rookie Zach LaVine entered the Sprint Slam Dunk Contest as the heavy favorite, and he lived up to the hype. The competition had three other worthy challengers in Orlando’s Victor Oladipo, Brooklyn’s Mason Plumlee and Milwaukee’s Giannis Antetokounmpo (aka The Greek Freak), But as soon as LaVine — who is only 19 years old — dropped his “Space Jam” dunk in the opening round it was crystal clear he was going to walk away with the title. TNT analyst Kenny Smith said: “When you got Jordan on you back this better be special.” When you have fellow NBA players reacting with the stink face, you know you’ve pulled off something real special.
Gasol brothers make All-Star Game history
One of the coolest moments came on Sunday when Pau Gasol started the game at center for the East and his younger brother Marc Gasol started the game for the West. The Gasols are the first brother combo to start an All-Star Game, a feat that may not be duplicated again.
Little League sensation Mo’ne Davis schools actor Kevin Hart
Kevin Hart may have walked away with his fourth Celebrity Game MVP award, but he was on the receiving end of a spin move that got social media world buzzing. Little League World series darling, 13-year-old Mo’ne Davis, showed off her hoop skills when he took Hart off the dribble, spun past him, and rolled in a layup. Davis’ dream is play for UConn and with moves like this Huskies coach Geno Auriemma should definitely take notice.