NBA All-Star Game 2012: 5 Bold Predictions for Taco Bell Skills Challenge
The Taco Bell Skills Challenge is typically an overlooked feature of NBA All-Star Weekend thanks to the anticipation that naturally surrounds the annual Sprite Slam Dunk Contest. But this year fans will be wowed by the level of competition set to take place in the skills challenge.
Last year's winner Stephen Curry will attempt to defend his title against some of the quickest guards in the NBA, and there seems to be no shortage of young talent at the position. Winners and losers of past competitions usually go on to enjoy Hall of Fame careers, so the opportunity to watch future stars should not be wasted.
While the selection process for competitors is currently still underway, here are five bold predictions for who will make the cut and what we'll see on Saturday night at the Amway Center.
1. History Will Be Made
The record for the fastest time in the Skills Challenge is held by future Hall of Fame point guard Steve Nash, who took home the title with his time of 25.4 seconds in 2005. In terms of skill, Nash is potentially the greatest player to have ever competed in the Skills Challenge, and his two victories will prove that.
But I believe his record time will be broken at this year's event. The speed that some of the league's best guards have is incredible. It seems like every year the new batch of young players get faster and faster.
Since Nash won his second Skills Challenge in 2010, the winning times have begun to decrease. In 2010 Nash held off young speedsters in Derrick Rose, Russell Westbrook and Brandon Jennings with a time of 29.9 seconds. A year later, sharp-shooter Stephen Curry upset the heavily-favored Westbrook with a final time of 28.2 seconds.
With potential candidates like Chris Paul, Curry, Westbrook, Rose and possibly a few rookies in the mix for this year's Skill Challenge, it wouldn't be a surprise to see Nash's six-year-old record broken in 2012.
2. A Rookie Will Challenge for the Title
The skill set of some of the rookie point guards this year is mainly speed, pinpoint passing, and overall quickness. Two rookie point guards that stand the best chance of being selected for the skills challenge are Kyrie Irving and Ricky Rubio.
Irving has been a star for the Cleveland Cavaliers, leading the team in scoring and assists while being the go-to guy when the game is on the line. If given the chance, I think Irving could be a worthy opponent in the Skills Challenge with the league's elite point guards.
Spanish sensation Ricky Rubio is a rookie that has been popular among fans even before he made it to the NBA. Rubio's passing skills are freakishly good, and I have no problem comparing him to Nash and Hall of Famer Magic Johnson.
Rubio could be the first player to win the Skills Challenge solely on behind-the-back and no-look passes. The Skills Challenge was made for a player with Rubio's talent, and it would be a shame if he weren't selected to compete.
3. This Will Be the Closest Competition Ever
Like I stated before, this year's event will feature some of the best young talent in the NBA as well as some of the quickest in event history.
Last year Curry defeated Westbrook by a 16-second margin in the final round, but because of the talent in this year's competition, I have a feeling the winner won't be so lucky to come away by such a large gap.
The first round of competition should be intense as all five candidates will be vying for the two spots in the final round. These players are all still very young too, so getting tired in the final round shouldn't be a problem. It will be interesting to see which players go hard this year and which players stay cautious by going half-speed.
4. Who Will Finish in Style This Year?
For players who realize they have the victory in the bag or find themselves way out of contention, it is customary to put on a little show for the fans with a stylish finish at the end of a run. When Derrick Rose won the skills challenge in 2009, he knew that the title was his even before he finished his final run, so he decided to treat fans to an emphatic double-pump reverse dunk.
Potential candidates like Rose and Westbrook are known high-flyers, and I wouldn't doubt that some of the other competitors are, too. Someone will finish in style. What type of jaw-dropping dunk are we in store for this year?
5. Stephen Curry Will Not Repeat as Champion
Despite a come-from-behind win last year to take the victory from Westbrook, Curry's odds of repeating as champion of the Skills Challenge will be even slimmer with new competitors set to intervene.
Curry is a skilled guard and may even make it to the final round, but I can't see him going back-to-back in this competition. The only player to do so was Dwayne Wade in 2006 and 2007.