The Skills Challenge is a relatively new event, being introduced during the 2003 All-Star Weekend. It’s been steadily improving ever since, showcasing some of the league’s most well rounded talents in a variety of challenges.
The NBA just released the full list of participants for the 2014 edition of this contest and it appears we may have a great battle on our hands to determine the winner:
Giannis Antetokounmpo, Michael Carter-Williams, Victor Oladipo and DeMar DeRozan will represent the East, while Damian Lillard, Trey Burke, Reggie Jackson and Goran Dragic will represent the West.
This year’s crop of talent includes six of the league’s top guards who are all more than capable of overcoming the various obstacles that the Skills Challenge will throw at them.
Start Time: Saturday, Feb. 15, at 8:30 p.m. ET (Second event of night)
TV: Coverage begins at 8 p.m. ET on TNT
Where: New Orleans Arena, New Orleans, La.
Live Stream: TNT Overtime
Mobile: NBA Game Time
The Skills Challenge will feature each participant entering a timed obstacle course and attempting to reach the finish in the fastest time. Each player must observe basic NBA ball-handling regulations throughout the event.
The course features multiple different stations, each putting emphasis on a certain basketball skill—such as dribbling, passing and shooting.
After all players have completed the first round, the player with the top time from each conference will advance to the finals. The player with the lowest Round 1 score will go first and a champion will be crowned at the end.
|2013||Damian Lillard, Trail Blazers|
|2012||Tony Parker, Spurs|
|2011||Stephen Curry, Warriors|
|2010||Steve Nash, Suns|
|2009||Derrick Rose, Bulls|
|2008||Deron Williams, Jazz|
|2007||Dwyane Wade, Heat|
|2006||Dwyane Wade, Heat|
|2005||Steve Nash, Suns|
|2004||Baron Davis, Hornets|
|2003||Jason Kidd, Nets|
Top Performances in Skills Challenge History
Damian Lillard, 2013
Lillard’s epic 2013 run helped the West earn a victory and became the only rookie in the 10-year history of this competition to emerge as a winner.
The eventual Rookie of the Year award-winner blitzed past Jrue Holiday with a comfortable margin of 5.8 seconds and finished with an impressive championship round time of 29. 8 seconds.
Lillard’s elite shooting ability was key, as he was the only participant to nail his first attempt from the top of the key—saving valuable time he lost after making a handful of mistakes during the passing drills.
The young Portland Trail Blazers guard spoke with NBA.com after he won and explained that he did well because he was relaxed: "I think the biggest thing for me was to try not to be too cool and speed through it, but take my time with the passes and shots."
This year’s participants would be wise to take a cue from the emerging superstar.
Deron Williams, 2008
D-Will dominated the championship round of the Skills Challenge in ’08, shaking off a mediocre first run and ousting rival Chris Paul in the finals.
He didn’t miss a single shot and put every pass right on target while moving at a lightning-fast pace through the obstacle course. Williams would cross the finish line with a time of 25.5 seconds, thesecond-best in the history of this event.
The then-Utah Jazz star finished 5.7 seconds ahead of CP3 to take home the hardware.
Steve Nash, 2005
Nash set the bar high early on in the history of the Skills Challenge, putting together the best time for a single round when he clocked in at 25.4 seconds to win the championship.
The Phoenix Suns superstar was well on his way to his first of back-to-back MVP awards in 2005 and was able to show off his versatility by winning this distinction during All-Star Weekend in Denver.
Nash spoke with NBA.com after the win, saying: "It's great for the organization. This year has been really exciting for all of the fans, coming out and really getting behind us. I think that was a really important thing for the organization this year."
Perhaps the thin air in the Mile High enabled the future Hall of Famer to run like the wind right through the obstacle course and set a record that is still standing today.
There are so many talented, quick players participating in this year’s Skill Challenge that it’s near impossible to project who will be able to rush through the obstacle course in the fastest time.
However, some of the contestants are a bit more suited for some of the challenges they will face that Saturday night and have a better chance of advancing to the championship round.
The Eastern Conference's crop features a talented group of guards. Michael Carter-Williams' ball-handling and diverse skill set make him the athlete everyone is going to be watching for in this competition.
Will anyone break Nash's record time of 25.4 seconds this year?
Lilllard might just be the one to challenge for the championship out of the West, as he’s been lighting it up all year. He'll be taking part in the 3 PT Shootout, Rookie-Sophomore Challenge, Skills Challenge, Slam Dunk Contest, and All-Star game, which is a commendable act that will give us a chance to see his full skillset on display throughout the break.
It’s a good bet these two meet in the finals and really crank up the intensity to try and help their conference earn the title of All-Star Saturday Night Champion.
While the entire crop of athletes taking part in the event is incredibly talented, Lillard is making it clear he's taking the All-Star break very seriously. It's a platform that will allow him to showcase his skills and further prove teams missed the mark by letting him skid all the way to the 6th overall pick in the 2012 NBA Draft.
He won the event last year and it's safe to say he's the favorite to repeat as champion this year.