NBA All-Star Weekend 2014: Stars Whose Popularity Will Receive Biggest Boost

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NBA All-Star Weekend 2014: Stars Whose Popularity Will Receive Biggest Boost
Alex Brandon/Associated Press

Nobody goes to the Hall of Fame based on their performance during All-Star Weekend, but many have padded their legacies will stellar performance during the weekend's events.

Right after the NBA titles, the things many will remember about the career of Michael Jordan are the back-to-back titles in the 1987 and '88 Slam Dunk Contest. His free-throw line jam in '88 is one of the most iconic images of his career.

Andrew D. Bernstein/Getty Images

Larry Bird is remembered as one of the best shooters of all time, due in some part to his performance in the Three-Point Shootout, which he won from 1986 to 1988.

While it's unlikely that any of the players involved in All-Star Saturday Night will be remembered in the same category as those legends, there are some whose stars will inevitably grow as a result of their performances this weekend.

 

Damian Lillard, Portland Trail Blazers

Almost every NBA fan will tell you that Damian Lillard is one of the best young point guards in the league. The more casual fans, though, won't really be able to tell you why. Most of what they know about Lillard is probably more from what they read rather than have actually seen of him on the court.

All-Star Weekend is a perfect time for those fans to see plenty of Lillard. He's featuring in five events—Rising Stars Challenge, Skills Challenge, Three-Point Contest, Slam Dunk Contest and 2014 All-Star Game—over the course of the three nights.

The Portland Trail Blazers point guard knew the golden opportunity that lay ahead of him if he were to take part in so many high-profile showcases, per USA Today's Sam Amick:

A lot of people don't get the opportunity. So I just felt like it was something that had never been done, and I'm capable of doing all the things that need to be done in all the competitions, so I figured why not go out and be the first one to do everything and get that experience?

Let's go ahead and change All-Star Weekend to Damian Lillard Weekend.

 

Paul George, Indiana Pacers

Paul George is one of the biggest stars in the league, without question. However, he's certainly in a class behind LeBron James and Kevin Durant, and the Indiana Pacers forward is possibly overshadowed by guys like Carmelo Anthony, Chris Paul, Dwyane Wade, Blake Griffin and maybe Dwight Howard in terms of the leaguewide scope.

All-Star Weekend is a great chance for George to enter into a new tier of star status.

He is one of the favorites to win the Slam Dunk Contest, based on that incredible 360 windmill he dropped against the Los Angeles Clippers and the fact that he was robbed in the 2012 edition of the dunk contest.

Even if George doesn't take home the crown, he's still got the All-Star Game on Sunday, in which the guys like Durant and James should cede him a little more of the ball as a sign of respect.

 

Bradley Beal, Washington Wizards

Kent Smith/Getty Images

It's hard to believe that the Washington Wizards were kinda in the same position the Cleveland Cavaliers were this time last year. Although the circumstances weren't so extreme, some were wondering if John Wall was a franchise point guard and if Bradley Beal was a capable No. 2.

Now the Wizards are sixth in the East and Wall has reasserted himself as one of the best young point guards in the league. In addition, Beal is averaging 17.1 points a night, and his three-point percentage of 43.0 is ninth in the league.

Beal is taking part in the Rising Stars Challenge, which is a great chance for him to put that long-range shooting on show, as Kyrie Irving has done in the past two years. Then the Wizards guard has the Three-Point Contest on Saturday to make sure those who didn't watch Friday's festivities will get a chance to see his prodigious shooting ability on display.

 

DeMar DeRozan, Toronto Raptors

I'll be the first person to tell you that I thought the contract extension given to DeMar DeRozan in 2012 was one of many questionable moves made by Bryan Colangelo.

The whole Rudy Gay experiment didn't work well, but since he's gone, DeRozan has really taken off. He's averaging 22.4 points, a career high, and his three-point shooting is over 30 percent for the first time in his five years in the league.

The progression that the Toronto Raptors star has made over the years is significant, as he discussed with Chris Bosh in New Orleans, per Josh Lewenberg of TSN:

DeRozan has both the Skills Challenge and All-Star Game to continue silencing the doubters and making positive steps forward.

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