The 2021 edition of NBA All-Star Weekend has arrived, and this year's series of events should be as entertaining as always. The caveat is that this is largely going to be a television event for fans to enjoy at home.
"The message within the NBA community is that we're going to be operating in a mini bubble," commissioner Adam Silver said, per ESPN's Ramona Shelburne. "There will be no NBA functions [for fans] to participate in. We appreciate their support and hope they'll watch our All-Star Game on television."
Those fans watching on television will have plenty to take in, though. The action got underway Thursday night, when team captains LeBron James and Kevin Durant selected their All-Star rosters.
The action will continue Sunday, with the All-Star Game itself being accompanied by the Skills Challenge, Slam Dunk Contest and 3-Point Contest. Here we will examine the schedule for Sunday, along with predictions for each event.
When: Sunday at 6:30 p.m. ET
TV and Live Stream: TNT, TNTdrama.com
This year's Skills Challenge features a host of talented NBA standouts. Robert Covington, Luka Doncic, Julius Randle, Domantas Sabonis, Nikola Vucevic and Chris Paul will engage in a competition testing their all-around basketball skills.
The competition will feature runs of a course that includes bounce passes and chest passes, dribbling through obstacles and the shooting of both layup and three-pointers. It will be a three-round, single-elimination tournament, and speed will not be the only deciding factor.
The first player to complete the course will be declared the winner of each round. According to the official rules, however, disqualifications for skipping a challenge before completion or interfering with an opponent could occur.
While any player could take the crown in this event, our guess is that rising star Doncic puts his tremendous all-around game on display and wins.
Prediction: Doncic wins.
When: Sunday, after 6:30 p.m. ET
TV and Live Stream: TNT, TNTdrama.com
The 3-Point Contest will take place between the end of the skills challenge and tip-off of the All-Star Game proper. This year's participants are Stephen Curry, Devin Booker, Zach LaVine, Donovan Mitchell, Jaylen Brown and Jayson Tatum.
While every competitor here is an adapt deep-ball shooter, factors like timing and a quick release will come into play. Each participant will have 70 seconds to make a maximum of 27 shot attempts from five ball racks placed around the three-point line. Each made basket is worth a point, unless it's a "money ball" worth two points.
Booker is a strong choice to win here, as he claimed victory in 2018 and finished second to Buddy Hield last year. However, Curry wasn't in the competition last year, as he was recovering from hand surgery. He's back in the mix, though, and likely out to prove he's still one of the game's greats.
Curry's Golden State Warriors haven't had a ton of on-court success this season but are on the cusp of playoff contention. Expect Curry to find a little more success in this one.
Prediction: Curry wins.
When: Sunday, sometime after 8 p.m. ET
TV and Live Stream: TNT and TNTdrama.com
This year's Slam Dunk Contest is scheduled to take place during halftime of the All-Star Game. This is part of an effort to adhere to COVID-19 protocols and condense All-Star Weekend into a single evening.
This year's field consists of only three players: Anfernee Simons, Cassius Stanley and Obi Toppin. While not one of the trio is an NBA superstar, each possesses big-time dunking prowess—you know, the one skill needed to win this event.
It's difficult to know exactly what to expect from this year's competitors because innovation usually leads to success. Last year, for example, winner Derrick Jones Jr. wowed with a between-the-legs slam over two people.
With innovation and athleticism likely to steal the show once again, it's hard not to go with G Leaguer and former Duke dunker Stanley.
Prediction: Stanley wins.
NBA All-Star Game
When: Sunday at 8 p.m. ET
TV and Live Stream: TNT, TNTDrama.com
Team LeBron has taken home the All-Star crown in each of the past three seasons. James defeated Curry's team in 2018 and Giannis Antetokounmpo's squads in 2019 and 2020. Interestingly, he made the two former opposing captains his teammates with his first two selections this year.
With Curry healthy and Antetokounmpo seemingly always in MVP form, it's hard not to think that Team LeBron could be headed for a fourth successive win. Team Durant is loaded with talent—including his Brooklyn Nets teammates Kyrie Irving and James Harden—but Durant himself won't be on the court because of injury.
Durant's absence cannot be overstated. James, meanwhile, will lead a squad deep with versatility, size and length. While defense is rarely a factor in the annual exhibition, Team LeBron is better equipped to at least slow the scoring.
Team LeBron also happens to be favored by 3.5 points, according to FanDuel. While this could go either way, we'll roll with the favorites here.
Prediction: Team LeBron wins.
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