The dunks have been slammed, the 3-pointers have been splashed and the All-Star game MVP was crowned.
The 2018 All-Star weekend has concluded, leaving us some time between now and the restart of the regular season on Feb. 22. Now, because there seems to be little need to discuss at length events such as the skills competition or the 3-point contest, (there will be plenty on the dunk contest: may it live forever) the weekend will be condensed into the top six takeaways.
(1) The All-Star game was fun to watch… obviously
There was plenty made of the defense in last season’s 192-182 game, which carried into the 2018 game in a big way. The reporters and color commentators made it the primary topic of conversation all day long and well into the game. Even the players made it a point of emphasis, with LeBron James telling TNT and ESPN that they “wanted to play tighter basketball.”
But the game was still high scoring, blocks were as frequent as dunks and the game was still fun: just like last year. Sure, there was more closing out and half-court offense in this game versus last year, but both games were entertaining and fun. Here is a little secret: nobody cares about defense in the All-Star game that much and everyone just wants to see the best players in the world put their supreme talent on display in the form of pushing the limits with crazy shots, dunks and passes.
(2) What was that pregame nonsense?
An absolute awful attempt at a blues/jazz rendition of the National Anthem by the Black Eyed Peas singer Fergie masked what was a terrible pregame show.
Kevin Hart’s pregame show was an atrocious attempt to marry the Hollywood nature of Los Angeles with the NBA. The result was a strange performance that looked like a poorly constructed off-broadway play, mixed with what appeared to be the attempt at a comedy show. It hurt almost as much as Fergie singing an anthem that had players like Draymond Green and Stephen Curry laughing.
(3) The halftime was not great either
Since we are talking about the non-basketball side of the All-Star game, the halftime show was strange. The entire performance felt like artist Pharrell Williams could not decide between a show along the lines of his light song “Happy” or the more club themed sound of his song “Lemon,” so he decided to mash both together.
It resulted in a strange crossover that was trying to do too much. The relief was when Migos appeared to perform “Stir Fry” from their new album. Overall, the All-Star game entertainment looked to go above and beyond because of the Los Angeles setting but went too big. That being said, the halftime was worlds away from the disaster of an anthem.
(4) The next wave of dunkers is fantastic
Rookies Donovan Mitchell and Dennis Smith Jr. both could have taken home the title that Mitchell claimed. Third-year Larry Nance Jr. had two phenomenal dunks (a throwback to his father’s and a double tap n’ slam off the backboard) and Victor Oladipo wore a Black Panther mask.
It was fun watching the young players come up with new ways to throw down, while also throwing back to the OGs of the contest (Mitchell pulling out a Vince Carter jersey/dunk combo and Nance doing the same for his father) was a great mix and made the contest must-watch TV.
(5) Studs on the same team is always entertaining
Seeing some of the best players together for one game will always be fun, no matter the format for putting the teams together or even if a score is kept; this will always be an entertaining event.
Seeing a perfect pass from Russell Westbrook to set up a James dunk, or Giannis Antetokounmpo setting up a pick and roll for Stephen Curry or Joel Embiid spacing the floor with Kyle Lowry will always be fun to watch.
The All-Star game puts the teams together that you draft with your buddies at the local watering hole. Maybe the result is a lot of points (it makes sense if you consider most of these players lead their team in scoring) but it is still a fun game to watch.
(6) It was a much-needed break
I have been reading about the school shooting in Florida, students planning to walk out of classes and woke up on the 19th to read about another shooting in Texas.
The All-Star break does not fix any of these by any stretch of the imagination. But for a couple hours on Saturday and Sunday night, instead of learning about more the sad depravity around the country, I just watched elite athletes do elite things. It was fun. It was light. It was needed.
Photo: In this Sunday, Feb. 18, 2018, photo, Fergie performs the national anthem before the start of the NBA All-Star basketball game in Los Angeles. (AP Photo/Chris Pizzello)