Westbrook-ASG Russell Westbrook scored 31 points, grabbed eight rebounds and dished out five assists to take home his second straight MVP award in a 196-173 win— a record number of points in the game and for the winning team— for the West over the East on Sunday night at Toronto’s Air Canada Centre.
“That’s the only way I know how to go,” Westbrook said about playing with fierce intensity. “Any opportunity on the basketball court, I never take it for granted.”
Bryant certainly got his well-deserved due, having a video tribute on the scoreboard, a laudatory speech from Magic Johnson and the crowd chanting his name as he said a few words before the game.
The lopsided score provided a rather flat ending to what was a really fun All-Star weekend as a whole, the first played outside the United States.
Here are six other things I took from All-Star weekend:
Dunk Contest Was Best Ever
The game Sunday almost seemed like an anti-climactic afterthought compared to the excitement and the back-and-forth of Aaron Gordon and eventual winner Zach LaVine.
Some will say that Gordon should have won the contest, but we’ll leave that for you to decide. But Gordon did have the best dunk of the evening, jumping over the Orlando Magic mascot and going under his legs to slam it down.
There were so many awe-inducing, rim-rattling, perfect-scored dunks between LaVine and Gordon that it will be remembered for a very long time. Here’s the LaVine dunk that sealed the victory like a walk-off home run in baseball. He didn’t come close to dunking from the foul line, but he got a perfect 50 nonetheless.
The LaVine-Gordon final may go down as the best dunk contest ever. One league executive said after the event that Gordon can return if he wants to. Here’s to hoping that, like a heavyweight fight that becomes a classic, we get a re-match next year in Charlotte.
Trade Rumors Are Revving Up
Rumors of a three-team trade that would’ve sent Carmelo Anthony from New York to Cleveland and Kevin Love to Boston were quickly dismissed, but the report from Frank Isola didn’t come out of nowhere. Frank does not throw stuff against the wall and hope it sticks.
Will Dwight Howard get traded? How about Hassan Whiteside? (Sheridan was talking about this back on Dec. 15 — exactly two months ago).
Will the Atlanta Hawks really break up the core of the team that won 60 games last season?
Will the rising salary cap facilitate or hamper trade activity?
All-Star Weekend Once Again Frigid
After the polar vortex turned last year’s NYC All-Star weekend into a frozen tundra, this year’s festivities in Toronto made NYC feel like Las Vegas in July. We were down to -8 Fahrenheit on Saturday night and that was before the wind chill.
Luckily, Toronto was prepared. The city’s vast network of classy mall-like underground pathways kept everyone safely out of harm’s way, and our Canadian hosts were friendly and gracious the entire way through. Long underwear and an extra pair of socks helped, too.
But please, let next year in Charlotte be warm. Please?
Big Men Have Skills, Too
This was the first year in which centers were given the opportunity to compete and win in the NBA Skills Competition on Saturday night, given half the bracket to strut their stuff.
The league’s strategy worked, as Karl-Anthony Towns upset Isaiah Thomas in the final in a big Saturday night for the Timberwolves. Though DeMarcus Cousins lost to Towns in the semifinals, he told SheridanHoops that it was a big night for the bigs.
Sting Choice Uninspired, Silento Shines On Saturday
Sting was the halftime performer on Sunday night. Why? The NBA understands how to reach a younger audience better than any in the world, yet Canadians Drake, Justin Bieber and The Weeknd were not chosen for the halftime act. It was a safe, uninspired choice probably adored by middle-aged men everywhere. That’s not really the league’s target market, though.
A more positive development took place during a commercial break on Saturday night when Silento of Whip/Nae Nae fame performed live on the court and was joined by dancers, cheerleaders, mascots, Victor Oladipo and Dikembe Mutombo.
The NBA dropped the ball on its showcase halftime show this year. Hopefully it’ll learn from the error of its ways.
Never Change, Dikembe
This year I exited an elevator and on walked Dikembe Mutombo, who simply said in his one-of-a-kind scratchy baritone, “I need to go up one more floor.” I couldn’t stop laughing for the rest of the weekend. Never change, Dikembe.
It may have been polar vortex central here in Toronto, but nothing compares to NBA All-Star weekend. I’ll miss it dearly and once again begin counting down the days until it rolls around next year.
Shlomo Sprung is a national columnist for SheridanHoops who focuses on analytics, profiles and features. He is also the web editor of the Brooklyn Daily Eagle. A 2011 graduate of Columbia University’s Journalism School, he has previously worked for the New York Knicks, The Sporting News, Business Insider and other publications. Follow him on Twitter.