By Kyle Picknell
Team LeBron dominated all four quarters against Team Durant in Sunday night’s All-Star Game, with Giannis Antetokounmpo deservedly taking home the Kobe Bryant MVP award.
There were bricks, blown dunks (looking at you, Zion) and turnovers aplenty, but as always, the no defense just vibes NBA All-Star Game delivered its fair share of incredible moments – such as Steph Curry and Damian Lillard going back-to-back on half-court shots.
As Giannis predicted when he first discovered the starting line-up while eating some chicken wings, Team LeBron dominated from start to finish and were never really troubled by a Team Durant line-up that lacked scoring punch – perhaps felt most notably through the absence of regular season MVP candidate Joel Embiid.
Perhaps fittingly given his confidence heading into the occasion, the two-time reigning MVP added the Kobe Bryant All-Star MVP award to his growing trophy cabinet after a historic scoring performance.
The Greek Freak shot a perfect 16-16 from the floor for a game-high 35 points, becoming the first player to shoot 100 per cent on a minimum of 10 shots in the All-Star Game. It was a touching moment, particularly as his baby son Liam was also in attendance for the first time (what a name Liam Antetokounmpo is by the way).
The score was 170-150 in the end thanks to a trademark Damian Lillard half-court missile to finish, but All-Star is never really about the winning, you know? It’s about the spectacle. The journey rather than the destination.
Let’s a look at the player ratings from across this menagerie of superstars, shall we, to find out who shone brightest on the biggest stage of all.
LeBron James – 9
Even though LeBron subbed himself out of the game midway through the second quarter to watch on as his meticulously assembled squad continued to steamroll Team Durant without him, his performance as both a GM and teammate was exemplary.
He clearly loved being Steph Curry’s teammate for the very first time (who wouldn’t?) and revelled in throwing himself up and over a broadcast table following one particular Chris Paul highlight.
Team LeBron is now a perfect 4-0 in All-Star Games meaning that when he does finally call time on a storied playing career, we’ll have a whole new beast to look forward to in a front office.
Credit to him for giving us a couple of trademark slams, too, made even more remarkable by the fact this was All-Star Game number 17.
Nikola Jokic – 7
Jokic only put up tiny numbers for him (6 points, 7 rebounds, 5 assists) but of all the players out there on the court, he probably had the most fun out of everyone. His perpetual chemistry with Luka Doncic and Giannis was a delight, as was his attempt at the most ambitious Sky Hook the world has ever seen, which cannoned off the rim and out of bounds.
Jokic’s Bond villain suit and black turtleneck combo was also the best pre-game outfit by miles. He even lifted up Giannis’ MVP trophy after the match as though he had won it himself. If you don’t think I’m giving him an extra point for that then you’re crazy.
Steph Curry – 10
I’d give Steph more than 10 if I could. Oh no wait, these are my player ratings, they’re all arbitrary and I can do what I like. In that case…
Steph Curry – 11
These ratings go to 11. Weren’t expecting to find a Spinal Tap reference in an All-Star column were you?
Anyway, fresh from winning the 3-Point Contest in blistering fashion, Steph carried his unique brand of ‘doing whatever the hell he wants on a basketball court and it somehow always coming off’ straight into the All-Star Game itself.
We had threes so deep he might as well have shot them from the Bay Area, a gorgeous no look feed to Jokic and – I can scarcely believe I’m typing this – a huge alley-oop. He even shot a three from the corner and turned round to face the (non-existent) crowd before it dropped.
If Steph Curry is doing that and catching lobs in a game against you then it’s time to just pack up and go home. Special credit, too, for waving away Team Durant the moment Damian Lillard picked up the ball to hit the game-winning three.
Steph was completely disrespectful throughout and do you know what? I wouldn’t have had it any other way.
Luka Doncic – 4
Luka, Luka, Luka. We expected better in the Skills Challenge, we really did.
Giannis Antetokounmpo – 10
What is there to say? Giannis was unstoppable. He even banked in some threes. They looked horrible, but he made them. And at the end of the day, that’s all that matters. A deserving MVP given his perfection from the floor, even as the commentators were willing him to stop shooting.
Domantas Sabonis – 7
Domas got hardly any touches in the All-Star Game itself but he did cruise through the Skills Challenge without breaking a sweat, so it doesn’t really matter.
Damian Lillard – 10
32 points, 8 threes, the game-winner… Lillard took ‘Dame Time’ to the All-Star Game. Arguably the single best highlight of the entire contest was Dame watching Steph make a three from half-court and then, on the following possession, doing the exact same thing from a step further back.
Honestly, next year there should just be a Curry/Lillard HORSE competition with them gradually moving further back on each shot until one of them makes a three from halfway down the tunnel to the locker rooms.
Chris Paul – 9
Chris Paul’s evening got off to a rocky start after he missed his layup in the Skills Challenge and got knocked out by 7-footer Nikola Vucevic. Thankfully he more than redeemed himself.
The Point God tallied 16 assists and the game would have been much worse off without the only guy trying to run any kind of sensible offense. He also made history, overtaking none other than Magic Johnson to become the all-time leader in All-Star dimes.
Shout out to CP3 too for A) winning the tip-ball to start the second quarter against Mike Conley and B) very nearly dunking the ball from a Steph Curry lob.
It was just about a layup in the end, but it was beyond audacious to see him even attempt to invert Lob City and become the catcher for once.
Jaylen Brown – 8
In his very first All-Star Game Jaylen Brown was impressive, particularly for wasting no time in attacking his Boston Celtics partner in crime Jayson Tatum on the opposite team.
Aside from the Celtic on Celtic violence, Brown gave us some great highlights, including a Kobe-esque fall-away from the corner, on his way to recording 22 points along with five of seven threes.
Paul George – 6
‘Playoff P’ actually turned up to start the fourth quarter, hitting a couple of extremely tough 3-pointers to extend Team LeBron’s lead. Which only begs the question: why now PG? All too little, too late. Let’s see this on the Clippers, please.
Rudy Gobert – 6
Dunked the ball a few times. Which I’m sure was very fun for him.
Kyrie Irving – 8
Strolled into the arena with a walking stick, hit a deep three to open the game and put up 24 points, 12 assists and five rebounds. Kyrie had a really good game. It’s just, you know, Kevin Durant probably spent the entire evening watching and wondering what might have happened had he taken Steph Curry with his first pick instead. Regrets. Never nice, are they?
Zion Williamson – 3
Zion recorded his first ever All-Star Game points in the most Zion way imaginable: a monster dunk from an alley-oop. Then he inexplicably missed four straightforward dunks in a row.
It might well have been nerves in his first All-Star appearance, but thankfully the Pelicans star regained his composure to give us a few more highlight slams as the game wore on.
Kawhi Leonard – 5
Last year’s All-Star MVP almost had a triple double and yet I barely noticed he was playing bar a couple of threes down the stretch. Silent, but hardly deadly this time.
Jayson Tatum – 7
A strong showing in the 3-Point Contest First Round (he hit 25 points to qualify for the finals) and 21 points in 16 minutes during the game itself mean Tatum deserves his seven here, even if he did end up on the losing side.
Bradley Beal – 7
Similarly 26 points and six threes mean Beal gets the same mark. Unfortunately the fact Team Durant didn’t win a single quarter means he can go no higher. Must have felt exactly like playing for the Washington Wizards, poor guy. This was supposed to be a fun break for him.
James Harden – 8
Maybe the best player on Team Durant thanks to 21 points, all of them 3-Pointers. That’s the kind of attitude we like here in the All-Star Game, even if it wasn’t enough to match up to messieurs Curry and Lillard.
The less said about his pre-game Patrick Bateman-inspired get up, the better.
Zach LaVine – 5
The Dunk Contest misses you Zach. Also fouling to give away a four-point play in an All-Star Game is completely unacceptable.
Nikola Vucevic – 3
Sailed through the Skills Challenge before losing his three-point stroke in the final, which then carried over into the game as the Orlando Magic big man went one of five from deep.
Mike Conley – 4
Scored three points and lost a jump-ball to Chris Paul in his first and more than likely last ever All-Star appearance. Still, it was good to see him out there and the fact he took Steph all the way in the 3-Point Contest is something to be proud of.
Donovan Mitchell – 6
15 points and the usual assortment of highlight plays for Utah’s fiery point guard, but I would have liked to have seen him take all LeBron’s Jazz slander a little more personally on the court.
Julius Randle – 3
Was definitely there, at All-Star Sunday, because I saw him take part as one of Obi Toppin’s extras in the Dunk Contest. Scored four points. Still something to tell the grandchildren, I suppose.