NBA All-Star Game 2020: Kobe Bryant tributes, Trae Young's MVP chase, Elam Ending among 20 reasons to watch

The Friday and Saturday competitions at NBA All-Star weekend in Chicago are in the books -- Bam Adebayo took home the skills trophy, Sacramento's Buddy Hield won the 3-point contest and Derrick Jones Jr. edged Aaron Gordon in the dunk contest -- and now it's time for the grand finale: Team LeBron vs. Team Giannis. So let's get to it. 

Here are 20 reasons to be excited about the 2020 NBA All-Star Game. 

1. A new format through three quarters

Trying out different ways to energize the fan base and potentially make the game more competitive, each of the first three quarters will effectively be its own game this year, with the score being reset at the start of the second and third quarters. In other words, a winner will be determined for the first, second and third quarters, with the winning team from each earning $100K to donate to a charity of the captain's choice. 

2. The Elam Ending

This is really interesting, and there are a lot of people who think this could eventually catch on for real. The Elam Ending is simple: Instead of the game being over when the 12-minute fourth-quarter clock runs out, there won't be a clock, and instead, the winner will be determined by reaching a target score. After the scores from all three quarters have been combined, the target score will be set 24 points above the total held by the leading team. Whoever hits that score first, wins. 

There are a couple of reasons for this, but the general goal here is that the end of NBA games can be a pretty boring drag to the free throw line. When you're playing to a target score rather than on a clock, there's no incentive to intentionally foul if you're the team that is losing; all you're doing is putting your opponent closer to the target score with free throws. If you're the leading team, there is also no incentive to stall. Everyone is playing to a number, which also creates some kind of game-winning shot every time. That, after all, is the only way the game can end. There is no clock to run out. 

Whichever team reaches the target score first gets an additional $200,000 for charity. 

3. Kobe tributes

As mentioned above, the fourth-quarter target score will be determined by adding 24 points to the leading team's total. That's for Kobe. The original plan was to use a plus-35 model. 

Also, all players on Team Giannis will wear No. 24 to honor Kobe, while everyone on Team LeBron will wear No. 2 in honor of Bryant's daughter, Gianna, who was also one of the nine victims in the helicopter crash. 

There will almost certainly be a video tribute for Bryant who played in 18 All-Star games. Jennifer Hudson, a grammy-winning singer from Chicago, will perform a pre-game tribute to all nine victims of the crash. Maroon 5 will also do a pre-game tribute during the TNT American Express Road Show. 

Finally, Commissioner Adam Silver announced on Saturday that the All-Star Game MVP award will, beginning this year, be known as the Kia NBA All-Star Game Kobe Bryant MVP Award. Bryant is tied with Bob Pettit for the most All-Star MVPs in history with four. 

5. Playing for the kids

As mentioned above, each team captain has picked a charity to play for on Sunday. Team LeBron is playing for Chicago Scholars, whose mission, per its website, is to "uniquely select, train, and mentor academically ambitious students from under-resourced communities to complete college and become the next generation of leaders who will transform their neighborhoods and our city."

Team Giannis is playing for After School Matters, which, per its website, is a "non-profit organization that provides life-changing after-school and summer program opportunities -- [designed to help students develop their individual talents and] critical skills for work, college and beyond -- to nearly 19,000 Chicago high school teens each year."

Again, the winning team from each quarter will send $100,000 to its chosen charity, while the overall winner via the fourth-quarter Elam Ending will send $200,000. 

6. Place your bets

If you want to get a little action on the All-Star Game, here are a few of the lines available via William Hill Sportsbook:

  • Team LeBron vs. Team Giannis spread: Team LeBron -6.5
  • Team LeBron vs. Team Giannis over-under: 306.5
  • Team LeBron vs. Team Giannis money line: Team LeBron -220, Team Giannis +190

Our Sam Quinn loves the under in this game based on the logic that it'll take the oddsmakers a year to figure out how to handicap the new Elam Ending format, which will obviously lead to lower fourth-quarter scoring with a capped number. 

Before making any 2020 NBA All-Star Game picks, be sure to see the predictions from SportsLine's elite NBA handicapper, Mike Barner

7. LeBron set to pass Kobe for ASG starts

After passing Kobe earlier this season for third place on the NBA career scoring list, LeBron will also pass Kobe on Sunday for the most All-Star starts with 16.  

8. LeBron can match Kobe's ASG MVPs

As mentioned above, Kobe is tied with Bob Pettit for the most-ever All-Star MVPs with four. LeBron currently has three and has the chance to match that mark. Wouldn't that be something to match Kobe's number in the first year the award has been renamed in his honor? 

Side note: Anthony Davis, Chris Paul and Russell Westbrook could become the 15th different All-Star to win multiple MVP awards.

9. First-time All-Stars

While the old guards like LeBron, Paul, Westbrook probably aren't going to have any All-Star Game jitters, Trae Young, Luka Doncic, Jayson Tatum, Devin Booker, Rudy GobertBrandon IngramDomantas SabonisDonovan MitchellBam Adebayo and Pascal Siakam will all be making their All-Star debuts. Per Elias Sports, the10 first-time All-Stars are the most in a single year since 2009-10, which boasted nine newbies. 

10. Youth movement

In keeping with the first-timer movement, eight All-Stars this year are under the age of 24 – the most since the league's first All-Star Game in 1951 (nine). The under-24 players, from youngest to oldest, are Luka Doncic (20), Trae Young (21), Jayson Tatum (21), Brandon Ingram (22), Bam Adebayo (22), Donovan Mitchell (23), Ben Simmons (23) and Domantas Sabonis (23).

11. International flavor

Per the NBA: A record eight international players from seven countries have been named 2020 NBA All-Stars: Giannis Antetokounmpo (Greece), Luka Doncic (Slovenia), Joel Embiid (Cameroon), Rudy Gobert (France), Nikola Jokic (Serbia), Domantas Sabonis (Lithuania), Pascal Siakam (Cameroon) and Ben Simmons (Australia).

12. Basketball Without Borders paying off

Basketball without Borders is a global basketball development and community outreach program that has taken place in 27 countries on six different continents. It is designed to spread the game and its opportunities all over the world, particularly in places that tend to lack basketball exposure. 

It's paying off. Joel Embiid and Pascal Siakam -- starters on Team Giannis -- are both Cameroon natives and former Basketball Without Borders (BWB) campers.

13. Giannis chasing LeBron's legacy

LeBron is the leading total scorer in All-Star Game history, and it's not even close (34 ppg). James also leads in free throw attempts (36), free throws made (T-1st with Kevin Durant with 26), 3-point attempts (106), 3-pointers made (36) and rebounds (96). He's second in assists (88) and steals (18). 

Giannis Antetokounmpo, for what it's worth, has the best ASG scoring average (three games or 60 points minimum) at 36 ppg. It will take a while, but Giannis could be someone who might be able to eventually catch LeBron in All-Star Game scoring. You would think Luka Doncic would have a pretty good shot, too. 

14. G League influence: 

The NBA G League is becoming an increasingly viable route to NBA stardom. A record three G League veterans are NBA All-Stars this year: Rudy Gobert, Khris Middleton and Pascal Siakam, with Siakam being the first former G Leaguer to be named an NBA All-Star starter.

15. Chicago hosting All-Star for the third time

Chicago also hosted the All-Star Game in 1973 and 1988. On four cities have hosted more All-Star Games: Los Angeles (6), New York (5), Boston (4) and Philadelphia (4). 

16. An intimate venue

The capacity inside Chicago's United Center is 23,500, which will pale in comparison to the biggest crowds in All-Star Game history. 

DATE

VENUE

CROWD

Feb. 14, 2010

Arlington, Texas (AT&T Stadium) 

108,713 

Feb. 12, 1989

Houston (Astrodome)

44,735

Feb. 10, 1985

Indianapolis (Hoosier Dome)

43,146

Feb. 11, 1996

San Antonio (Alamodome)

36,037 

Feb. 8, 1987

Seattle (Kingdome)

34,275

Feb. 4, 1979

Pontiac, Mich. (Silverdome)

31,745 

17. Anthony Davis returns home

Davis is from Chicago, and people ran wild last summer when he said he'd "definitely" consider playing for the Bulls at some point in his career. "I mean, (this is) definitely hometown," Davis said. "If the opportunity ever presents itself and when that time comes, I'd definitely consider it." 

As the Chicago hopeful logic goes, Davis is a free agent this summer and is thus open to sign anywhere he wants, having turned down an initial contract-extension offer from the Lakers. But don't count on it. Davis leaving the Lakers would be a shock. He's merely playing this out to make the most money possible. 

18. Teammate rivalries

Two sets of teammates will square off in Sunday's game: From the CelticsKemba Walker (Team Giannis) will go up against Jayson Tatum (Team LeBron), while the Sixers' Ben Simmons (Team LeBron) and Joel Embiid (Team Giannis) will also square off. Simmons and Embiid also played against one another last year. Little subplot: A lot of people think they'd be better off playing on separate teams for real. 

19. More Chicago roots

There will be a musical performance by Chicago native Chance The Rapper, who also played a central role in many of the dunk contest gimmicks on Saturday night, serving as the guy Aaron Gordon was flying over. As mentioned above, Jennifer Hudson, also a Chicago native, will be performing a pregame tribute to all nine victims of the helicopter crash that killed Kobe Bryant and his 13-year-old daughter, Gianna. 

20. Predictions

Give me Team LeBron for the win. James' team is stupid stacked. For the MVP, I'm going to take Trae Young. This guy is absolutely built for All-Star games -- razzle-dazzle passing and easy 40-foot range on his shot. He's going to be casting from everywhere, and if he gets hot, he has the kind of personality to play to the crowd and keep firing. 

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