Weekend Sunday is officially in the books, with all the events taking place on one night in an effort to minimize COVID-19 risk. The festivities tipped off with Indiana Pacers forward Domantas Sabonis winning the Skills Challenge and Golden State Warriors guard Stephen Curry taking home the 3-Point Contest.
At halftime of the 2021 NBA All-Star Game, Portland Trail Blazers guard Anfernee Simons won the Slam Dunk Contest before Team LeBron pulled away for a 170-150 win over Team Durant to close out the night. Overall it was a pretty successful event considering the limitations.
Now let's dish out some winners and losers, both literal and figurative.
Winner: Giannis Antetokounmpo
It's usually a pretty good sign that you had a decent game if you don't miss any shots -- especially when you take 16 of them. Giannis went a perfect 16 for 16 from the field, including 3 for 3 from long distance (sure, two of them banked in, but they still count) en route to a game-high 35 points and All-Star Game MVP honors. Giannis was also the courtside chatter MVP, as his mic'd up moments produced plenty of entertainment.
Antetokounmpo has picked up plenty of hardware over the last couple of seasons, and now he has one more trophy to add to the mantle.
Loser: LeBron James
LeBron has been using #washedKing as a motivator on Twitter for a couple of years now, and it's largely a notion of his own creation. However, with missed dunks like the one he had in the first quarter of Sunday's All-Star Game, perhaps it will become more of a reality.
Honestly, he might have missed this on purpose just so he can claim, "everyone said I was over the hill!" after the Lakers win a big playoff series in a couple months. That LeBron ... always one step ahead.
He scored just four points on 2-for-7 shooting in 12 minutes, then decided not to take the court for the second half as his team went on to victory. LeBron certainly has nothing to prove to anyone in terms of his basketball career, but Sunday night was definitely a dud.
Winner: Stephen Curry
Everyone knows Stephen Curry is the greatest shooter in NBA history, but it's still a wonder to watch him work. Curry put on an absolute display in both of his rounds in the 3-Point Contest, beating Mike Conley on his very last shot of the final round:
People who don't understand art should watch Curry shoot the ball and try to explain why tears are streaming down their face. He continued his absurdity during the All-Star Game, hitting multiple shots from just inside half-court and one legitimately from half-court in a battle with teammate Damian Lillard just before halftime.
Oh yeah, and he also threw down a two-handed dunk off a lob, for those who may not know that he can still get up.
Curry finished with 28 points on 8-for-16 3-point shooting in 21 minutes. In an up-and-down season for the Warriors, it must have felt good to be able to hoist a trophy again and put on a show for the fans.
Losers: Joel Embiid, Ben Simmons
Tough break for the two 76ers All-Stars, who were unable to participate on Sunday after their barber reportedly tested positive for COVID-19. The 76ers are the Eastern Conference leaders and Embiid is the front-runner for MVP, so both players likely would have enjoyed showcasing their abilities on the national stage. It just goes to show you how even the most banal off-court activities can put players at risk.
Winner: Damian Lillard
One of the best things about the Elam Ending is that there's always a game-winning shot. In last year's All-Star Game it was an underwhelming free throw, but this time around we got the game-winner we deserved when Damian Lillard rose up from a step inside half-court to give Team LeBron the victory:
It was an exclamation point on an incredible game in which he scored 32 points on 8-for-16 3-pointers, plenty of which came from 30-plus feet. Dame is having an MVP-caliber season, and showed off all of his talents on Sunday.
Loser: Dunk Contest judges
All of this year's Dunk Contest judges were former winners, so there was some optimism that they'd do a better job than other years. Not the case. Cassius Stanley was robbed on his first attempt, given all nines, which is fine if you want to set the standard that a 10 isn't easy to earn. But then they gave Obi Toppin's far inferior dunk multiple 10s, and the kangaroo court was in session.
Ultimately, Anfernee Simons won with several impressive displays of verticality, but the judging was all over the place along the way. Oh well, there's always next year.
Winner: Mike Conley
Not only did Conley shed the title of "best player to never make an All-Star team" when he replaced Devin Booker, but he also put up an impressive showing in Booker's place in the 3-Point Contest. Conley went toe-to-toe with Curry, putting pressure on him with a 27-spot in the final round, before ultimately losing on Steph's last shot.
Conley won the HORSE competition during the hiatus last summer (remember that?), and he nearly pulled off the epic back-to-back on Sunday.
Winner: Gladys Knight
All-Star Game national anthems have a checkered history, to say the least, so it was refreshing to see living legend Gladys Knight absolutely crush it on Sunday. For anyone to do what she did would be impressive, but when you add in the fact that she's still belting it out at 76 years old, she deserves even more respect.
Loser: Luka Doncic
Larry Bird. Brent Barry. If you're going to keep your warm-ups on during your competition, you better win it. Luka Doncic did the opposite of that, blowing two consecutive simple chest passes en route to an embarrassing Skills Challenge loss to eventual champion Domantas Sabonis.
Apparently he didn't even warm up for the contest, which might be why he continued to wear his warm-ups during his run.
I didn’t warm up 😂😂😂😂 the pressure got me :(— Luka Doncic (@luka7doncic) March 8, 2021
Luka is always having fun on the court, but maybe he should take things a little more seriously next time.
Winner: Versatile big men
Once again, the new breed of big man was on display during the Skills Challenge, as Domantas Sabonis became the fifth non-guard in the last six seasons to win the competition.
Nikola Vucevic also had a strong showing, beating Robert Covington in the first round and upsetting Chris Paul before losing to Sabonis in the final. If you needed any confirmation that centers are just as skilled as the other players on the court, you got it on Sunday.