By Cameron Buford, whatsgoodinsports.com

This past weekend at the Rocket Mortgage FieldHouse in Cleveland, Ohio, the National Basketball League celebrated its season with its annual All-Star weekend slate of events. This is a celebration you don’t want to miss, should you have the opportunity to participate in the week of events during the NBA All-Star weekend. These festivities promote the excitement of their youth, fused with playmaking abilities most would die for and the imagination of some of the best athletes in the world.

Just this season, the NBA has added the HBCU Classic. The inaugural HBCU Classic saw the Howard Bisons defeat the Morgan State Bears. Additionally, The NBA and AT&T donated a much-needed $100,000 to each team’s athletic department. I found this to be a great way to include HBCUs into this high-profile weekend however, I would like to see a few more teams involved in this classic. The NBA can make this a must-see event each year and make the HBCU Classic tournament even more appealing to future student-athletes.

Another advantage of the NBA’s midseason showcase is the highlighting of their youth movement. Kicking off the weekend is their Rising Star game, which finds teams combined with some of the most notable first- and second-year players. This game has morphed from a freshman vs. sophomore game to what we have seen over the weekend. Detroit Pistons #1 draft pick Cade Cunningham, The Cleveland Cavaliers 1st round pick Evan Mobley, Charlotte Hornets 1st round pick and, 2021 Rookie of the year LaMelo Ball, and Philadelphia 76ers Tyrone Maxey are among the young players chosen to display their talent in the weekend’s kickoff game.

The alterations of the Rising Star game format saw 28 players get selected onto four teams. 12 rookies, 12 sophomores, and 4 NBA G League Ignite players make up these teams. In commemoration of the NBA’s 75th anniversary season and an attempt to unite new players with those legendary players from back in the day, members of the NBA 75th Team Rick Barry, Gary Payton, Isiah Thomas, and James Worthy were chosen to coach these teams. By knocking off Team Isiah, for their second win, Team Barry won this inaugural four-team tournament. 

In continuing with the modifications of this historic weekend, the NBA also added some tweaks to the Skills Competition, which has been seen as a warm-up for the highly anticipated Three-Point Shooting contest and ever-popular Dunk Contest. We’ve seen various machinations of how teams, were put together. I thought the use of WNBA players was a great look back then. It would be even now, considering society’s focus on inclusion and the me-to movement. This season they matched a selection of rookies against players from the hometown Cleveland Cavaliers and the Antetokpoumpo brother. Jarrett Allen, Darius Garland, and Evan Mobley led the young Cavaliers squad to a win in this unique format.

Seven guards and one center competed in this season’s Three-Point competition. While it’s not often big men compete in this competition, Karl-Anthony Towns wasn’t shy about wanting to win this competition for the big men across the league. When asked how he’s practiced for this event, Towns said confidently, “Shoot 40% this season.”

Los Angeles Clippers guard Luke Kennard lit the gym up when he scored an impressive 26 points in the first round. Towns responded by scoring the most points scored, in the final round, to beat Kennard and Atlanta Hawks Trae Young in the final round. His 29 points secures the first and only victory for a center and the first Minnesota Timberwolves since Kevin Love in 2012.

The luster has come off the shine of the Dunk Contest, which used to be the major attraction of the weekend. Long gone are days of the best players in the league competing for the crown of dunk champion. Since bragging rights and knowing you’re the best dunker isn’t enough to lure to get the best players to compete, and if financial incentives aren’t able to get it done; what if they, the league, went outside the NBA to find the best dunkers around the country and bring them in to challenge the NBA players, dunk for dunk. Would this encourage guys like Ja Morant, Anthony Edwards, or Aaron Gordon to compete in next year’s event?

Something has to be done because this was the worst Dunk Contest, I’ve seen in my 30+ years of watching the NBA. Not only are we not seeing the best of the best compete, but the lackluster performance of those competing has also tarnished the history of this event. How do you think the NBA can improve this event to bring it back to its prominence?

The biggest takeaway from this NBA All-Star weekend was the revelation from former Cavaliers Lebron James. James threw a couple of things in the pot of the NBA mash-up this weekend. Now whether he was back home and got too comfortable on the microphone, James intimated that he may return to Cleveland to play for the Cavaliers for the third time. 

“The door’s not closed on that,” James said. “I’m not saying I’m coming back and playing; I don’t know. I don’t know what my future holds. I don’t even know when I’m free.” Considering all that is happening with the current Los Angeles Lakers team, this is a bombshell. 

Los Angeles Lakers’ LeBron James, left, and former NBA great Michale Jordan greet each other during the introduction of 75 of the leagues greatest player during halftime at the NBA All-Star basketball game, Sunday, Feb. 20, 2022, in Cleveland. (AP Photo/Ron Schwane)

In collaboration with James, the Lakers have constructed a team that they felt could compete for a championship; however, they are hovering around the play-in tournament. This underwhelming season seemingly has Lebron one foot in and one foot out on the Lakers and looking towards greener pastures. 

“My last year will be played with my son,” James stated. He went on to add, “Wherever Bronny is at, that’s where I’ll be. I would do whatever it takes to play with my son for one year. It’s not about the money at that point.” This is only further evidence of Lebron having one foot in and one foot out on the Lakers. Also, this makes it tough for the Lakers to plan for the future after making significant accommodations for LeBron and his camp.

Did LeBron James over shadow the NBA All-Star weekend with his comments about a potential return to the Cleveland Cavaliers, or did his announcement of wanting to play with his son in the future? Do you see this as a feasible option, and what are your thoughts on LeBron’s future with the Lakers? Did these comments put them in a tougher position moving forward? Let me know your thoughts by reaching out to me on Twitter @whatsgoodnsport or email or voiceofthefas@outlook.com.

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