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Highlights of 2018 NBA All-Star Weekend

Image Credit: Ximo Pierto/YouTube
Image Credit: Ximo Pierto/YouTube

Whether or not you're the type to get excited about the NBA's All-Star Weekend events, it's tough to deny that the celebratory weekend always provides us with countless displays of impressive skill and athleticism in a form that we don't get to see in the games that actually matter. Whether it's Dennis Smith Jr. throwing down a ridiculous between-the-legs dunk or Devin Booker draining a slew of three-pointers, All-Star Weekend consistently reminds us just how talented these NBA players are.

The weekend kicked off with the often-unwatchable Celebrity All-Star Game, and though this event typically serves as nothing more than a reminder of just how much better at basketball NBA players are than average people, there was one celebrity who stood out. Quavo, the famed rapper from Migos, racked up 19 points on 7-of-10 shooting to go along with five rebounds, three assists, and two steals. The 26-year-old was named MVP of the event.

As you can see in his MVP acceptance speech, all that apparently mattered to Quavo was posting the most points of anyone in the game (which he did), but Team Clippers' 75-66 win was some nice icing on the cake.

The Celebrity All-Star Game was followed up Friday night by the Rising Stars Challenge, where players a tad bit more polished on the hardwood went head-to-head. Featuring first- and second-year players, it was no surprise that electrifying rookie Donovan Mitchell had one of the highlights of the game—foreshadowing what he'd do at the Slam Dunk Contest Saturday night.

Mitchell's explosive play wasn't enough to get a win, as Team World beat Team USA 155-124 behind Bogdan Bogdanovic's 26 points, six assists, and four rebounds, but let's be honest—no one cares about the score of this game. On to Saturday night!

The second day of All-Star Weekend kicked off with a Skills Challenge that was slightly more entertaining than many would have expected. Brooklyn Nets guard Spencer Dinwiddie edged out Chicago Bulls big man Lauri Markkanen in the finals to bring home the trophy.

Next up was the Three-Point Contest, where 2016 winner Klay Thompson was coming in as the co-record-holder (Stephen Curry) for most points in a single round (27 in 2016). 21-year-old Devin Booker, however, upstaged the star sharpshooter by nailing 20 of his 25 shots in the final round to set a new record at 28 points.

Saturday night was capped off with perhaps the most exciting of the All-Star Weekend events: the Slam Dunk Contest.

Dennis Smith Jr. twisted and turned at all kinds of funky angles for what may have been the dunk of the night, but the judges weren't fans of his other first-round dunk and eliminated him before the final round.

Larry Nance Jr. paid homage to his father, the first ever winner of the Slam Dunk Contest, with a throwback jersey and beautiful rock-the-cradle dunk.

His best dunk, however, was probably a highly skilled double-off-the-backboard dunk in the final round.

(Of course, you shouldn't forget that Dwight Howard pretty much did an even more difficult version of this in 2008. Seriously—lower a hoop to six feet and see how hard this is.)

But the crown ended up going to the aforementioned Donovan Mitchell, who started off with creativity in the first round before skying over a cluster of people (including comedian Kevin Hart) to seal the win.

On Sunday, the actual All-Star Game was about as exciting as any in recent memory. Sure, there were some low-effort defensive possessions, and each team's score ballooned up into the 140s, but a high-energy LeBron James lit a fire under his squad down the stretch, leading Team LeBron to a 148-145 victory over Team Stephen.

Take a look at this final possession. Have you ever seen this much defensive intensity in an exhibition? It seemed like Stephen Curry never had, as he was caught off guard by the smoldering defense of LeBron and Kevin Durant. After the game was won, there seemed to be genuine excitement throughout Team LeBron, which will hopefully set the tone for future All-Star Games to be similarly competitive.

And with that, NBA All-Star Weekend was a wrap.