NBA All-Star 2018: Banter lights up celebrity game; Team World upstage America's Rising Stars

Almost everything at the NBA All-Stars match being held over the weekend in Los Angeles this year is much the same like in previous editions, but there’s one aspect that is radically different.

Traditionally, the All-Stars fixture has been based on the Western Conference versus Eastern Conference format, but that has been discarded to make it more personality driven in keeping with the demands of the times.

This year, the blue riband match will be between sides headed by two of the biggest basketballers in the contemporary game: Team Lebron versus Team Stephen.

The fact that the two have been staunch rivals on court has added enormously to the interest in the match, as one gauged from the mood of fans who thronged the Staples and Convention centres in downtown Los Angeles, venues for all the basketball action over the weekend.

Both James and Curry have denied any bitterness in their rivalry, but basketball aficionados believe this is likely to be evident in Sunday’s game which has attracted fans from all over the US and is already reportedly sold out.

The selection of the teams also marked a departure from protocol in that players were drafted into the respective sides with a mixture of voting by fans (50 per cent), NBA players (25 per cent) and a media panel (25 per cent).

This, the NBA hopes, will make the All-Stars contest secular, less parochial and hopefully more interesting. With major sports events vying with each other for the attention of fans and sponsors, some innovative method to engage fans had become imperative.

For James, who plays for the Cleveland Cavaliers and is widely regarded as the greatest shooter, this will be his 14th All-Stars match, putting him just one behind record holder Kobe Bryant. For the younger Curry, who plays for Golden State Warriors, this is his fifth All-Stars match.

Recording artist Justin Bieber dribbles the ball during the NBA All-Star Celebrity Game at the Los Angeles Convention Center. Reuters

Recording artist Justin Bieber dribbles the ball during the NBA All-Star Celebrity Game at the Los Angeles Convention Center. Reuters

The build up to the main draw on Sunday began in right earnest with a host of events on Friday including the much-looked-forward-to celebrity match, and one involving America’s Rising Stars with those from the Rest of the World.

The celebrity’s match had fans packing the South Hall arena in the Convention Centre hours in advance. Given that stars like Jamie Foxx, Justin Bieber and Michael B Jordan (who stars in the current hit Black Panther) were among the participants, this was only to be expected.

The pace at which the match was played was modest at best, but the interest level was high given the banter between the star participants and their playing to the gallery.

The evening ended with the Team World young guns upstaging America’s Rising Stars quite easily, 155-124, at the Staples Centre in front of another full house.

In comparison to the celebrity match, this was played at a hot pace as is usually the case. But in trying total aggression, the American youngsters left gaping holes in defence that were thoroughly exploited by the opponents.

Doing the star turn for Team World was Bogdan Bogdanovic who scored 26 points and was involved in six assists besides. He was nominated MVP of the match, an accolade richly deserved.

Saturday’s action will see the two teams to play Sunday’s match in action in practice, apart from a host of other activities like the traditional Slam Dunk competition etc that have made the All Stars weekend amongst the most watched television program over the years.

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Updated Date: Feb 18, 2018 11:34:08 IST

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