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A Frigid All-Star Saturday in the City: A Survivalist’s Story

The Laborious Arrival

What. A. Day. One that, for me, had kicked off at the very buttcrack of dawn, having to migrate from Norfolk Airport where I had been working my real job, to LaGuardia on a direct flight. Once deplaned, I cabbed over to the Lexington Hotel to drop off my luggage; then cabbed to the Wyndham New Yorker to pick up my credentials; before finally tapping into my survivalist instincts to walk a brutal half-block over to Madison Square Garden against the sniping February winds of the Northeast.


But the gripping struggle would not relent just yet. Once my face defrosted and I had finally made my way through the MSG security wands, it was time for little Mowgli to navigate his way through a jungle of obstacles to get where he needed to be (not sure why I used that metaphor in 3rd person terms but what’s done is done now). These obstacles included tricky hallways, the mere personal handicap of failing to follow event signage, and above all, the condescendence of New York security staff members who relish their culture of being assholes, especially as it pertains to dealing with out-of-towners. But lo! I’ve experienced enough New York in my life to allow me to remain unfazed at the arrogance of its natives (which basically still means that I nod my head without saying a word and promptly move in the direction they point me to).

Once settled…

In an attempt to escape the brashness, I headed over to the lower bowl of the Garden only to be formidably greeted by a stare down from that creepy Coca-Cola polar bear I seem to run into every All-Star Weekend. His glare attained enough brawn to freeze my soul from 50 feet away, and for a several seconds, before CSN anchor Chris Miller snapped me out of my cold sweat.


Anyway, the media was stowed and stuffed in various sections of the lower bowl for coverage of the All-Stars practice. Here’s a look at my crappy point of view.

Finally, after a 20 minute sequence of a half dozen mascots goofing around with each other, the Western Conference All-Stars were introduced as they came out the tunnel to the hype of a fog machine.

Kevin Durant dapping up G-Wiz was fun to exaggerate.

For the purpose of conducting a nationally televised practice, Western Conference head coach Steve Kerr wore an over-ear microphone that made him look like an aged Nick Carter gearing up for a comeback concert (God forbid that ever really happens).


The practice was nothing thrilling, to be honest, especially if you were Tim Duncan during the 3-point shooting drills. Normally wearing a disinterested look on his face, Duncan’s posture looked as if to yearn to be in a pair of oversized sweats and a thermal, with a mug of warm macadamia nut milk close to his hand. Trust me, Tim. We wished the same for you.

The Battle for Game Changing Supremacy, or something like that..

The main event of the early Saturday afternoon was obviously the “Battle of the Game Changer”, a minimally described, Degree Men deodorant-sponsored HORSE-type competition between our beloved John Wall and Golden State’s Steph Curry. Shout out to Degree Men, though. Despite the contest failing to fulfill whatever expectations of entertainment many fans had, we certainly appreciate them involving Hoop District in various promotions of the contest, for better or for worse.

The Game Changer duel took place in between the West All-Stars practice and the East practice. Again, not many details about the contest were given prior to its start. We knew it had some sort of HORSE-type similarities but nothing was clear beyond that. It turned out to be a drawing match, where Wall and Curry were to pick a random category like “Trick shot” or “Game Changer”. The player would select a category, and a secret shot attempt would be revealed.

The first one turned out to be a shot attempt while sitting flat on the ground. They both missed it.


The next shot was an attempt to make a shot via bouncing the ball off the floor and into the basket. They both missed it.

The third shot was a free throw blindfolded. They both missed it. John missed it bad.

[GIF credit: Uproxx]

And so the moment arrived for the final shot of the contest. The shot that would deem one of the two contestants the league’s “Game Changer”. Leading up to this moment of the competition, however, none of the three prior shots attempted had any relevance to the concept of NBA game changing.

So what would this final segment entail? Perhaps a head-to-head ‘first-one-to-score’ matchup? Maybe a 5-second drill, where each player would dribble the ball up full court and attempt a buzzer-beating shot of any sort?

Naw, none of that. In today’s NBA, to be crowned a game changer you must cross over a comedian and knock down a 3-point shot in his face. But of course! The challenger? Michael Rapaport. I’m just going to end this recap quick: Steph Curry stepped up first, crossed over Rapaport nicely but bricked the shot. John’s attempt was made with much less effort, merely dribbling past a lazy Rapaport and putting up a shot, which swished right in.

This bizarrely appointed Wall as the NBA’s top game changer and yeah, we’ll take it, I guess. After the contest, John was asked where he’d place his ‘Game Changer’ trophy..

Inside the tunnel

While the East All-Stars geared up for their practice sesh, I decided to stroll through the tunnel for some sightseeing. My embarkment lead to an encounter with Cleveland Cavaliers’ mascot, Sir CC.

After a few Cavs fans called me out on Twitter, Sir CC voiced his displeasure with the harassment I gave him.

Moving along, I noticed that for whatever reason, the Knicks showed up in full uniform.

Wizards mascot G-Man was straight G-CHILLIN, though.

As for the East All-Stars practice, it was mostly comprised of casual dribbling and passing and plenty of side conversations. I mean, Carmelo mishandling John Wall’s swing pass here describes it best.

Onto an enchanting evening in the BK..

All-Star Saturday Night

The swanky stage was set for sports’ grandest night of recreational diversions and all was done in spite of Reggie Miller’s ear-melting commentary blaring aloud throughout the arena speakers while contestants performed. It began with the Shooting Stars competition, won by “Team Bosh”.

Next up was the Skills Challenge, in which Patrick Beverley gooned his way to victory despite failing to convert on any of his precision passes into the net and also jacking Jeff Teague’s ball rack while attempting the contest-concluding 3-point shot. The good news is, nobody left court with a contusion of any type and all hips remained 100%.

Also of importance:

The 3-point Shootout was a gem of a show and ended fittingly with The Splash Brothers and Kyrie Irving. The three came out of the first round having left a combination of water buckets burn marks on the floor, as Klay Thompson finished with 24 and Kyrie and Curry finished with 23.

That’s when this happened:

Curry went on a net-torching pillage with 13 straight makes, destroying the second round scores of 17 and 14 from Kyrie and Klay, respectively.

This was an acceptable metaphoric tweet for Curry’s final-round performance.

The main event of main events. The Sprint Slam Dunk Contest. Once not long ago its trophy was hoisted by our John Wall and now must be turned over to the next honorable contested.

And honorable is a sheer understatement.

Zach LaVine. Motherloving Zach LaVine. If there is ever a player that can make the between-the-legs dunk look like a layup, it’s this guy. Simply unreal to watch. And for a moment, for a tiny moment, I thought that maybe he should try a different variety of a dunk, perhaps one that didn’t include the ball going in between his legs. After all, it was the only trick he displayed. But then, I realized how awesome he was at doing it. I began to fathom just how quickly the ball traveled from one hand to the other and how cleanly he’d slam the ball inside the rim. Simply, otherworldly.

Here’s a La-Vine:

And that, my brethren, concluded my interesting All-Star Saturday experience, one that I survived in spite of the weather, New Yorkers, and sinister-looking polar bears. I’ll hit you folks with all the shenanigans of #WallStar Sunday next.

we are Hoop District

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