It sounded like a good idea at first.
Harrison Barnes can dunk, so he was in the dunk contest. Stephen Curry can shoot, so he was in the 3-Point Contest.
The Warriors are an exciting team with a devout fan base and a large market. Barnes, despite his struggles this season, still carries a lot of weight due to his enormous success in high school, his time at North Carolina and his performance in the playoffs last season. Curry has been one of the more marketed players in New Orleans, is starting the game on Sunday and has solidified himself as a superstar in this league.
What can go wrong?
Well, as Warriors fans soon found out, a lot can.
Let’s begin with the Shooting Stars Challenge, which is still an event for some reason. Team Curry consisted of Steph, his father Dell and WNBA player Becky Hammon. The team hit their shots quickly but struggled mightily with the halfcourt heave. Just a day earlier Steph was seen hitting three straight halfcourt shots, which made the long, sad assembly line of bricks and air balls that much more disappointing. It was fun seeing Del and Steph on the floor at the same time however, and to see the entire Curry family cheering them on in the stands was fun.
The 3-Point Contest was a competition that many thought Stephen Curry would win handily. Leading the league in made threes (171) and shooting at an impressive clip (41.5%), Curry was the odds on favorite to win (7/4). Largely considered the best shooter in the league — by fans and his peers — Curry struggled early and just like in previous contests never seem to find his rhythm.
He looked uncomfortable until his fourth rack, where he nailed all but his last shot. His worst rack was from the top of the key, where he nailed only one. While Curry can hit from multiple angles, different speeds, leaning, off the dribble and seemingly any way humanly possible, it’s interesting how much different and awkward he looks shooting off the rack. His shooting stroke still looks fantastic, but how often does Curry really get a set three?
This was one of the biggest reasons why I believed Klay Thompson deserved a spot in the contest. His impressive shooting resumé aside, he has the robotic technical stroke that could dominate. But, given the NBA’s willingness to fix things that aren’t broken, the newly installed East vs. West format limits the potential Splash Brothers reunion in the contest. It’s a shame, because many (especially Warriors fans) would love to see the two duel.
This was his third time in the competition and Curry has as many 3-Point Contest wins as Draymond Green. It’d be foolish to think Curry won’t win one (or multiple) before his career is over, and as his stardom continues to rise (and play continues to improve) he won’t be a stranger to All-Star Weekend anytime soon. He makes them when it counts, but he wouldn’t mind adding one of these titles to his growing collection of accolades sooner rather than later.
During the intermission, Kendrick Lamar performed a short set of his hits and killed it. Thank you Adam Silver.
On the contrary, Harrison Barnes won’t be adding any dunk contest titles to his collection anytime soon.
A fantastic in-game dunker, I was weary of his selection into the contest simply because we’ve rarely seen him do anything remotely creative. His reverse slam on Anthony Randolph in the playoffs was beautiful — especially given who he dunked on — but the majority of his slams are power slams or over someone. These make for incredible moments during live action, but in a contest format (especially this one) it doesn’t transfer well at all.
Barnes can fly, but power doesn’t transfer well in this contest unless your name is Dominique Wilkins or Vince Carter. The “Freestyle Round” saw Barnes throw down an ordinary windmill, a dunk that would receive no more than a score of 38 in the older, better days of the contest. Barnes did make a nice behind the back pass to Ben McLemore, the first such pass I’ve seen from him. He also had the best layup in the contest with the baseline up-and-under.
The “Battle Round” was going to be tough for Barnes regardless of his opponent. The East lineup was stacked, and Barnes was awarded Paul George as his battle opposition. The dunk he threw down was much like his first half of the season: boring, forgettable and underwhelming. The idea wasn’t bad, but the only technology the Smoothie King Center crowd was interested in at the time was their phones.
The crowd had no idea what was in Barnes’ pocket, which makes for another reason why he wasn’t the best selection for the contest: he doesn’t sell himself enough. He doesn’t carry the personality to properly promote anything (except maybe contested midrange jumpers). McLemore brought out Shaq, Terrence Ross brought out Drake and John Wall used his mascot. This is the flair the dunk contest has thrived on recently, and while a virtual representation of your dunk is cool, it came across more like a promotion for NBA 2K14.
I first thought Barnes was holding a phone and would send a tweet while throwing one down, which would’ve been interesting considering the immediate reaction he would’ve gotten from social media. I’m also surprised he didn’t utilize Curry, who carries the star power that could’ve sold his dunks a fraction more. There was also rumors that he would sport a throwback jersey at some point, which had to have been either Michael Jordan or Jason Richardson.
The potential was there, but much like his career up to this point he’s failed to really deliver.
His performance topped off what was a disappointing night for the Warriors, and while some may consider these contests lame, futile and unworthy of our time, they matter a lot to the participants and to longtime fans of All-Star Weekend. Curry will be under the brightest of lights on Sunday, and I expect at least one of those special Curry runs before the game ends. As the freshest face in the NBA, Curry has a chance to steal the show.
On a personal note, I want to thank Adidas and GQ for their hospitality on Saturday.
The Adidas VIP Gifting Suite was fantastic, and the gift bag was full of new, fresh Adidas products.
The GQ party was loads of fun and consisted of great guests and incredible music. Whether you wanted the soothing sounds of Miguel, the southern flair of Bun B, the tenacity of Rick Ross or the delectable genius of The Roots, GQ had it covered.
Let’s do that again.