The 69th NBA All-Star Game took place last Sunday evening at the United Center in Chicago with Team LeBron facing Team Giannis. For the fourth season in a row, the NBA decided to let the top two vote-getters in All-Star voting, LeBron James and Giannis Antetokounmpo, draft their teams, while the other top 22 vote-getters were the draftees.
The starters for Team LeBron included James, Anthony Davis, Kawhi Leonard, Luka Doncic and James Harden. Team Giannis’ starters were Antetokounmpo, Joel Embiid, Pascal Siakam, Kemba Walker and Trae Young.
This year’s All-Star Game featured a new format unlike any previous game. Instead of playing the game as a traditional basketball game, each quarter was played like a separate game. The first three quarters each began with a score of 0-0 and lasted 12 minutes. The winner of each quarter received $100,000 to donate to the Chicago-based charity of their choice.
In the fourth quarter, based on the “Elam Ending”, a final target score was tabulated using the leading team’s total cumulative score in the first three quarters plus 24 points in honor of the late Kobe Bryant, who wore No. 24 in his final 10 NBA seasons. The fourth quarter was untimed, and the game ended immediately after a basket or free-throw met the final target score.
Whichever team reached the target score first won the All-Star Game and won $200,000 for the charity of their choice. If one team were to win all of the first three quarters and reach the fourth quarter target score first, their charity would receive $500,000 and the losing team’s charity would receive $100,000. In addition, if the first or second quarter were to end in a tie, the $100,000 would be added to the winner of the next quarter, and if the third quarter were to end in a tie, the $100,000 charity award would go to the winner of the All-Star Game.
The purpose of this new format was to encourage the All-Stars to play defense instead of allowing wide-open three-point attempts and uncontested dunks. Previous All-Star games were viewed as a joke, as some teams nearly reached 200 points in scoring, such as in the 2017 NBA All-Star Game in New Orleans when the Western Conference All-Star Team defeated the East 192-182.
In this year’s game, Team LeBron defeated Team Giannis 157-155 on a game-winning free throw from Anthony Davis. In addition to winning the game, Team LeBron won the first quarter and tied Team Giannis in the third quarter. Because they won the game, Team LeBron received the $100,000 charity donation for the third quarter and earned a total of $400,000 for the Chicago Scholars. Team Giannis won the second quarter, earning $100,000 for After School Matters. Kawhi Leonard of the Los Angeles Clippers led Team LeBron with 30 points and went on to win the inaugural Kobe Bryant MVP Award, which was recently named in honor of the late Lakers legend.
While it is uncertain if the NBA will use this format for future All-Star Games, the idea, which was pitched by National Basketball Players Association president Chris Paul, received high praise from many players.
“[The NBA] did a great job with the format this year,” Kawhi Leonard said post-game.
There were also suggestions made to improve the game.
“You shouldn’t be able to win on a free throw,” Joel Embiid of Team Giannis said post game in response to losing on Anthony Davis’ game-winning free throw.
However, Embiid went on to say, “Tough loss, but to me it was probably the best All-Star Game ever. Everyone competed.”