All-Star Saturday Night isn't the main event during NBA All-Star weekend, but it is probably the most anticipated night of the three-day festivities. While the Slam Dunk Contest is king, I have a feeling the Haier Shooting Stars event will steal the show.
Cappie Pondexter of Team New York and Steve Smith of Team Atlanta started the competition a week early with some recent trash talk via Twitter:
@cappa23: @steve21smith get ready team NY were coming after you.
@steve21smith: @cappa23 We are ready. We have the trophy remember.
All-Star Saturday Night ... it's about to go down folks. Let's do it.
8:20 p.m. ET: Spotlights are swirling around Amway Center just 10 minutes before the start of the Haier Shooting Stars contest. My money is on the New York team of Allan Houston, Cappie Pondexter and Landry Fields.
Spike Lee and Pooch Hall from BET's "The Game" are chatting court side. Could there be a possible movie in the works? Spike is wearing a great Jeremy Lin shirt. It's Mars Blackmon as Jeremy Lin.
8:25 p.m. ET: Javier Colon, the Season 1 champion from "The Voice" performs the national anthem. Wow, he sounds good. I probably should have watched that show.
8:35 p.m. ET: A track from Jay- Z and Kanye West's "Watch The Throne" album gets me and the crowd hyped at the start of the contest. "I ball so hard, [they] wanna fine me!"
8:42 p.m. ET: First up is Team Texas. Chandler Parsons of the Houston Rockets is taking his time from the wing. He can't seem to hit the broad side of a barn. Who entered this kid in the contest?! Kenny Smith hits the half court to save the team and almost trips over the ball during his victory dance. The Jet is going to feel that tomorrow. I'm surprised he did so well considering he was up late doing the electric slide last night.
8:43p.m. ET: My team pick comes out smooth! Allan Houston's jumper is textbook, as he hits the half-court shot without even watching it hit the bottom of the net. I told you he still had it. New York leads with a time of 38 seconds. Team Orlando is up next.
8:48 p.m. ET: The home team gets big cheers from the crowd. I have no faith in them because I heard Jameer Nelson wasn't interested in the contest. Watching them try to hit the half-court shot is tough. I feel like I'm rubbernecking on a bad traffic accident. Of course, it takes a woman to win the set for Team Orlando as Marie Ferdinand-Harris hits the half-court shot.
8:50 p.m. ET: Team Atlanta, the defending champs, come out with a bit of swagger. Too bad they couldn't back it up and were eliminated in the first round. Looks like we will have a new champ this year.
9 p.m. ET: The crowd watches with baited breath as New York takes its time at half court. The trio has enough time to set their shots and not worry about losing the lead. As I predicted, New York comes out and completely annihilates the competition to take home to the title. This was probably the best Haier Shooting Stars contest I've seen. The crowd really got into it, too.
9:05 p.m. ET: I make a mad dash to the interview room to talk to Haier Shooting Stars participants. This requires a trip on three elevators, two escalators, a skateboard ride, a horse and buggy and one of those little metal scooter thingies. Amway Center is huge! An NBA official-type person tells me you could fit the old Amway into the new building.
9:12 p.m. ET: I finally get to the interview room and chat it up with Team Atlanta's Lindsey Harding (also of WNBA/Atlanta Dream fame) about her appearance in Sunday's Disney Princess Half Marathon. She has a 4 a.m. wake-up call. Her teammate Steve Smith wonders what her training regimen is. (Smitty in a race soon, perhaps?)
9:13p.m. ET: Press conference with the winning New York team. A New York beat writer starts asking the 40-year-old Houston questions hinting at a possible comeback. "Quit it," Houston replies.
9:15 p.m. ET: Back over the mountain and through the woods, I make my way back to the press box. Along the way, I stop for a picture with the Cleveland Cavaliers' mascot, Moondog, in the hallway. I kind of feel bad for him now that Cleveland is LeBron-less. I wonder, do mascots cry?
9:17 p.m. ET: Elevator ride with Chris Mullin who can't figure out which floor he is supposed to be on.
9:25 p.m. ET: I finally get back to my seat and I have missed most of the Skills Contest. Judging by the crowd's dull reaction during Tony Parker's trophy presentation, I don't think I missed much.
9:40 p.m. ET: Every time LeBron is shown on the big screen, he is munching on some sort of chicken finger basket. I'm jealous.
9:45 p.m. ET: The crowd is loving Minnesota's Kevin Love as he ties Mario Chalmers with 18 points in the first round of the Three-Point Shootout.
9:48 p.m. ET: Crowd applauds Anthony Morrow for wearing a Drazen Petrovic jersey in honor of the New Jersey Nets legend who was killed in a car accident at 28 years old. Some background from TrueHoop:
"Morrow has had the idea since he saw Petrovic's jersey hanging in the Nets' practice facility. After seeing the documentary, "Once Brothers" -- about the broken friendship between Petrovic and Vlade Divac -- he thought that if he had the chance to participate in All-Star weekend, he would honor the fallen hero"
9:55 p.m. ET: "Dude, he's so pure," an onlooker says about Kevin Durant's jumper as he goes for 19 and hits the money ball at the end in the first round.
9:58 p.m. ET: LeBron and Dwyane Wade get out of their seats, along with the rest of the Amway Center crowd as James Jones hits all five balls in the last rack to finish the opening round with 22 points.
10:12 p.m. ET: In the end, it's a battle of the Kevins, Kevin Durant and Kevin Love, in the final round of the Three-Point Shootout. Durant has the crowd behind him by his fourth rack, but loses to Love and his beard.
10:19 p.m. ET: There is a pre-Slam Dunk performance by Flo Rida -- how appropriate, considering we are in Orlando. But the crowd is not feeling him, unless you count the 50 people corralled in front of the stage who were told to act excited for the cameras. All-Star crowds are always pretty tough because they are a mix of non-basketball fans who just want to star gaze and others who just want to see the Slam Dunk contest.
10:30 p.m. ET: The Slam-Dunk Contest participants are announced. My money is on underdog Chase Budinger of the Houston Rockets. Kenny "The Jet" Smith comes out to get the crowd hyped up, but somehow P. Diddy gets the mic and starts to promote his new projects.
10:35 p.m. ET: Wait ... is that ... yes, it is! Budinger is dressed as Billy Hoyle from "White Man Can't Jump." The crowd is confused, they don't know whether to laugh or tell security to get that random guy off the court.
10:39 p.m. ET: My favorite part of the Slam Dunk Contest is that everyone is a judge. Fans here are really getting into holding their Sprite scorecards to rate each dunk.
10:46 p.m. ET: Celebrity game MVP and vertically challenged comedian Kevin Hart gets on the microphone to complain about the dunk contest being boring because the guys are too tall. "We need to pay tribute to the real dunk heroes, like Spud Webb and Nate Robinson," he says. "Yeah, I said it, and I said it with my chest."
10:56 p.m. ET: Jeremy Evans boggles the mind and defies gravity with the two-ball alley-oop dunk. The crowd yells, "Shut it down, Let's go home!" in their best Dirk Nowitzki voice.
11:03 p.m. ET: Another Hart appearance. Is the NBA paying this guy? He's everywhere this weekend.
11:06 p.m. ET: Paul George and Evans pay tribute to non-high flyers Larry Bird and Karl Malone during the contest. Really? The crowd seems confused once again. Get these guys out of here.
11:10 p.m. ET: Fans head for the parking lot before the trophy presentation. Who does that? Do they figure they can just find out who won on Twitter? Man, social media has ruined everything.
11:12 p.m. ET: The public has voted and Evans is the new slam-dunk champion. He hears a couple of boos from the crowd during his trophy presentation. I won't say if any of those boos came from me, but I will say Budinger was robbed.
11:14 p.m. ET: And that's a wrap on All-Star Saturday. Overall, this contest can't hold a candle to last year, but I applaud the players for their creativity. I mean, who thinks of dunking in the dark? I also dig that Budinger can laugh at himself and embrace his inner Billy Hoyle. My favorite part of the night: seeing players get hyped up for their teammates. No one is paying them to be here and root from the sidelines. It shows just how much they love this game.
Next up: Sunday's All-Star Game. We'll be back with more breakdowns and observations. See you then!