On Thursday, the NBA All-Star 2017 participants were named for the Skills Challenge, Three-point, and Slam Dunk competitions over the course of NBA All-Star Weekend. Among the contests, only one of last year’s winners will return to defend his crown. Highlighting the field of various stars in the three contests will be Three-point shootout winner Klay Thompson, as well as NBA All-Star players Kemba Walker, Kyrie Irving, Isaiah Thomas, and DeMarcus Cousins.
Over the years, All-Star Saturday night has produced its share of amazing highlights and showdowns. The dunk contest was said to have lost its luster over the past decade but seemed to shake that off in 2016. This year’s Verizon NBA Slam Dunk Contest will have one-half of the duo that made the competition great again last year but will lack the two-time defending champion, Zach Levine. According to ESPN, among this year’s contestants will be last year’s runner-up, Aaron Gordon. The Orlando Magic’s breakout star will be looking to finally capture the dunk title that eluded him in 2016’s epic head-to-head battle with eventual champion Levine.
Gordon fell to the two-time contest winner Levine in what was praised by fans and critics as a finale similar to the one Dominique Wilkins and Michael Jordan put on back in 1988. Joining Gordon will be Los Angeles Clippers center DeAndre Jordan, as well as Glenn Robinson III of the Indiana Pacers, and Derrick Jones, Jr. from the Phoenix Suns. Jordan has arguably the biggest highlight reel of the four players with some impressive dunks for a Clippers team featuring former winner Blake Griffin.
2017 Slam Dunk Contest Field
- Aaron Gordon (Orlando Magic)
- Derrick Jones, Jr. (Phoenix Suns)
- DeAndre Jordan (Los Angeles Clippers)
- Glenn Robinson III (Indiana Pacers)
Of the four players in this year’s field, Jones is the biggest enigma for many fans who don’t follow the Suns heavily. Some Suns fans may not even be thoroughly familiar with the young player who has spent just 11 minutes total on the court this season. However, he has already been receiving his share of endorsements here or there as a player more than capable of scoring an upset win in the competition.
Gordon is already among the favorites to win the latest NBA Slam Dunk competition this year based on his body of work in last year’s showdown in Toronto. In one of Gordon’s dunks last year, he incorporated the Orlando Magic team mascot, Stuff the Magic Dragon, and dunked over it after passing the ball under both legs. If Gordon grabs the title, he’ll become the first Orlando player to do so since Dwight Howard won the contest back in 2008. However, DeAndre Jordan is hoping to be the next big man to get the win.
The 2017 edition of the Taco Bell Skills Challenge will once again feature NBA players trying to speed their way through a course consisting of dribbling, passing, and shooting stations. While in the past, this particular competition used to feature mostly the quick point guards, big men will also be participating again. Bleacher Report notes that among those competing will be hometown favorite Anthony Davis of the New Orleans Pelicans and breakout star big man Joel Embiid of the Philadelphia 76ers.
They’re joined by DeMarcus Cousins of the Sacramento Kings, John Wall of the Washington Wizards, Devin Booker of the Phoenix Suns, Gordon Hayward of the Utah Jazz, and Kristaps Porzingis of the New York Knicks. None of the players in this field has won the contest before, making for a first-time winner in this particular contest as well.
2017 Skills Challenge Participants
- Devin Booker (Phoenix Suns)
- DeMarcus Cousins (Sacramento Kings)
- Anthony Davis (New Orleans Pelicans)
- Joel Embiid (Philadelphia 76ers)
- Gordon Hayward (Utah Jazz)
- Kristaps Porzingis (New York Knicks)
- John Wall (Washington Wizards)
Last year’s Skills Challenge winner was in fact, a big man, as Minnesota’s Karl-Anthony Towns was able to win the trophy by defeating Isaiah Thomas. Joel Embiid, a 7-foot phenom who has finally started getting his time on the court to succeed, will be one that many fans will have their eyes on during the weekend, as he’ll also participate in the annual Rising Stars Challenge game pitting rookies and sophomore players against one another in an actual game of basketball.
One of the biggest attractions in the recent Golden State Warriors era of high-scoring basketball has been hitting the three-point shot. The NBA’s Three-point challenge for 2017 will feature last year’s defending champion, Golden State Warriors sharpshooter Klay Thompson. He’ll defend the title against another former winner, Cleveland Cavaliers guard Kyrie Irving, who will try to get his second three-point contest win. Other contenders include All-Star players Kyle Lowry and Kemba Walker. Unfortunately for Warriors fans, Stephen Curry won’t be participating in the contest, but the rest of the field has plenty of talent when it comes to long distance shooting.
2017 3-Point Contest Participants
- Eric Gordon (Houston Rockets)
- Kyrie Irving (Cleveland Cavaliers)
- Kyle Lowry (Toronto Raptors)
- Wesley Matthews (Dallas Mavericks)
- C.J. McCollum (Portland Trail Blazers)
- Klay Thompson (Golden State Warriors)
- Kemba Walker (Charlotte Hornets)
- Nick Young (Los Angeles Lakers)
Of the players listed above, Eric Gordon has hit the most threes so far this season with 170 treys recorded, with Kyle Lowry hitting 162 total. Lowry’s 42.7 percent made threes is the top percentage amongst all participants, which slightly edges Nick Young’s 42.4 percent, and C.J. McCollum’s 42.3 percent rates. All of that said, these three contests are usually a whole lot of fun for fans, and even the players, to witness as part of the annual All-Star tradition.
The NBA All-Star Weekend contests for 2017 will take place in New Orleans, Louisiana, at the Smoothie King Center on Saturday, February 18, with the All-Star Game to be played a day later. Who will emerge as the three winners of these annual contests on NBA All-Star Saturday?
[Featured Image by Vaughn Ridley/Getty Images]