CLEVELAND — The two kids from Akron stole the show at Sunday night’s All-Star Game.
Stephen Curry held a shooting clinic all night, hitting 16 3-pointers and scoring 50 points, while LeBron James hit an absurd one-legged turnaround jumper to take the win for Team LeBron over Team Durant 163-160.
On a night when the NBA honored its 75 best players, two of them – Curry and James – put on a show worthy of the occasion.
“Yes, I told him after the game on the pitch it was a perfect ending,” said Curry, who was named Most Valuable Player of the game. “I was chasing those extra two or three points. I think DeMar [DeRozan] hit a big shot, and then [James] came out and hit the winner of the game.
“It was kind of a perfect ending. Obviously I got the MVP; I played well all night. He hit the winner of the game. The whole history of our series and the Akron tapes, and all that sort of thing about how the night went, so it was beautiful — can’t really draw it any other way.
“It’s right on the nose of how it should go.”
Curry, who set the NBA record for three-pointers earlier this season, hit an absurd 16 three-pointers—which would be the most in any game in NBA history, breaking the previous All-Star Game record of nine. After setting the record in the first half with eight triples, Curry brought the crowd—whom the Golden State Warriors star had booed loudly before the game—to their feet when he landed five straight three-pointers early in the third quarter, including one in three. rightful possessions.
He then hit his 15th 3 — more than anyone has ever made in an NBA game — at the end of a series of passes that saw him pass to James, who threw it to Nikola Jokic, who went on to Giannis Antetokounmpo, who then waved it to Curry in the corner. Curry then let it fly, and he turned completely around to celebrate before the ball fell gently through the net.
During the next timeout, Curry said into the microphone he was wearing for TNT, “Can someone tell me what the record for points is?”
In the end, Curry finished with “only” 50 points — he missed a couple of three-pointers in the fourth quarter that would have allowed him to surpass the 52 points Anthony Davis scored to set the record in 2017 — before James ended the game. battle with his dagger over Zach LaVine.
“I couldn’t have dreamed it,” James said of hitting the game winner. “I couldn’t have dreamed of that moment better than the reality that just happened. For me to be back here, as I keep saying, 35 minutes [north] from where I grew up here in Akron, Ohio, to hit the winner of the game in the All-Star Game, where me and my boys watched the All-Star Game in the back. I remember 25 years ago when we were 12, 11 and wish we had the chance or the means to come to Cleveland and see some of the greatest basketball players of all time because they inspired us so much.
“For me to be here today, for my best friends to be here, for my wife and my children and my family, my mother. There are so many people who have watched me grow from a really young toddler to who I am today I couldn’t even — I couldn’t imagine that moment any better.”
The exploits of James and Curry — as well as Antetokounmpo, who was the only player from either team to play any form of defense for much of the evening — came together with their participation in the NBA’s 75th anniversary as the league honored the 75 greatest players in its history. A large group photo of those present was taken in the arena before the match started.
They were then honored at halftime with a ceremony performed by Oscar-winning director Spike Lee, including a video narrated by Oscar-winning actor Forest Whitaker and then each player was honored based on position – starting with attackers, followed by midpoints and ending with guards. The last announced player was Michael Jordan, who drew the biggest cheers of the evening.
“To be part of the 75 greatest basketball players who ever played it just takes me back to my childhood, growing up again in Spring Hill and having all my inspirations taped to my wall, Allen Iverson and Jason Kidd, Gary Payton, Michael Jordan, Magic Johnson, Oscar Robertson,” James said. “To see those guys today and then be on stage with those guys, it’s… you guys don’t understand.
“I’m trying to make you understand as much as possible, but it’s just crazy.”
The game itself used the format first introduced two years ago at the All-Star Game in Chicago, the Elam Ending, which brought the same level of intensity and competition to the closing moments this year as it did during its debut.
After the two teams played for charity each of the first three quarters – with the winner of each individual quarter earning $100,000 for the respective charity (Team LeBron plays for Kent State’s I Promise Scholars Program and Team Durant plays for the Greater Cleveland Food Bank) — the fourth quarter was played with a goal score.
During the introductions, it was no surprise that James received a huge ovation from the fans he has played for in 11 of his more than 18 NBA seasons — he let out a huge roar and raised his arms to the crowd as they did so.
Likewise, the two Golden State stars honored Sunday night — Curry, who did play, and Draymond Green, who didn’t — were expected to be outright booed after playing James and the Cleveland Cavaliers in the NBA Finals four years in a row, from 2015 to 2018 and won three.
Team LeBron won the first quarter 47-45, thanks to Luka Doncic scoring the team’s last six points. Team Durant came back and won the second quarter 49-46 — despite Curry’s record eight three-pointers in the first half — to take a 94-93 half-time break. The two teams then tied the score in the third quarter, thanks to an impeccable defensive play by Antetokounmpo late in the quarter.
That left the score at 139-138 in favor of Team Durant going into fourth, meaning the target score was 163 points – 24 more than the team leading after three points, in a nod to the late Kobe Bryant, and put on James’ final exploits after Joel Embiid and Antetokounmpo traded baskets during the fourth quarter.
“I was just trying to win,” Antetokounmpo said. “I’m really competitive. Kind of an All-Star Games, they’re not made for me. Obviously I’m coming here and trying to enjoy the game as much as possible, but I don’t know how not to go hard I feel kind of awful when I’m walking around because I always try to go full speed whatever I do because that’s how – what type of player I am.”
For the second year in a row, Team Durant was without its captain, as Kevin Durant was unable to play on Sunday due to the MCL sprain that sidelined him for the past month. Durant was originally scheduled to attend the game despite his injury, but didn’t after his grandmother’s death this weekend. Green (back, calf) and James Harden (hamstring) also missed the game due to injury, with LaMelo Ball, Dejounte Murray and Jarrett Allen respectively being tapped to serve as substitutes.
Donovan Mitchell announced Sunday a few hours before the tip that he would also not play due to an upper respiratory condition that prevented him from competing in anything on Saturday and ultimately the All-Star Game itself. Chris Paul, meanwhile, will miss at least the next six to eight weeks after suffering an avulsion fracture to his right thumb during Wednesday’s win over the Houston Rockets. And yet, despite that injury, Paul played just over two minutes into the first quarter of Sunday’s game, missing his only shot (a left-handed lay-up) before settling down for the night.
Team LeBron improved to 5-0 since the NBA moved away from the traditional East-West format of the All-Star Game in 2018 and instead adopted the current set-up of having the best vote-catcher of any conference draft team in the United States. remaining 22 of the game contestants.
But the competitive fervor that lasted until the final buzzer summed up how the change of format has breathed new life into this event.
“I think so,” Suns coach Monty Williams, who coached Team LeBron, said after the game when asked if the new format worked. “I think even for the last period there is a level of competition that you just haven’t seen before.
“Guys want to win the quarter. They want to change lives with that money. And we’re confused, we’re talking about winning the quarter, we’re not hanging out, and in the fourth quarter that’s NBA basketball, and you have the best of the best.
“You’re looking at Jarrett’s block on Joel, that was a prime-time play, Giannis’ steal, LeBron’s shot. Steph goes for 50. That’s not how you play when you’re fooling around.”