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All-Star Game remembers Kobe Bryant with tributes from Magic, Jennifer Hudson, Common


CHICAGO — The tributes to the late Kobe Bryant began well before Sunday night’s All-Star Game at the United Center.

Before the players were announced and the game tipped off, the lights went down and Lakers Hall of Famer Magic Johnson took center stage to make a speech honoring Bryant.

“We’ll never see another basketball player quite like Kobe,” said Johnson, who also paid tribute to the late NBA Commissioner Emeritus David Stern. “Scoring 81 points in one game. Scoring 60 points in his last game. And then winning five NBA championships.

“But what I’m really proud about when we think about Kobe Bryant, there’s millions of people in Los Angeles that don’t have a home. Kobe was fighting to get them homes and shelter every single day. He was passionate about that. He was also passionate about being a great father, husband, filmmaker. Young man won an Oscar. So we all are hurting. This is a tough time for the whole NBA family.”

Johnson led the crowd — which chanted “Kobe! Kobe!” — in an eight-second moment of silence, a nod to the number Bryant wore the first half of his career.

Chicagoan Jennifer Hudson, wearing the Lakers’ deep purple, also performed “For All We Know (We May Meet Again)” as images of Bryant flashed on a giant screen behind the stage.

South Side product Common followed with a rap dedicated to the great players from the city as well as Bryant before leading the introductions of players.

“A king named Kobe Bryant,” Common rapped as the arena lights lit up people and gold. “Even in the darkest times, you’ll feel Kobe’s light.”

There was also a video that featured Jesse Williams, among others, talking about Bryant’s relationship with Chicago Bulls champion Michael Jordan.

“Kobe, we miss you and I hope we made you proud,” Johnson later tweeted.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.





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A Love Letter to Basketball in the Windy City


As the first All-Star Weekend in Chicago since 1988 nears, we’re rolling out a bunch of content focused on the rich history and current state of hoops in the Windy CityChi-Town, stand up. 

Previous stories:

LIVE FROM MADISON STREET: Zach LaVine Talks Playing in Chicago

ALL OF THE LIGHTS: Remembering 1988 All-Star Weekend in Chicago

BORN & RAISED: Allie Quigley Has Been Repping Chicago Since Day 1

HOMECOMING: Kendrick Nunn’s Journey from Chicago to the NBA

Dear Chi,

We different. We know this. Not Paris different, not Harlem different, not Vegas, Lagos, Madrid, Sao Paulo, Sydney, New Orleans or South Central different. We stay a city within our own nation within our own world. Our flow, the way we roll, the way we think, feel about and react to things, the way we create, what we create, the reasons we create, different. We exist different.

This game ain’t just a game. It’s our export to the world. Our soul we keep. We bringin’ it back like it’s ’88. All-Star Weekend. Reminding the world who we are, where we stand and—more defiantly—what we stand on and for. We didn’t invent this game, just mecca’d it. GOAT’d it. Because we don’t follow our passion, we follow our effort. We don’t chase the end result, we embrace the process. While others trend set, we invent. We don’t just play D, we protect, baseline-to-baseline. Tony Allen and Pat Bev style. 

The mid-February classic that returns to us after a 32-year break is the culmination of decades of post-Jordan inspiration. It’s us contributing to the game in ways unmatched by any other place in the world. Since Jordan’s coming-out party that weekend (the same weekend that saw Mike Tyson marry Robin Givens here, too), the weekend where he ascended above the game and made the pound-for-pound alive title all his, all we gave to the game was the following: D-Wade, D-Rose, the Parkers: Candace and Jabari, KG via South Carolina, Tamika Catchings, three-time world champs Andre Iguodala and Shaun Livingston. Antoine Walker, Evan Turner, Cappie P, Michael Fin, Q-Rich, Jon Scheyer, officials James Capers and Marc Davis, the aforementioned Allen and Bev, Morgan Tuck, Juwan Howard, Jalen Brunson, Tyler Ulis, Sherron Collins, Will Bynum, Corey Mag, Jewell Loyd, Jamie Brandon, Ronnie Fields, the Pargos (Jannero and Jeremy), the Browns (Shannon and Sterling), and oh yeah, a kid named Anthony Davis. And they say the Dream Team changed the game. 

Shy people run. Chi people run things. We live by truism, not by code. A truism that creates a different character of man, woman and child that shed sweat on the streets that we call neighborhoods, on these courts we call home. It reflects who we are individually; it reflects what we rep as a city. Our character is defined between the water of Lake Michigan and the concrete of Kedzie; by the wind that hits our skin but never touches our bones; by the chain nets that hang from iron halos and nylon that will create string music inside the United Center come February. 

We are represented by Jake and Elwood, Cochise and Preach, Kanye and Parkay, Jordan and Pippen. We live by the difference between taking a gamble and being ambitious. Doubt to us equals not being prepared. Something we know nothing about. Our “Big Shoulders” alias comes with pride because it wasn’t given to us: we earned it. The world has always been resting on them. Second City to no one. And for those who don’t believe it, just ask someone from here during All-Star Weekend. We are not ashamed to remind those who don’t know or forgot who we are. We don’t argue, we simply disagree. We don’t create enemies, we just have low tolerance for all things faux, fake or phony. We don’t “friend” or “like” people we don’t know. We believe in shaking peoples’ hands. Eye to eye, I for I.

The new awakening has arrived. In the form of a basketball showcase we call the “Black Super Bowl.” We are its host. Here to put on, display our coexistence with a game that is, to us, what hip-hop is to NYC, film and movies are to L.A., modern technology is to Silicon Valley, capitalism is to Wall Street, corruption is to Capitol Hill, coffee is to Seattle, Nike is to Portland, Mickey Mouse is to Orlando, Donald Glover is to the ATL. That connectivity, that association. That bond shared between our city and this game called “ball” that is inseparable, undeniable and unconditional. That love.

So let’s show the world how we do. The real we. Where we shoot hoops, not people. Where presidents are from, not prisoners. Where we open the city’s door and say, “Take your Jordans off. Relax. Watch the carpet. Don’t chill, Chi-IL.” And let all visitors know that while other places play the game, we live it. And that sound everyone will be hearing all weekend is not basketballs dribbling.

It’s our heartbeat.

Scoop Jackson is a senior writer for ESPN.

Photos via Getty and Matthew Yarnell.





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NBA All-Star Game 2020: Kobe Bryant tributes, Trae Young’s MVP chase, Elam Ending among 20 reasons to watch


The Friday and Saturday competitions at NBA All-Star weekend in Chicago are in the books — Bam Adebayo took home the skills trophy, Sacramento’s Buddy Hield won the 3-point contest and Derrick Jones Jr. edged Aaron Gordon in the dunk contest — and now it’s time for the grand finale: Team LeBron vs. Team Giannis. So let’s get to it. 

Here are 20 reasons to be excited about the 2020 NBA All-Star Game. 

1. A new format through three quarters

Trying out different ways to energize the fan base and potentially make the game more competitive, each of the first three quarters will effectively be its own game this year, with the score being reset at the start of the second and third quarters. In other words, a winner will be determined for the first, second and third quarters, with the winning team from each earning $100K to donate to a charity of the captain’s choice. 

2. The Elam Ending

This is really interesting, and there are a lot of people who think this could eventually catch on for real. The Elam Ending is simple: Instead of the game being over when the 12-minute fourth-quarter clock runs out, there won’t be a clock, and instead, the winner will be determined by reaching a target score. After the scores from all three quarters have been combined, the target score will be set 24 points above the total held by the leading team. Whoever hits that score first, wins. 

There are a couple of reasons for this, but the general goal here is that the end of NBA games can be a pretty boring drag to the free throw line. When you’re playing to a target score rather than on a clock, there’s no incentive to intentionally foul if you’re the team that is losing; all you’re doing is putting your opponent closer to the target score with free throws. If you’re the leading team, there is also no incentive to stall. Everyone is playing to a number, which also creates some kind of game-winning shot every time. That, after all, is the only way the game can end. There is no clock to run out. 

Whichever team reaches the target score first gets an additional $200,000 for charity. 

3. Kobe tributes

As mentioned above, the fourth-quarter target score will be determined by adding 24 points to the leading team’s total. That’s for Kobe. The original plan was to use a plus-35 model. 

Also, all players on Team Giannis will wear No. 24 to honor Kobe, while everyone on Team LeBron will wear No. 2 in honor of Bryant’s daughter, Gianna, who was also one of the nine victims in the helicopter crash. 

There will almost certainly be a video tribute for Bryant who played in 18 All-Star games. Jennifer Hudson, a grammy-winning singer from Chicago, will perform a pre-game tribute to all nine victims of the crash. Maroon 5 will also do a pre-game tribute during the TNT American Express Road Show. 

Finally, Commissioner Adam Silver announced on Saturday that the All-Star Game MVP award will, beginning this year, be known as the Kia NBA All-Star Game Kobe Bryant MVP Award. Bryant is tied with Bob Pettit for the most All-Star MVPs in history with four. 

5. Playing for the kids

As mentioned above, each team captain has picked a charity to play for on Sunday. Team LeBron is playing for Chicago Scholars, whose mission, per its website, is to “uniquely select, train, and mentor academically ambitious students from under-resourced communities to complete college and become the next generation of leaders who will transform their neighborhoods and our city.”

Team Giannis is playing for After School Matters, which, per its website, is a “non-profit organization that provides life-changing after-school and summer program opportunities — [designed to help develop students develop their individual talents and] critical skills for work, college and beyond — to nearly 19,000 Chicago high school teens each year.”

Again, the winning team from each quarter will send $100,000 to its chosen charity, while the overall winner via the fourth-quarter Elam Ending will send $200,000. 

6. Place your bets

If you want to get a little action on the All-Star Game, here are a few of the lines available via William Hill Sportsbook:

  • Team LeBron vs. Team Giannis spread: Team LeBron -6.5
  • Team LeBron vs. Team Giannis over-under: 306.5
  • Team LeBron vs. Team Giannis money line: Team LeBron -220, Team Giannis +190

Our Sam Quinn loves the under in this game based on the logic that it’ll take the oddsmakers a year to figure out how to handicap the new Elam Ending format, which will obviously lead to lower fourth-quarter scoring with a capped number. 

Before making any 2020 NBA All-Star Game picks, be sure to see the predictions from SportsLine’s elite NBA handicapper, Mike Barner

7. LeBron set to pass Kobe for ASG starts

After passing Kobe earlier this season for third place on the NBA career scoring list, LeBron will also pass Kobe on Sunday for the most All-Star starts with 16.  

8. LeBron can match Kobe’s ASG MVPs

As mentioned above, Kobe is tied with Bob Pettit for the most-ever All-Star MVPs with four. LeBron currently has three and has the chance to match that mark. Wouldn’t that be something to match Kobe’s number in the first year the award has been renamed in his honor? 

Side note: Anthony Davis, Chris Paul and Russell Westbrook could become the 15th different All-Star to win multiple MVP awards.

9. First-time All-Stars

While the old guards like LeBron, Paul, Westbrook probably aren’t going to have any All-Star Game jitters, Trae Young, Luka Doncic, Jayson Tatum, Devin Booker, Rudy GobertBrandon IngramDomantas SabonisDonovan MitchellBam Adebayo and Pascal Siakam will all be making their All-Star debuts. Per Elias Sports, the10 first-time All-Stars are the most in a single year since 2009-10, which boasted nine newbies. 

10. Youth movement

In keeping with the first-timer movement, eight All-Stars this year are under the age of 24 – the most since the league’s first All-Star Game in 1951 (nine). The under-24 players, from youngest to oldest, are Luka Doncic (20), Trae Young (21), Jayson Tatum (21), Brandon Ingram (22), Bam Adebayo (22), Donovan Mitchell (23), Ben Simmons (23) and Domantas Sabonis (23).

11. International flavor

Per the NBA: A record eight international players from seven countries have been named 2020 NBA All-Stars: Giannis Antetokounmpo (Greece), Luka Doncic (Slovenia), Joel Embiid (Cameroon), Rudy Gobert (France), Nikola Jokic (Serbia), Domantas Sabonis (Lithuania), Pascal Siakam (Cameroon) and Ben Simmons (Australia).

12. Basketball Without Borders paying off

Basketball without Borders is a global basketball development and community outreach program that has taken place in 27 countries on six different continents. It is designed to spread the game and its opportunities all over the world, particularly in places that tend to lack basketball exposure. 

It’s paying off. Joel Embiid and Pascal Siakam — starters on Team Giannis — are both Cameroon natives and former Basketball Without Borders (BWB) campers.

13. Giannis chasing LeBron’s legacy

LeBron is the leading total scorer in All-Star Game history, and it’s not even close (34 ppg). James also leads in free throw attempts (36), free throws made (T-1st with Kevin Durant with 26), 3-point attempts (106), 3-pointers made (36) and rebounds (96). He’s second in assists (88) and steals (18). 

Giannis Antetokounmpo, for what it’s worth, has the best ASG scoring average (three games or 60 points minimum) at 36 ppg. It will take a while, but Giannis could be some who might be able to eventually catch LeBron in All-Star Game scoring. You would think Luka Doncic would have a pretty good shot, too. 

14. G League influence: 

The NBA G League is becoming an increasingly viable route to NBA stardom. A record three G League veterans are NBA All-Stars this year: Rudy Gobert, Khris Middleton and Pascal Siakam, with Siakam being the first former G Leaguer to be named an NBA All-Star starter.

15. Chicago hosting All-Star for the third time

Chicago also hosted the All-Star Game in 1973 and 1988. On four cities have hosted more All-Star Games: Los Angeles (6), New York (5), Boston (4) and Philadelphia (4). 

16. An intimate venue

The capacity inside Chicago’s United Center is 23,500, which will pale in comparison to the biggest crowds in All-Star Game history. 

DATE

VENUE

CROWD

Feb. 14, 2010

Arlington, Texas (AT&T Stadium) 

108,713 

Feb. 12, 1989

Houston (Astrodome)

44,735

Feb. 10, 1985

Indianapolis (Hoosier Dome)

43,146

Feb. 11, 1996

San Antonio (Alamodome)

36,037 

Feb. 8, 1987

Seattle (Kingdome)

34,275

Feb. 4, 1979

Pontiac, Mich. (Silverdome)

31,745 

17. Anthony Davis returns home

Davis is from Chicago, and people ran wild last summer when he said he’d “definitely” consider playing for the Bulls at some point in his career. “I mean, (this is) definitely hometown,” Davis said. “If the opportunity ever presents itself and when that time comes, I’d definitely consider it.” 

As the Chicago hopeful logic goes, Davis is a free agent this summer and is thus open to sign anywhere he wants, having turned down an initial contract-extension offer from the Lakers. But don’t count on it. Davis leaving the Lakers would be a shock. He’s merely playing this out to make the most money possible. 

18. Teammate rivalries

Two sets of teammates will square off in Sunday’s game: From the CelticsKemba Walker (Team Giannis) will go up against Jayson Tatum (Team LeBron), while the Sixers’ Ben Simmons (Team LeBron) and Joel Embiid (Team Giannis) will also square off. Simmons and Embiid also played against one another last year. Little subplot: A lot of people think they’d be better off playing on separate teams for real. 

19. More Chicago roots

There will be a musical performance by Chicago native Chance The Rapper, who also played a central role in many of the dunk contest gimmicks on Saturday night, serving as the guy Aaron Gordon was flying over. As mentioned above, Jennifer Hudson, also a Chicago native, will be performing a pregame tribute to all nine victims of the helicopter crash that killed Kobe Bryant and his 13-year-old daughter, Gianna. 

20. Predictions

Give me Team LeBron for the win. James’ team is stupid stacked. For the MVP, I’m going to take Trae Young. This guy is absolutely built for All-Star games — razzle-dazzle passing and easy 40-foot range on his shot. He’s going to be casting from everywhere, and if he gets hot, he has the kind of personality to play to the crowd and keep firing. 





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Cavaliers owner Dan Gilbert back at work after stroke


DETROIT — Cleveland Cavaliers owner Dan Gilbert, who is the Quicken Loans founder and chairman, is slowly returning to work eight months after he had a stroke.

Gilbert, 58, returned to his Detroit office early this year. He’s there one or two days a week, using a wheelchair and accompanied by a service dog named Cowboy. He also spends three or four hours a day working with physical and occupational therapists at his home.

“When you have a stroke, here’s the problem with it: Everything is hard. Everything,” Gilbert told Crain’s Detroit Business in his first interview since the stroke. “Like, you wake up, getting out of bed is hard, going to the bathroom is hard, sitting down eating at a table is hard. You name it. You don’t get a break. You’re, like, trapped in your own body.”

Gilbert is scheduled to give his first public speech since the May 25 stroke this Friday at the Crain’s Newsmakers of the Year luncheon in Detroit.

It’s a change of pace for the hard-charging executive, who also owns the American Hockey League’s Cleveland Monsters and the NBA G League’s Canton Charge. Right before his stroke, Gilbert was texting Michigan’s governor about a deal to get long-term funding for road repairs.

Gilbert was hosting a party just before Memorial Day when his vision seemed suddenly blurry. His wife and a physician friend persuaded him to go to the hospital after he started showing other signs of a stroke, including facial asymmetry, arm drift and speech difficulty.

Gilbert said he had a blood clot in his carotid artery that was cutting off the blood supply to his brain. Doctors implanted seven stents inside his carotid artery to open the blood vessel.

“If that artery was blocked more minutes than it was, it would have been much worse,” Gilbert said.

Gilbert spent eight weeks at a rehabilitation center in Chicago last summer. He is able to walk with a cane but still struggles to move his left arm.

Gilbert said his current priority is the construction of a skyscraper in downtown Detroit. His real estate company, Bedrock Detroit, broke ground on the building in 2017.



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Kemba Walker: Jayson Tatum ‘Best Player on the Court’ vs Clippers


Jayson Tatum was the “best player on the court” Thursday night, says Celtics teammate Kemba Walker.

Tatum finished with 39 points and nine rebounds in just under 48 minutes, leading Boston past the visiting LA Clippers in a 141-133 double-overtime win.

The 21-year-old NBA All-Star also held Kawhi Leonard to 3-for-11 shooting when matched up against the reigning Finals MVP.

Per ESPN:

“Thus far, yeah,” Walker said, when asked if this had been the best game Tatum had ever played. “He was incredible. He made every right play. He made every big shot. He was the best player on the court tonight.”

And, afterward, he admitted that getting the chance to play against players such as Leonard and Paul George (who left the game in the second quarter because of a strained left hamstring) helped boost his level of play.

“Any time you get a chance to play against guys you look up to, or arguably are the best guys in the league, it definitely kind of raises your level of play,” Tatum told ESPN. “I enjoy competing against the best players.”

Tatum was not only competing against the best players — he looked like one of them.

“It’s fun [to see],” Walker said of Tatum’s growth. “I’m glad I get to be a part of it. It’s just special. He’s been playing really well, but not only has he been scoring, he’s just been making the right play. I think that’s what’s most important. You’re driving and kicking, he’s seeing his reads, and he’s doing the right things.”

Related Gregg Popovich: Jayson Tatum ‘Could Be Like Kawhi and Paul George’





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Elam Ending takes center stage in 2020 NBA All-Star Game: ‘Someday it’s going to be everywhere in basketball’


CHICAGO — Nick Elam remembers having his notebook out, ready to go. He was at Philadelphia University for The Basketball Tournament’s play-in games, watching an idea he’d dreamed up a decade earlier come to life. At the first dead ball after four-minute mark of the fourth quarter, the clock would be turned off, and both teams would compete to meet the target score, seven points greater than the score of the leading team. Having studied the endings of thousands of regular games, Elam was fully expecting to be in research mode.

“I don’t think I marked down anything,” Elam told CBS Sports. “I went back later and watched the ESPN3 broadcast and gathered all my data. But I realized when I was there, I was like, all right, I’m just going to take this all in.”

Elam said this on Friday, about 48 hours before he will see his idea, the Elam Ending, on a much bigger stage. On Sunday, for the first time in the history of the NBA All-Star Game, the entire fourth quarter will be played without a running clock. Team LeBron and Team Giannis will play to a target score of 24 points greater than the leading team’s total in the first three quarters. For Elam and TBT founder Jon Mugar, who also spoke to CBS Sports ahead of the game, the hope is that this is just the next step for the concept. 

“After having sat through now 134 Elam Ending games, it’s just unequivocally better,” Mugar said.

The gist of the origin story: Elam cold-emailed everyone he could think of with his idea, and Mugar opened the one addressed to info@thetournament.com. Attached was a 67-point PowerPoint presentation, which Mugar read at the perfect time. He had been looking for a way to address the rampant late-game fouling in TBT games.

Elam is a Mensa member and a professor at Ball State who worked on the Cincinnati Reds groundskeeping grew simultaneously to becoming a teacher and a school principal. Before starting TBT, Mugar was a comedy writer and producer — his IMDB page is full of credits on “Tim and Eric Awesome Show, Great Job!” Elam is a die-hard fan of the show. 

“It was great from the get-go,” Mugar said. “I think we share a lot in common. Except I’m not anywhere close to being Mensa.”

The biggest challenge facing the Elam Ending, Mugar said, is that there is no historical precedent. When he watched that first game in Philadelphia, he was “hiding behind the bleachers or something,” a nervous wreck worried about the referees’ comfort level. Before the TBT went all-in the following season, he wanted to know that everyone involved was committed to it. After eavesdropping on conversations in the stands, he is a believer. 

“As long as people give it a shot, I feel very optimistic that someday it’s going to be everywhere in basketball,” Mugar said. “For Sunday night, that’s an exhibition game, obviously the stakes aren’t high, so it’s a much different feel. I don’t have any delusions that it happening on Sunday will lead to widespread adoption, but I will say if there happens to be a great finish — maybe there’s a 20 percent chance that there’s an amazing finish because of the Elam Ending — that’s something that everyone’s going to jot away at the back of their minds, from fans to organizers to players. And this problem of prolonged games going down to the wire is not going away. So if it goes well on Sunday, I just think it’s going to expedite the time frame.”

The idea may be Elam’s baby, but he insists he has looked at it with a critical eye all along. At the beginning, he even thought it seemed gimmicky himself. The more he thought about it, though, the more he saw it as “an anti-gimmick,” which produces “a style of play that is less gimmicky than what we see at the end of games now,” Elam said. The tough part was making others see It his way.

At this point, though, both Elam and Mugar have honed their pitches. According to Elam, there are five primary aims of the Elam Ending: stopping trailing teams from fouling deliberately, stopping leading teams from stalling, reducing rushed and sloppy end-of-game possessions, increasing the likelihood of late comebacks and creating more memorable game-ending moments. It has been successful on all these fronts in the TBT.  

“If Naismith invented the game 130 years ago with the Elam Ending and someone came along 130 years later and tried to implement the timed ending, it would be like the biggest, most massive failure of all-time, with players hitting each other, everything going to the free-throw line,” Mugar said. “Fans would storm out after one game and say, ‘This is the dumbest thing ever.'”

In between the 2017 and 2018 tournaments, Mugar casually informed Elam in a phone conversation that Chris Paul loved the idea. Earlier, Paul’s brother, C.J., had emailed that same info@thetournament.com address to say that Paul was a huge fan. Paul coached a TBT team in 2019 and met Elam at a championship-week game in Chicago last August. “As excited as I was to meet him, he acted more excited to meet me,” Elam said. More consequentially, Paul called NBA commissioner Adam Silver and suggested using the Elam Ending in the All-Star Game. 

As valuable as it is to have Paul as an advocate, Elam would still like to have a seat at the table with the NBA. He is convinced that, if the league has questions, he can offer informed answers based on his research. He would also like the league to acknowledge him in a lasting way. 

“I want the Elam Ending name to live on,” Elam said. “I’m thrilled that they are using my idea, but I don’t want them to steal my idea.”

Mugar doesn’t necessarily think that the Elam Ending will incentivize All-Stars to play harder — that has more to do with stakes. He knows deep down that it doesn’t really matter whether or not the enormous audience sees something incredible on Sunday, and that chances are it won’t. This did not stop him from joking that he’ll be hiding under the bleachers again. 

“It’s best viewed over a long sample size,” Mugar said. “But I’m going to want it to go well, and I’m going to be nervous.”

Elam prefers the TBT format — it now adds eight points to the winning team’s total with four minutes remaining to get to the target score — to the one that will be on display in the All-Star Game: “You feel the finish line there, and people get on their feet and they stay there for the whole final stretch.” Shutting the clock off for the entire fourth quarter might not create the same sense of urgency when untimed play begins. He also cautioned that the fourth quarter could zoom by. Initially, on Jan. 23, the league informed him that it was planning to use a plus-35 model, to simulate a regular fourth-quarter score, but that was changed to plus-24 after the helicopter crash that killed Kobe Bryant.

“I just hope the game is close going into the fourth quarter ’cause, man, don’t blink,” Elam said. “Because that fourth quarter is going to be over quick.”

Regardless of how long it takes, Elam will be attuned to the atmosphere at the United Center. Part of this for obvious, sentimental reasons, and part of it is practical. After attending TBT games, he has learned that it’s more valuable to feel how the crowd reacts to the Elam Ending than it is to dissect everything possession by possession in real time. The All-Star Game will be recording at home, but he will not have his notepad out at his seat. 

“I’m just going to soak it all in,” Elam said. 





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Derrick Jones Jr. edges Aaron Gordon in controversial dunk contest


CHICAGO — Miami Heat forward Derrick Jones Jr. outlasted Orlando Magic forward Aaron Gordon in a memorable slam dunk contest on Saturday that required two tiebreaker jams.

But the final result was not without controversy, with at least two judges contending afterward that they wanted the second dunk-off to end in a tie and Gordon saying he’s done participating in the contest during NBA All-Star Weekend.

“We thought it was going to be tied. We were like, ‘This is a tie!'” one judge, hip-hop artist Common, told ESPN’s Ramona Shelburne. “But somebody didn’t do it right. I don’t know who it is.”

Los Angeles Sparks star Candace Parker, another judge on the panel, confirmed that they had intended for the second dunk-off to result in a tie.

It wasn’t clear if Jones and Gordon would have dunked again had it still been tied after Gordon’s final attempt. The NBA was not going to permit co-champions, and there would have been a point — which they were possibly at — when judges would have had to vote and decide a winner.

Jones and Gordon each netted perfect 50s in the final and in the first dunk-off — setting up for the second tiebreaker. Jones took off from just inside the foul line and threw down a windmill jam with his left hand, drawing a 48 from the panel of five judges. Gordon, after a short discussion with Hall of Famer Shaquille O’Neal, brought out 7-foot-5 Boston Celtics rookie Tacko Fall and took the ball from Fall’s hands while jumping over him on the way to a thunderous dunk.

The jam was met with gasps from the United Center crowd, but Gordon was awarded only a 47, giving the victory to Jones.

Parker and Common each awarded Gordon a 10 for the dunk, with the other three judges — Dwyane Wade, Scottie Pippen and Chadwick Boseman — each giving him a 9.

“I really felt it was an even battle, and we, as judges, felt the scores should be even and they should just have a judge-off,” Common told Shelburne. “We had the cards. Put your card up for who had the best dunks.”

Gordon thought his dunk over Fall deserved a higher score than he got.

“I did four straight 50s — five straight 50s,” Gordon said. “That’s over. It’s a wrap. Let’s go home. Four 50s in a row in an NBA dunk contest, it’s over. But I don’t know. Who’s running the show?”

Gordon, who also lost a memorable dunk contest to Zach LaVine in 2016, said he was done with the contest.

“It’s a wrap, bro,” he said. “I feel like I should have two trophies.”

Los Angeles Lakers star LeBron James agreed.

Jones, after the contest, thought the Gordon-Fall dunk wasn’t totally smooth, perhaps sealing the deal for him.

“He clipped Tacko’s head, so they couldn’t give him a 50,” he said. “I expected them to give him a 48 so we could go again.”

ESPN’s Ramona Shelburne and Malika Andrews contributed to this report.





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Basketball

Jimmy Butler Shows Love For Chicago


Jimmy Butler spent six seasons playing for the Chicago Bulls and hasn’t ruled out a return at some point in the distant future. The All-Star swingman was drafted by the franchise back in 2011 and it was with them that he evolved into one of the game’s most formidable players.

Though he’s beyond content plying his trade on a Miami Heat team that’s shattered expectations in 2019-20, Butler told the All-Star Weekend media that an eventual return to Chicago at some hypothetical point in the future, perhaps toward the end of his career, would be a “definite possibility“.

Butler’s first tenure in Chicago came to an end in the summer of 2017 when he was acquired by former Bulls boss Tom Thibodeau then with the Minnesota Timberwolves. Butler joined his coach and a number of ex-teammates from his time with the Bulls then but his love for Chicago remains strong.

Butler explained that he still owns property in Chicago and spends time there in the summer.

As a member of the Bulls, Butler saw seven playoff series in six years. Since his departure from the Windy City, he’s suited up for the Timberwolves, Philadelphia 76ers and now Heat.

Butler’s 2020 All-Star Game appearances marks the fifth of his career, the first three coming while he was still a member of the Bulls.

The fact that this year’s event is hosted in Chicago gives the shooting guard all the more reason to reflect back on his time with the franchise.





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Basketball

NBA Dunk Contest 2020: Ranking top eight slams from Derrick Jones Jr. and Aaron Gordon’s epic battle


On All-Star Saturday night in Chicago, Derrick Jones Jr. of the Miami Heat edged Orlando’s Aaron Gordon by a single point in one of the most electric, and controversial, Slam Dunk Contests in history. Gordon, after recording five straight perfect scores, closed the contest by dunking over 7-foot-5 Tacko Fall, but somehow still fell short

Jones Jr. was phenomenal in his own right, and he’s an exceedingly worthy champion. He and Gordon put on a wild show. And there was at least one big-time dunk from someone other than Jones Jr. and Gordon. Dwight Howard also competed, and we’ll leave his contributions at that. 

Without rambling anymore, here’s a ranking of the best dunks from Saturday night. 

1. Gordon off side of backboard, 360 windmill

On a night full of spectacular dunks, this, to me, was the one that truly blew everyone away. There is so much to this dunk. It’s not the first time we’ve seen someone go off the side of the backboard, but to catch it from well outside the restricted area and execute not just a 360, but a full windmill 360, is incredible. Throw in the fact that he was blind most of the time he was in the air on this dunk, meaning he had to pick up the rim, lose it, then relocate it at the last second, and that’s another layer of difficulty. And finally to finish it with this kind of power after all those moving parts? Nothing topped this on Saturday night. 

2. Jones Jr. off glass, through the legs and over a grown man

Again, a multi-layered dunk. First he catches it off the backboard. Then he puts it through his legs. All while jumping over an adult-sized male (not Chance the Rapper). Taken on their own, none of these maneuvers is extraordinary. But to put them all together is some kind of feat, and that’s to say nothing of the power with which he did so. 

Putting it through his legs after the catch is the most impressive part of this dunk, because we’ve seen guys do this while someone is holding the ball in place, but in that case you can push the guy’s head and shoulders down a little bit to clear room to put the ball through your own legs (as Gordon had done earlier in the contest). Off the catch, Jones Jr. had to clear the guy’s head by enough to put the ball through cleanly. If you look at it in slow motion, even though the guy clearly dips his own head, you can easily see how much room Jones Jr. has to spare. 

3. Jones Jr. windmill from the foul line

OK, so he was a half step inside the free-throw line. Sue me. Think about this: Two of the most iconic dunks in history are Michael Jordan’s free-throw takeoff (he was also a step inside the line) and Dominique Wilkins’ windmill. Jones Jr. combined them. Jones Jr. only got a 48 for this dunk, which was its own kind of robbery. It was a better final dunk, in my opinion, than Gordon going over Tacko Fall, even though I think Gordon narrowly deserved the title. 

4. Gordon’s first dunk

This one got lost because it was Gordon’s first dunk of the night, but a couple things I love about this are the fact that the through-the-legs thing got a little redundant by the end, and this was the first one that really got people out of their seats. Also, look at the way Gordon goes backwards through his legs, meaning from his strong hand to his weak hand. Most of the time guys go the other way around so the ball ends up in their strong hand for the finish, but Gordon brought it through from right to left, and then after all that, he basically did Dominique Wilkins’ double-clutch between the legs reverse dunk to finish the action. Amazing. 

5. Gordon dunks over Tacko

Look, there’s some gray area here. Taco hunched down a little. Gordon propelled himself up a tad by pushing down on the ball. But at the end of the day, he cleared a 7-foot-5 dude. Give the man his props. And his title. 

6. Gordon over Chance, 180 with the reach back

So here’s the first thing: Most 360 dunks aren’t quite full 360s. Most of the time guys start their rotation before they actually leave the ground. So Gordon turning a full 180 degrees on this dunk is closer to the “360” dunks we over-glorify, and besides that, he’s again having to relocate the rim with his back to the basket. Also, he rotates clockwise. For a right-handed player, it is far more natural to rotate counter clockwise so you end up rotating back into a straight-on position. Gordon rotating against his body was why he had to reach back at the end. The little things about this dunk make it hugely impressive. 

7. Jones Jr. off side of backboard, through the legs

This one got a lot of love, and rightfully so. But we’ve seen that Jones Jr., and a lot of other dunkers, can go through the legs. As I said at the top, that trick got a little played out. That he got it off the side of the backboard makes for a nice twist but doesn’t really make the dunk that much more difficult, relatively speaking. Still, crazy athletic stuff we’re talking about here. 

8. Connaughton double clutches, touches glass

I’m going to give one dunk from someone other than Gordon or Jones Jr. some love. Connaughton and Dwight Howard didn’t belong in the same building as Gordon and Jones Jr., but this was a pretty nice dunk. He gets the double clutch down between the legs, and then he gets it back up quick enough to touch the backboard with the ball before slamming it through. Certainly nothing Gordon or Jones Jr. couldn’t have done in their sleep. He got a 45 for the dunk. Seems about right. 





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Basketball

Aaron Gordon somehow does not win dunk contest


The 2020 NBA All-Star Slam Dunk contest at the United Center in Chicago already had the potential to be memorable Saturday night.

2008 winner Dwight Howard was returning! Pat Connaughton was participating for the first time! Derrick Jones Jr. was back after coming in second back in 2017! And Aaron Gordon was ready after narrowly missing out on the crown in 2016!

Howard and Connaughton earned one 50 each, but neither made it to the final. That stage was reserved for Jones and Gordon.

Orlando Magic forward Gordon was particularly impressive, scoring 50s with his first five dunks of the night. The Miami Heat‘s Jones earned two 50s in the championship round along with Gordon, forcing a special dunk-off round. That’s where things took a turn.

After Jones and Gordon each scored 50 with their opening dunks of the extra round, Jones took off from just inside the free throw line with a windmill. The judging panel that included Dwyane Wade, Candace Parker, Common, Chadwick Boseman and Scottie Pippen gave Jones a 48.

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2:27

Aaron Gordon and Derrick Jones Jr. face off in the final round of the dunk contest, going to overtime before Jones prevails.

Gordon then brought out Boston Celtics two-way contract center Tacko Fall, completing a dunk over the 7-foot-5 big man. But to the horror of all (outside of Miami), the judges gave Gordon a 47, awarding Jones the victory.

Outrage ensued — particularly because Gordon watched Zach LaVine edge him out in a similarly extended 2016 contest. We haven’t seen folks this upset at an all-star exhibition since that baseball game that ended in a tie:

Naturally, Gordon was upset as well — so upset that he said he’s done with dunking for us all on All-Star Saturday Nights.

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2:06

Aaron Gordon tells Rachel Nichols that he’s disappointed he didn’t take home the dunk contest trophy but says next year he’s pivoting his efforts to the 3-point competition.

If Gordon does return to dunking, Jones did say he’s open to a rematch … but that might be a tough sell after Gordon’s three losses in the competition.





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