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Rating the NBA All-Star 2021 Skills Challenge

Updated: Apr 5, 2021

Yo everyone, not long ago I did an ‘As it Happened Blog’ for Superbowl LV in Tampa. I found that it was quite enjoyable to write down my thoughts and feelings as the action unfolded live in front of me.

This past Sunday the NBA had its All-Star Weekend playout in Atlanta. Just like the Superbowl, I stayed up late to watch all of the action live. However, rather than do a live account of all the action of NBA All-Star, I’ve decided to break it up into segments and rate each segment on its entertainment value.

Now, I’ve mentioned previously my profound love for Basketball, and especially the NBA. That means that the NBA All-Star Game is a must-watch event! Due to Covid (eww), things were a little different in Atlanta. There were no fans, no rising star game, no celeb game and the rest of the action was rammed all into one night instead of a traditional weekend.

However, we were still presented with The Skills Challenge, 3pt Contest, Dunk Contest and the main event itself; The All-Star Game.

First up on the nights billing was The Skills Challenge, and as a result, it will be my first segment under review. Now, I know most people will have no idea what the Skills Challenge is or how it plays out, so I will do my best to explain.

The Challenge is a 1 v 1 event that showcases Players abilities to handle, pass and shoot the ball. Aka, they showcase their skills. The Challenge plays out as follows:

-Players dribble the ball through a slalom

-They then have to do a chest pass through a round target

-Once they complete the pass they then take a new ball and dribble back down the court to complete a lay-up

-After the lay-up it’s a race back to the other end of the court to complete a 3pt shot

-Whichever player completes the challenge with a successful 3pt shot advances to the next round or is declared Champion in event of the final

Below is an image from All Star 2015 that explains my wording in a clearer fashion:

Who were the competitors?

In this years Skills Challenge we had the following players competing:

-Point Guard Chris Paul of the Phoenix Suns (aka the Point God, considered as one of the greatest ever in his position)

-Forward Julius Randle of the New York Knicks (enjoying a breakout year as a first time All-Star)

-Shooting Guard and Former Rookie of the Year Luka Doncic of the Dallas Mavericks

-Nikola Vucevic of the Orlando Magic (playing his best Basketball and becoming a trade target for contending teams)

-Forward Robert Covington of the Portland Trailblazers (who prior to the contest gave two students of his former university scholarship funding)

-Big Man Domantas Sabonis of the Indiana Pacers (another player having his best season to date)

The First Round Match-ups would see; Sabonis take on Randle and Vucevic take on Covington. Due to their multiple All-Star appearances, Chris Paul and Luka Doncic earned a First Round Bye.

First up was Sabonis vs Randle. They completed the slalom without a worry, but Randle struggled with the chest pass, missing on the first attempt. Sabonis had no such trouble, nailing the pass the first time. From there on in Randle was on the back-foot, Sabonis stayed ahead and nailed his 3pt shot first time of asking to advance to the next round.

Next up was Vucevic vs Covington; again neither of them had trouble with the slalom. Vucevic was the only one of the pair to nail his chest pass the first time. Covington hustled enough to be just a step behind Vucevic when it came to the 3 pt shot attempt, but it was too little, too late. Vucevic made his 3pt shot on the first time of asking to advance.

The 2nd Round began with Sabonis vs Doncic, the latter seeing his first slice of the action due to a 1st Round Bye. Sabonis carried on his form from the 1st Round, nailing his chest pass first time after the slalom. Doncic took a paltry three attempts at the chest pass and from here on in the contest was over. Sabonis strolled through his layup and 3pt shot to make it into the final. A bit of an upset considering Guards normally trump the bigger players in this competition. However, it is worth noting that since Big Men were introduced to the competition in 2016, they had accounted for 3 of the Champions since prior to Sunday's event.

Vucevic took on Chris Paul for his second-round match-up with Paul being the heavy favourite. Both players made the chest pass the first time of asking, but shockingly after streaking ahead down court, Chris Paul missed his layup. This meant it was neck and neck heading to the 3pt line, and after a flurry of misses from both players, Nikola Vucevic made the basket to set up an all European affair in the Final.

The big men kept pace with each other throughout the entirety of the final to set up a showdown at the 3pt line. Neither player could make the shot on their first attempt, or their second, or their third. Fourth time of asking Sabonis makes the shot to be crowned the NBA All-Star 2021 Skills Contest Champion (blimey that’s a long title).

So what did I think of the event?

The Skills Challenge is often seen as the most care-free of the contests at the NBA All-Star and that could be seen in the eyes of the players. Luka Doncic didn’t even get out of his practice sweats and subsequently lost his matchup even after being granted a 1st Round bye. The second of the 1st Round skipping Guards in Chris Paul missed his layup with a giddy smile on his face. It is no surprise that Sabonis won the contest as reportedly he was the only one practising before the event.

I found it to be a good opener to the activity on Sunday Night, had it been last years All-Star I would have rated the Skills Challenge slightly lower due to its light-hearted nature and the fact that the competition isn’t necessarily fierce. However, as you’ll find out in subsequent posts when I rate later events of the All-Star proceedings, the Skills Challenge ended up being one of the highlights of the evening. Also, on a personal note, I’m a huge fan of both of the finalists and they deserve huge respect for their versatility as big men of the NBA. This fact is proven with Sabonis becoming the Fourth Skills Champion since their aforementioned introduction to the competition in 2016.

So, all things considered, I shall rate the Skills Challenge a solid 7 out of 10. Next up I shall rate the 3pt Shooting Contest.

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