From Feb. 15-17, the basketball world turned its eyes to Charlotte. Something that hadn’t been done since the late 90s and early 2000s, or even as early as 1991, the last time Charlotte hosted the All-Star Weekend.
From 2001 to present day, there has been little to no basketball action in Charlotte. They’ve made the playoffs three times, being swept twice and losing in seven games once. Since 2001, when Baron Davis made the All-Star Game, they have had two Hornets represent in the game: Gerald Wallace in 2009 and Kemba Walker in 2016-2018.
The fact that Kemba Walker is now the second Hornet to make three All-Star Games and the second to be named a starter is nothing short of a miracle. Walker averaged 16.2 points on 39% shooting, extremely average numbers. Including this season, the past four seasons have seen Walker average 22.8 points on 43.3% shooting.
Even Walker did not know if he would ever make it here.
“I never saw myself playing at this level, and shooting the ball like this,” he said in an interview with ESPN’s Zach Lowe. Now, he’s starting the All-Star Game in his city.
Celebrity All Star Game
The All-Star Weekend kicked off with the Ruffles Celebrity All-Star Game on Friday evening. Team Staley defeated Team Bird 82-80. Team Staley’s starting five consisted of A’ja Wilson, Mike Colter, Dr. Oz, Famous Los and Jay Williams. Team Bird had Amanda Seales, Brad Williams, Quavo, Stefanie Dolson and Ray Allen. Famous Los (22 points) took home the MVP award over Quavo’s (27 points, 9 rebounds) back-to-back bid.
Rising Stars Game
Directly following that event was the Mountain Dew Ice Rising Stars Game. Kyle Kuzma of the Los Angeles Lakers and Jayson Tatum of the Boston Celtics combined for 65 points in Team USA’s win over Ben Simmons and Luka Doncic’s Team World 161-144. Kuzma took home MVP with 35 points and 6 rebounds.
On Saturday Night, the festivities began with the Taco Bell Skills Challenge. The contestants included: Mike Conley of the Memphis Grizzlies, Luka Doncic of the Mavericks, De’Aaron Fox of the Sacramento Kings, Nikola Jokic of the Denver Nuggets, Kyle Kuzma, Jayson Tatum, Nikola Vucevic of the Orlando Magic and Trae Young of the Atlanta Hawks. The event ended when Jayson Tatum’s half court heave dropped in ahead of Trae Young’s pull up jumper.
Three Point Contest
Directly following that was the Mountain Dew Three-Point Contest. The contestants included: Seth Curry of the Portland Trail Blazers, Steph Curry of the Golden State Warriors, Dirk Nowitzki of the Dallas Mavericks, Buddy Hield of the Sacramento Kings, Damian Lillard of the Portland Trail Blazers, Khris Middleton of the Milwaukee Bucks, Kemba Walker, Danny Green, Devin Booker of the Phoenix Suns and Joe Harris of the Brooklyn Nets. Kemba Walker, hometown hero, put up 15 points in the first round, but Steph Curry, Buddy Hield and Joe Harris advanced, with Joe Harris edging Steph Curry 26-24 in the final round.
Slam Dunk Contest
The final event of the night was the AT&T Slam Dunk Contest. The contestants included Oklahoma City’s Hamidou Diallo, Atlanta’s John Collins, New York’s Dennis Smith, Jr. and Charlotte’s very own Miles Bridges. Diallo defeated Dennis Smith, Jr. in the final round to take home the hardware.
NBA All-Star Game
The final and most watched event, the Kia NBA All-Star Game, brought All-Star Weekend to a close. Team LeBron ousted Team Giannis 178-164. Kemba Walker had a game high 8 assists in his hometown. Giannis Antetokounmpo finished with 38 points and 11 rebounds while Kevin Durant, who won MVP, had 31 points and 7 rebounds.
It was a successful weekend with all eyes on Charlotte. Now Charlotte, currently the seventh seed, will continue to fight towards the playoffs but with their eyes on what comes after.
Kemba Walker will become a free agent. Charlotte has the ability to offer him more money than any other team, but with several bad contracts on the roster still, it might prove difficult. However, Walker, who recently bought land in Charlotte to build a home, remains hopeful that he will remain in Charlotte. He said in an interview with Shaun Powell of nba.com, “There’s something to be said for being on a team for your whole career. Not many players have done that. Only a select few. That’s a goal to accomplish.”
All-Star Weekend came to a glorious close, and Walker said goodbye to his All-Star friends and foes and the eyes of the basketball world. He perpetually had a smile on his face and was genuinely happy to be involved. Here’s hoping it is not his last rodeo in the purple and teal.