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NBA All-Star Weekend: Stephen Curry and Sabrina Ionescu put on a show — on a night that needed it

February 18th, 2024

INDIANAPOLIS — Thank goodness for Steph and Sabrina.

And Jaylen Brown.

Apparently the league’s superstars are now too cool and perhaps too afraid to put themselves out there in front of the world on Saturday night. Apparently they’ve forgotten what the “Star” means in “All-Star Saturday night,” choosing to sit out signature events, preferring to look cool on the sidelines.

Heck, they don’t even allow themselves to get excited anymore.

They’re too cool to cheer?

It’s been insinuated the superstars of today’s game have little incentive to participate in the dunk contest, nothing to gain except embarrassment. So it leaves non-NBAers like Mac McClung and Jacob Toppin to carry the mantle of the dunk contest.

There were more stars being used as props than participating, which is a sign of the disconnect between the league, its players and fans. Brown, a mainstay at All-Star Weekend, at least had the gumption to put himself out there.

Nobody would call him some ultra-creative dunker but he is athletic and powerful. While the left-handed, Michael Jackson shiny glove dunk drew some laughs, it was at least a nod to all the social media jokes about him being simply a right-handed player.

It was humor and vulnerability in the moment. The social media world has certainly bridged the gap between the uncommon fan and star player, the critic with a lot to say and the forum to ensure powerful sentiments are expressed merely by pressing send.

And that noise has gotten to a lot of the stars.

The 3-point competition has less variance, a true make-or-miss proposition. But the stars still go out there, knowing they could have a cold spell in front of the world at the wrong time — heck even Michael Jordan did the 3-point competition and got the lowest score ever.

But who cares?

Golden State Warriors guard Stephen Curry hugs New York Liberty guard Sabrina Ionescu after Curry won their competition at the NBA basketball All-Star weekend, Saturday, Feb. 17, 2024, in Indianapolis. (AP Photo/Darron Cummings)

Stephen Curry and Sabrina Ionescu embraced the challenge on All-Star Saturday. (AP Photo/Darron Cummings)

Sabrina Ionescu, out of her season and natural element, put on a show in the 3-point showdown with Stephen Curry — shooting from the NBA line instead of the WNBA line, causing Curry to bring out his best effort.

She didn’t see a chance for embarrassment, she saw an opportunity for herself and the women’s game, and seized it. And the crowd was behind her, especially in the early going.

Not that they were against Steph, but that was the one time you could feel the electricity in the cavernous Lucas Oil Stadium — the moments before that 3-point contest.

It was almost as if the crowd was telling the league, “If you don’t think this is a big deal, why should we?”

Ionescu launched and hit and kept hitting — her score being tied for the best of the night aside from Curry.

You know, the best shooter ever produced.

She was cheered as she left the floor, not in defeat but in pride. Curry, the reigning king of all kings in the category, could’ve been clowned by social media and everyone else if he were bested by a woman.

It didn’t matter because the fierce competitor in him didn’t appear fazed by the possibility. It’s too bad the rest of the NBA’s constituency didn’t feel the same.

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It’s not easy to register creativity in the dunk contest nowadays. So much has been done and the limits of gravity seem to have peaked. But the fans and everyone else care less about the artistic nature of these dunks and more about who’s doing the performing.

You can hear the remake of a classic song by a new star and it’ll still sound good. And if today’s superstars jumped from the same spot with the same flair as Jordan and Dominique, they’d be applauded, not ridiculed.

The potential for growing the game and adding to the lore of the league’s rich history doesn’t seem to concern today’s stars, as we are told ad nauseam how much more athletic they are than previous generations, how much better prepared for the pro game they are than any era in NBA history.

But they keep their gifts tucked away out of fear.

The NBA doesn’t need to get rid of the dunk contest, they don’t need to add more LED screens, bells and whistles or any other gimmicks.

Saturday night, in the words of Jack Nicholson’s Joker in “Batman,” “needs an enema.”

Hopefully someone will take the opportunity that’s right in front of them, snatch the attention of the game and hold it in the palm of their hands and embrace the challenge.

Steph did it; he always does it.

Sabrina was elevated in her attempt, not diminished. Perhaps someone sitting cool on the sidelines or at some tropical island far away from Indianapolis recognizes the moment to come.

Perhaps someone will act on it soon enough, because the game needs it.

This content was originally sourced and posted at Yahoo! Sports – News, Scores, Standings, Rumors, Fantasy Games »
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