NBA All-Star Weekend: Durant vs. Warriors, LeBron-Kyrie among reasons to be excited

NBA All-Star Weekend 2018 is upon us. Los Angeles will be shining even brighter than usual with the best players in the world descending on the city for three days of basketball and celebration. From the Rising Stars Challenge on Friday night, through the newly formatted All-Star Game on Sunday evening, it should be a thrilling weekend. 

Here are 10 reasons to be excited about what’s ahead:

The new All-Star Game format

Team LeBron vs. Team Stephen represents a new format, which is by far the most interesting thing about this year’s All-Star Weekend. It remains to be seen if the playground-style draft will do anything to increase competition (probably not), but at the very least it brings a fresh approach to a game that had become rather dull in recent years.

LeBron, Kyrie reunite as teammates

Kyrie Irving shocked the basketball world last offseason by demanding a trade away from LeBron James and the Cleveland Cavaliers. But now, the duo that helped bring the Cavs their first championship back in 2016 will be reunited for one game. LeBron picked Irving for his squad for Sunday night’s event, and they’ll both be in the starting lineup. Even if it’s just an exhibition game, it will still be pretty cool to see these two back on the same team again.

Kevin Durant vs. the other Warriors

For the second All-Star Game in a row, the Golden State Warriors will have four players on the floor. But this time, due to the new format, they won’t all be on the same team — though three of them will. Kevin Durant, drafted by Team LeBron, will go up against Stephen Curry, Klay Thompson and Draymond Green on Team Stephen. It will be fun to see the first time Durant has to guard one of his teammates, or vice versa.

High-flying rookies duel in Dunk Contest

Victor Oladipo and Larry Nance Jr. are impressive dunkers, but the main storyline in the Dunk Contest this time around is the two rookies vying for air supremacy. Throughout the season we’ve seen both rookies Donovan Mitchell and Dennis Smith Jr. throw down ridiculous slams during games. Now, they’ll have an actual contest to prove which one is the superior dunker. It should be all sorts of fun to see what tricks they come up with.

Bigs look to extend their reign in Skills Challenge

This is the third year in a row now that big men have been invited to participate in the Skills Challenge. And, wouldn’t you know it, they’ve come away victorious each time. In 2016, Karl-Anthony Towns took home the trophy, while Kristaps Porzingis was the champ in 2017. Now, big men across the league will be counting on Joel Embiid, Andre Drummond, Al Horford and Lauri Markkanen as they look to extend their reign in the Skills Challenge.

Sixers trio teaming up in Rising Stars game

The Philadelphia 76ers are taking The Process to the Rising Stars game. With Joel Embiid, Ben Simmons and Dario Saric, they’ll have three players suiting up — and they’ll all be on Team World. Knowing Embiid’s penchant for antics, and Simmons’ ability to put on a show with some slick passing skills, we should be more than entertained when all three Sixers get out on the floor together.

Three-Point Contest’s dangerous dark horse

Everyone knows Klay Thompson can shoot, and so can Bradley Beal. OK, everybody in the Three-Point Contest can shoot well, which is why they’re in the event. But Wayne Ellington is perhaps the most least-known participant, but that should change after Saturday night. The Miami Heat’s 3-point specialist is one of the most prolific shooters in the league. Only four players — James Harden, Paul George, Klay Thompson and Curry — have made more 3s than him this season. Ellington can really shoot it, and he should put on a show in his first appearance in the Three-Point Contest.

Watch Giannis go wild

Perhaps the most unique player in the league, Giannis’ ridiculous abilities are no longer Milwaukee’s best-kept secret. Everyone knows what the Greek Freak can do out on the court. Last year in his ASG debut, he made all sorts of incredible plays, including dunking over Curry. This time around, however, they’ll be teammates. Instead of Giannis dunking on Curry, maybe they’ll combine for some sort of awesome alley-oop. But even if they don’t, you can bet Giannis will bring the house down one way or another.

The G League Slam Dunk Contest

Most of the attention at All-Star Weekend obviously gets directed toward the NBA’s players and events, but it’s also All-Star Weekend for the G League. Their events are all on Sunday afternoon ahead of the NBA All-Star Game, and that includes their own dunk contest. And even though the names might not be as recognizable, the dunks are just as incredible. In fact, the G League Slam Dunk Contest often gives the NBA version a run for its money in terms of impressiveness. Just check out the 2016 edition:

The memes

Will it be a GIF? A screenshot? A video? Perhaps some combination thereof? Who knows! But one thing that’s for certain, however, is there will be at least one classic meme from All-Star Weekend. It might not be better than the excellent “two phones Paul Pierce” meme that last year’s All-Star Weekend gave us, but you can bet we’ll be getting some good content.