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NBA All-Star 2021: Bradley Beal to be part of an HBCU-themed experience on Sunday

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This game will be like no other.

Los Angeles Clippers v Washington Wizards
Bradley Beal will be part of the 2020-21 NBA All-Star Game tomorrow.
Photo by Patrick Smith/Getty Images

The 2021 NBA All-Star Game is tomorrow night. Here is a preview on what to look for.

Game Info

When and Where: Sunday, Mar. 7 at 8 p.m. ET for the game itself. However, the Skills Contest and three point contest begin at 6:30 p.m. ET. The dunk contest will be at halftime of the All-Star Game.

TV: TNT

What is the All-Star Game format like this year?

Each of the two teams are competing for charities and will try to win each quarter. The fourth quarter will not be timed where there will be a final target score to reach. The winning team after the first three quarters has to score 24 more points while the losing team has to make up the deficit in addition to 24 points.

The game is dedicated to HBCUs.

Whether it’s the court design, or musical performances by Clark Atlanta University’s Philharmonic Society Choir, Grambling State University’s and Florida A&M University’s marching bands playing the introductions or Divine Nine fraternities’ step teams also performing, this year’s All-Star Game will be a tribute to Historically Black Colleges and Universities.

In addition, all three All-Star Game referees, Tom Washington, Courtney Kirkland and Tony Brown are graduates of HBCUs.

Finally, the game presentation will have features on HBCUs tomorrow night, including NBA staff and players who attended them.

Fans will be at the All-Star Game after all

The All-Star Game is meant to be a made-for-TV event with virtual fans, 300 of whom are frontline workers or HBCU students according to the NBA. But 1,500 people will also be in attendance in socially distanced pods of two or four seats. These people aren’t paying customers, but rather invitees who are frontline workers or HBCU students and alumni.

Mike Conley replaces Devin Booker in the All-Star Game

On Friday evening, Mike Conley was named an injury replacement for Devin Booker in the All-Star Game. Conley will play on “Team Durant” alongside Washington Wizards guard Bradley Beal, who is starting for the first time in his career. The Utah Jazz guard has consistently played at an All-Star level but was consistently snubbed over the years. He is averaging 16.1 points, 5.7 assists and 3.5 rebounds per game this season.

Great to see that he’s finally getting his due here.

Who are in the other events?

Here are the players in the Skills Contest:

  • Robert Covington, Trail Blazers
  • Luka Doncic, Mavericks
  • Chris Paul, Suns
  • Julius Randle, Knicks
  • Domantas Sabonis, Pacers
  • Nikola Vucevic, Magic

The skills contest used to be a relay between point guards, but now it’s a timed competition between a group of guards against a group of post players. Half of the players are All-Stars.

Half of the players in this competition are from Europe, which tends to produce more technically sound players from a shooting and dribbling sense. Furthermore, the players have honed their talents in countries outside of the ones they were born in or represent in FIBA competition.

  • Sabonis is a Lithuanian American dual national. He’s the son of Hall of Fame center and Olympic Gold Medalist Arvydas Sabonis, who played for the Trail Blazers in the 1990s when he was born. While Sabonis was part of the Lithuanian team that won the silver medal in EuroBasket 2015, he played in Spain for a couple years before going to Gonzaga where he played college basketball for two seasons.
  • Doncic is a Slovenian player and was part of their EuroBasket 2017 gold medal winning team. But he only played senior level club basketball in Spain where he represented Real Madrid’s basketball team from 2015-18 (and was affiliated with them since 2012). Yes, Spain is one of the European basketball powerhouses, just like in soccer. Also, moving to Spain as a child is how and why Doncic is known to think of things in Spanish more than English as a second language.
  • Vucevic plays for Montenegro internationally, but he was born in Switzerland while his father Borislav played there. He moved to Belgium as a two year old after Borislav took his talents to Athlon Ieper in 1992 and played his last 11 years in the country, mostly with Okapi Aalst in 1996-2001. That time also allowed Vucevic to become a Belgian citizen. After his father’s career ended, Vucevic was in Montenegro for a short time before moving to the United States for his last years of high school and college at USC.

In America, we’re fortunate to have a lot of things laid out for us in one country. It’s interesting to see that many European NBA players have grown up in multiple countries though we tend to associate them with the country they play for.

Three Point Contest

  • Stephen Curry, Warriors
  • Jaylen Brown, Celtics
  • Jayson Tatum, Celtics
  • Mike Conley, Jazz (replaces Devin Booker)
  • Zach LaVine, Bulls
  • Donovan Mitchell, Jazz

All of the shooters are All-Stars this season. This contest doesn’t require too much energy, though arms could be a bit tired after a couple stretches of shooting 20 basketballs in a minute.

Dunk Contest

  • Obi Toppin, Knicks
  • Anfernee Simons, Trail Blazers
  • Cassius Stanley, Pacers

The dunk contest in recent years has featured young, up-and-coming players moreso than established All-Stars. The NBA has kept with this trend even though fans would probably want to see more All-Stars in what is considered the marquee competition of All-Star Saturday in a non-pandemic year.

Two of the dunkers (Toppin and Stanley) are rookies. Simons has established his reputation as a key reserve scorer moreso than as a dunker because he’s only dunked twice this season.

Will Bradley Beal have a chance to be the All-Star Game MVP?

That’s the biggest question for us because the Wizards’ chances of making the playoffs are slim.