The biggest stars in basketball are headed to New Orleans for the NBA All-Star Game. The game will be played on Sunday at Smoothie King Center, the home of the Pelicans — but the festivities start today The Celebrity All-Star Game and Rising Stars Challenge kick things off, followed by the Skills Challenge, Three-Point Contest, and the Slam Dunk contest on Saturday night.
There’s a lot on the schedule, and some of the biggest events have been updated this season. So let Sports Illustrated Kids be your guide. Here’s what you need to know to get the most out of an action-packed weekend!
New Slam Dunk Contest Format
The Slam Dunk contest gets a makeover this year. Saturday’s competition will showcase an Eastern vs. Western Conference format for the six dunkers. Defending champion Terrence Ross of the Raptors, Paul George of the Pacers, and John Wall of the Wizards will represent the East, while Harrison Barnes of the Warriors, Damian Lillard of the Trail Blazers, and Ben McClemore of the Kings will attempt to win it for the West.
The new set up will include freestyle and battle rounds. During the freestyle round, each conference squad has 90 seconds to perform as many showstopping jams as they like. The battle round will feature one-on-one match-ups. Judges will select a winner from each match-up, and the first conference to win three match-ups will be crowned champions. There’s no individual scoring, but don’t fret. There will be a “Dunker of the Night,” which will be determined by the fans (you guys!) who can cast their votes via text message, Twitter, and on NBA.com.
Damian Lillard To Make All-Star History
Last year’s Rookie of the Year will enter the All-Star record books this weekend when he becomes the first player in NBA history to take part in five events: the Rising Stars Challenge, the Skills Challenge (which he won in 2013), the Three-Point Contest, the Slam Dunk contest, and the All-Star Game. Phew! I’m worn out just typing all of the events. But Lillard is up for the challenge — all of the challenges!
The Hardaways vs. The Currys
The family that hoops together, wins together…? We’ll see if that happens during the Shooting Stars contest, which involves a retired player, NBA player, and a WNBA player scoring from different spots on the court. There are four teams (including one with hot shooter Kevin Durant), but watch out for Team Hardaway (Tim Hardaway, his son Tim Hardaway Jr. of the Knicks, and Elena Delle Donne of the Chicago Sky) and Team Curry (Dell Curry, his son Stephen Curry of the Warriors, and Becky Hammon of the San Antonio Stars). It’ll be fun to watch the father-son duos swishing the net during their matchups.
Pharrell To Perform
Who’s “Happy” about Pharrell’s scheduled performance during Sunday’s player introductions for the All-Star Game? The man behind the Despicable Me franchise’s soundtrack will hit the stage before All-Stars LeBron James, Chris Paul, and Paul George step onto the court. So make sure you sing along!
Will Pierre the Pelican Heal In Time?
After suffering a broken beak in a pickup game with other NBA mascots, New Orleans Pelicans mascot, Pierre, underwent surgery this week. There’s no timetable for his return, however, with the All-Star festivities in New Orleans Pierre’s reconstructed beak has to be ready in time for Sunday’s big game, right? Let’s hope so. In the meantime, let’s send get well wishes to Pierre.
UPDATE! Pierre is back! After spending a little time in the hospital, Pierre is ready for the All-Star Game — and he has a new look for the big weekend in Nola. Check it out:
Photos: Juan Ocampo/NBAE via Getty Images, Garrett Ellwood/NBAE via Getty Images, AP Photo/Eric Gay, Anthony Gruppuso-USA TODAY Sports, Noah Graham/NBAE via Getty Images, Lester Cohen/WireImage, Derick E. Hingle-USA TODAY Sports, @PierrePelican