An inside look at the NBA All-Star Saturday events

In this Feb. 13, 2016, file photo, Minnesota Timberwolves' Zach LaVine slam dunks the ball during the NBA all-star skills competition in Toronto What was perhaps the best dunk contest in All-Star weekend history will not get a rematch. LaVine says he will not return to the event to try to win it for a third straight year. Photo credit: Associated Press

By Darrell Harris | Reporter

Year in and year out, NBA fans around the world unite in excitement for the NBA’s mid-season festivities. NBA All-Star weekend presents a sort of vacation for NBA players, commentators and fans alike where they can relax from the hustle and bustle of the regular season to simply be entertained by the best basketball in the world.

All-Star Saturday is meant to showcase the best talent that the Association has to offer. Three different events are scheduled every year that bring out the best shooters, dunkers and playmakers across the league to put on a show for the fans in attendance.

The main event of All-Star Saturday, and what has become the league’s trademark event, is the Verizon Slam Dunk Contest. This year’s contest is coming off what many believe was the best dunk contest in the last decade, thanks to Orlando Magic forward Aaron Gordon and Minnesota Timberwolves guard Zach LaVine. The two dueled to a triple overtime because they each kept getting perfect scores. Gordon left that evening last year as the runner-up, however he’s returning this year as the favorite to win the trophy many fans thought he was robbed of last year.

San Jose, Calif. sophomore Shiva Dhiman said he has a painful memory of Aaron Gordon from a summer league game in high school that he will never forget.

“I got on a fast break and put up a high-arching floater and he erased my shot,” Dhiman said. “He just sent it into the stands. He jumps higher than anyone I have ever seen in person before. I think he’ll win this year.”

Gordon has stiff competition this year in the form of Indiana Pacer Forward Glenn Robinson III, Center DeAndre Jordan of the Los Angeles Clippers, also known as Lob City, and Ball Is Life sensation Phoenix Suns Guard Derrick Jones Jr. (who is my sleeper pick to win). This slam dunk contest has the potential to be one the fans will be talking about for a while.

The best sharpshooters will compete for supremacy in the JBL Three-Point Contest. The contest this year is headlined by 2013 winner Kyrie Irving and defending champion Klay Thompson. Thompson, one half of the “Splash Brothers,” must outshoot Irving as well as 6 other snipers from around the league if he wants to become just the 6th person to repeat as champion.

Senior Joshua Dadson said he is confident Klay will pull off the repeat this year.

“He’s the best catch and shoot player in the league,” said Dadson regarding Thompson’s expertise at three-point shooting. “He always comes through on the big stage.”

What usually is the least notable event of the evening has a new twist this year that will provide some new intrigue. The Taco Bell Skills Challenge usually showcases the best guards in the league by exhibiting their proficiency in ball handling. However, due to the league’s ever-evolving nature, some of the best playmakers are now over 7-feet tall. So, to appease the disgruntled big men across the league who insist they are guards trapped in a big man’s body, this year’s event will feature the best playmaking point guards, forwards and even centers.

That will surely make for an interesting spectacle that NBA fans should enjoy.

This year’s NBA All-Star Saturday is on February 18, and will air live from the Smoothie King Center in New Orleans, La.