This past NBA All-Star Weekend was one for the books for former Jayhawks. Kansas alumni Joel Embiid, Devonte’ Graham and Sviatoslav Mykhailiuk all arrived in Chicago to make appearances at the United Center.
Mykhailiuk and Graham both played in the NBA Rising Stars game on Friday, Feb. 14. Mykhailiuk was on the roster for Team World, matching up against Graham who represented Team USA. Graham's Team USA ended up besting Team World, 151-131. Graham scored 9 points, and went 3-for-7 beyond the arc. Mykhailiuk recorded 6 points (2-of-11 from the field) in 16 minutes of play.
Graham went on to participate in the Mountain Dew 3-Point Contest the next day.
Each contestant had to shoot from five main shooting locations with two extra ball pedestals equidistant to the others. These pedestals were coined the Mountain Dew Zones. The balls in those zones were worth three-points as opposed to the typical NBA game balls worth one-point or the money ball worth two-points.
Graham came up short with a score of 18 points and was eliminated in the first round of the contest due to a weak start. He was eliminated with Atlanta’s Trae Young (15), Miami’s Duncan Robinson (19), Brooklyn’s Joe Harris (22), and Chicago’s Zach LaVine (23).
Fellow Big 12 Conference alumnus, former Oklahoma Sooner Buddy Hield of Sacramento won the three-point contest with 27 points. In a press conference after the contest, Hield spoke on Graham and his competitiveness, calling him “special.”
The next day held the event everyone had been waiting for: the 69th annual NBA All-Star Game. The Philadelphia 76ers' Embiid suited up for Team Giannis, under team captain Giannis Antetokounmpo of the Milwaukee Bucks.
The team faced off against Team LeBron in what turned out to be a brutal brawl until the end. In contrast to previous years, the stars didn't hold back, taking charges and even screaming at refs. This NBA All-Star game will, without a doubt, go down as one of the greatest in recent history.
The NBA crafted a new format for the game this year and reset the game score each quarter. The winner of each quarter received a $100,000 donation to the Chicago-based charity of their choice. This new format allowed the players to stay competitive throughout the game.
Team Giannis represented After School Matters and Team LeBron represented the Chicago Scholars.
Chicago Scholars is a program that provides support for first generation college students from under-resourced communities in the Chicago area. They run a 7-year program to ensure help for students who are having trouble navigating the transitions into and throughout college, and to a career. Chicago Scholars graduates 83% of their scholars in six years, compared to the Chicago average of 48%.
After School Matters is a non-profit organization that provides Chicago high school teens with after-school and summer opportunities. Its goal is to provide Chicago public school teens with a chance to discover their potential. They have helped over 300,000 high school teens in the Chicago area.
After the first three quarters, the NBA added the twist of shutting down the game clock and switching to a target score. So, once the fourth quarter came around, the game wouldn’t finish until one of the teams reached the target score of 157, adding 24 points, the late Kobe Bryant’s jersey number, to the cumulative score of the team that was winning.
Both teams also honored Kobe and Gianna Bryant by all the members of Team Giannis sporting the number 24, and Team Lebron’s teammates wearing number 2, Gianna’s number on her basketball team. There was also a tribute to Kobe and all the lives lost in the devastating helicopter crash before the start of the game.
Team Lebron ended up victorious with a score of 157-155, and had a whopping $400,000 donated to Chicago Scholars. The Kia NBA All-Star Game Kobe Bryant MVP Award went to the Los Angeles Clippers guard Kawhi Leonard.
Embiid had a successful night, finishing with 22 points and 11 boards in 29 minutes of action. He expressed his excitement from the game in a tweet.
BEST ALL STAR GAME EVER!!!!! Fun weekend but can’t wait to go on this championship run #3 pic.twitter.com/apnXRq5unH— Joel Embiid (@JoelEmbiid) February 17, 2020