CHICAGO — The first event of 2020 All-Star Saturday Night is in the books, and the trophy went to Miami Heat big man Bam Adebayo. Already in Chicago for his first All-Star Game appearance, Adebayo made his weekend even sweeter by taking down Indiana Pacers big man Domantas Sabonis in the final round of the Skills Challenge.
While the event isn’t a straight Bigs vs. Guards format anymore, there were a number of big men participating, and they all put on a show. You would think the guards would have an advantage when it comes to agility, passing and shooting, but in the early rounds none of the guards made their first pass, while all of the bigs got it done on the first try.
As a result, there wasn’t much drama early on. Adebayo cruised past 2017 champion Spencer Dinwiddie, Pascal Siakam crushed Patrick Beverley, Khris Middleton knocked out Shai Gilgeous-Alexander and Sabonis snuck past defending champion Jayson Tatum in the closest contest of the first round.
In the semis, things got more competitive. First up, Adebayo and Siakam were neck-and-neck until the 3-point shot, where Adebayo got it done. On the other side of the bracket, Middleton lost control of his dribble on the way up for a layup, and wasn’t able to recover, allowing Sabonis to advance.
Evolution of the game continues
Big men have won the Skills Challenge before — Karl-Anthony Towns in 2015 and Kristaps Porzingis in 2016 — so it’s not like Adebayo’s performance was one of a kind, but it was yet another example of how the league is evolving. The bigs in the league are more skilled than ever, and that was evident on Saturday night.
The first main obstacle, after the agility course, is a chest pass, and none of the guards were able to make it on the first try. In fact, Shai Gilgeous-Alexander missed all three of his attempts. Meanwhile, players like Adebayo, Sabonis and Siakam all nailed the pass on their first try. Likewise, Adebayo and Sabonis each advanced to the final round thanks to some strong 3-point shooting, despite the fact that they rarely shoot them in real games.
Of course, it’s just one portion of the Skills Challenge, but it was still impressive to see the bigs excelling in what is usually the domain of the smaller players.
Unfortunately no drama
Last year’s event was an instant class. There was an interesting draw, dramatic comebacks and Jayson Tatum hit a halfcourt heave to steal the trophy from Trae Young. This time around, no such luck. It was still fun to watch, and especially to see in person for the first time, but it wasn’t a thrilling event.
Unfortunately, that’s just what happens sometimes. It’s a real competition after all, and there’s no script involved. It was neat to see Adebayo win a title for the bigs in his first trip to All-Star Weekend, but this isn’t an event that will live long in the memories of NBA fans.
Adebayo’s breakout season continues
The Heat are playing much better than expected this season, and Jimmy Butler’s arrival has been a big part of their 35-19 start. However, Adebayo’s emergence has been arguably just as important. Now in his third season, Adebayo is putting up career-high marks across the board, averaging 15.8 points, 10.4 rebounds, 4.9 assists, 1.2 steals and 1.2 blocks.
His breakout season continued on Saturday night with his win in the Skills Challenge.
“I don’t think it’s a breakout weekend,” Adebayo said. “I think it’s more of a breakout season for me. I don’t discredit what I did before the All-Star break. I feel like I deserve to be here, and just being here and proving that I just got another accolade is putting more people on notice.”
Tomorrow night, in his first All-Star Game, he’ll have a chance to put even more people on notice.