All-Star Weekend is measured by the plays that make everyone get out of their seats — whether it’s a courtside chair or your couch — and howl. There’s no other metric to capture the buzz of the three days every player looks forward to. Since 1994, when All-Star Weekend started its young guns’ showcase, some of the biggest highlights have come from the weekend’s youngest stars.
In the inaugural year, it was Phenoms vs. Sensations (Penny Hardaway won MVP, naturally). Then it went to Green vs. White in ‘95, East vs. West from ’96-’98 and finally settled on Rookies vs. Sophomores until last year.
This year its latest iteration is the Rising Stars Challenge, where general managers Charles Barkley and Shaquille O’Neal picked teams to be coached by Steve Kerr and Mike Fratello on Friday.
Shaq’s team, coached by Kerr, is Blake Griffin, Lin, Ricky Rubio, Markieff Morris, Kemba Walker, Landry Fields, Cole, Brandon Knight, Tristan Thompson and Greg Monroe. Barkley’s squad, coached by Fratello, is Kyrie Irving, DeMarcus Cousins, Derrick Williams, Paul George, MarShon Brooks, John Wall, Tiago Splitter (replaced by Derrick Favors), Evan Turner, Gordon Hayward and Kawhi Leonard.
Here’s the best highlights from the last five year’s young guns’ showcase…
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2011: Great Wall
The only explanation for Wall — the man who went No. 1 overall in the 2010 draft and who dropped 22 assists in last year’s rookie game — being picked No. 12 in this year’s Rising Stars draft is that last year’s performance could have had nothing to do with it. That’s because the Wizards’ rookie was flawless, finding old Kentucky home teammate DeMarcus Cousins on a couple monster dunks among others.
The moment that left Amar’e Stoudemire bowing to Wall, though, was this alley-oop reverse via a bounce pass to Griffin in the second half. Wall would take home MVP honors.
2010: Circus comes to Dallas
The game was played in JerryWorld stadium but the rookie game’s top highlight belonged to Sacramento’s Tyreke Evans, the game MVP, with his fake pass to up-and-under reverse layup.
Even though DaJuan Blair did go for 22 points and 23 rebounds and started his two-year streak of off-the-backboard alley-oops to himself, Evans’ reverse stands out.
2009: KD sets a record
Kevin Durant made the rookies’ defense look absolutely porous, even by All-Star Weekend standards. He dropped 46 points to break Stoudemire’s 36-point record set in 2004. The game’s MVP couldn’t be stopped, but what hasn’t changed about that still?
2008: Boobie goes for 11
Back when Daniel Gibson was part of a juggernaut Cavaliers squad and Durant was still on the Sonics, Gibson hit 11 triples and put up 21 in the first half for the sophomores. The MVP ended with 33 points, crushing the previous record of seven threes by Kyle Korver.
2007: Viva Las Vegas
Even though every rookie-sophomore game is about offense gone wild, 2007 was unreal. The sophomores kept their winning streak alive by going for 77 in the first half en route to 155 points. The Knicks’ David Lee was MVP but the night’s highlights were the connections by sophomores Chris Paul to Monta Ellis. The nastiest was an open-court alley-oop, but Paul also found Ellis (before he went full-sleeves with tattoos) for a huge slam in the paint, as well.
What’s been your favorite highlight of the rookie/sophomore games?
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