Saturday night is probably the most exciting night of All-Star Weekend. Coincidentally, it also features the most Dallas Mavericks players competing. Both Luka Doncic and Dirk Nowitzki will take part in separate events. Doncic will appear in the Taco Bell Skills Challenge and Nowitzki will participate in the MTN DEW 3-Point Contest.
Starting the evening, the skills challenge features eight players who will run an obstacle course of dribbling, passing, and shooting drills while being timed. Joining Doncic are Mike Conley, De’Aaron Fox, Nikola Jokic, Kyle Kuzma, Jayson Tatum, Nikola Vucevic, and Trae Young.
Historically, smaller guards dominate this event. Standing at a thicc 6-foot-7, Doncic doesn’t fit the mold of previous winners. However, Karl-Anthony Towns and Kristaps Porzingis, who is now Doncic’s teammate, are previous skill challenge champions in 2016 and 2017, respectively. Trey Burke, who is also now a member of the Mavericks, was co-champion of the event back in 2014. If Doncic needs any advice about how to proceed and win, he has some fine folks in his corner.
If Doncic wins the skills challenge, he will be the first Mavericks player to do so.
Immediately following the skills challenge is the 3-point contest. Nowitzki is old hat when it comes to this event. He’s also just old at this point. The NBA invited him to participate in the contest as a nod to his past performances and his 3-point championship in 2006, when he became the only 7-footer to win it.
This is Nowitzki’s sixth time to appear in the shootout and it might be the most difficult one yet. Not only is the competition stiff—Devin Booker, Seth Curry, Stephen Curry, Danny Green, Joe Harris, Buddy Hield, Damian Lillard, Khris Middleton, and Kemba Walker are joining him—but Nowitzki is also shooting the worst three-point percentage since his rookie season, .309.
Another impediment to Dirk’s path to victory is the time limit of the competition. Players must clear five racks of four balls and a moneyball (hey, that’s us!) in a span of 60 seconds. At age 40, Nowitzki doesn’t move as quickly as he used to. In fact, Mavericks assistant coach Darrell Armstrong’s nickname for Nowitzki is “the big mummy,” which led to this video gem.
There’s a lot standing in the way of Nowitzki taking home the crown again this year. That’s why all the other participants should throw the competition. Just tank it up. Realistically, no one wants to see either Curry win. Steph wins enough as it is. Walker should keep it close as the hometown hero before missing the last three racks. This is how it should go.
The NBA invited Nowitzki as a show of respect. It behooves the other players to show him the same gratitude. Let Dirk win.
Slam dunk contest
Former Maverick Dennis Smith Jr. is participating in the dunk contest again this year. It’s OK to watch and cheer for him.
How to watch
7 p.m. Central on TNT (former home of Franklin & Bash)