NBA All-Star weekend is a slam dunk

Other than both teams actually trying to play defense in the 4th quarter of the NBA All-Star game — which we all know is extremely frowned upon — commissioner David Stern has to be smiling from ear to ear about the three days that showcased the best of what his league has to offer.

The festivities began Friday with teen singing sensation Justin Bieber winning MVP honors in the celebrity game, which also featured Zac Levy of Chuck, comedian Nick Cannon, Jason Sudeikis of Saturday Night Live, rapper/actor Common and several former NBA stars. No word yet on how Bieber managed to scored eight points with all of the hair in his face, but sources tell us the league is looking into it.

The weekend wrapped with a surprisingly competitive game between the East and West all-stars. The contest is usually no contest at all, but more of a showcase of the world’s best shooters, dunkers and athletes. But something changed in the 4th quarter when both teams realized that the game was close and there for the taking. Kobe Brant of the Lakers earned his fourth MVP award by scoring 37 points to lead his West team to an exciting 148-143 victory.

As fun as the celebrity and All-Star games were, though, the best part of the weekend by far was Saturday night. Following the skills challenge — in which the best point guards dazzle us with dribbling, passing and shooting drills (Stephen Curry of the Warriors won) — we watched James Jones of the Heat withstand a challenge from not one but two Celtics (Ray Allen and Paul Pierce) to win the 3-point shooting contest.

And as tasty as those events were, they merely served as an appetizer to what I am going to deem the NBA’s best dunk contest ever. I realize that is saying a lot when you consider past winners like Michael Jordan, Kobe Bryant, Vince Carter and Dwight Howard, but this wasn’t as much about the names of the contestants as it was about their athleticism and creativity. In fact, other than Blake Griffin of the Clippers, I doubt many casual NBA fans had even heard of JaVale McGee (Wizards), Serge Ibaka (Thunder) or DeMar Derozan (Raptors).

I bet they know them now. The four stars put on a show that had the judges and crowd in awe. And even though Griffin was the prohibitive favorite playing in front of the Los Angeles crowd, it was the 7-foot McGee who stole the spotlight by dunking three balls on two baskets at the same time. Yeah, it was never done before and it was very cool. Ibaka also made it known that he was there to win when he performed one dunk while taking off from the free-throw line and another in which he grabbed a stuffed animal off the rim with his mouth before flushing the ball through the hoop.

And then came Griffin to prove that the contest is just as much about the spectacle as it is the dunks. He had a car placed a few feet in front of the basket, and then a choir came out to sing “I Believe I Can Fly.” He ran full steam ahead, caught an alley-oop pass that was thrown through the sun roof as he was jumping the car, and threw down the dunk. And although it wasn’t close to best dunk of the night (McGee won that distinction, followed by Ibaka), it was enough to sway the judges and award Griffin the title.

Either way, it was a great weekend all around, and we’re sure David Stern is basking in the glory this morning of knowing that his league did it up right.