The All-Star weekend produced some sidelights that basketball fans could reflect, that in each booming trey made, each cross-over move, each slick pass and each highlight dunk, it shows how the game developed and the direction where it is going.
All-Star weekend Reflections
In the late 80’s and 90’s, one could hardly see an international player dominate the NBA just like how Dirk Nowitzki, Yao Ming, Pau Gasol, Steve Nash and Manu Ginobili to name a few did in the 00’s. In the 90’s the likes of Drazen Petrovic who could have been a bonafide NBA star before his career and life was cut short by an accident in 1993, Lithuanians Sarunas Marciulionis and Arvydas Sabonis (father of OKC’s Domantas), and Vlade Divac had some share of limelight. But none of those mentioned really achieved superstar status in the NBA.
In my opinion, had Arvydas Sabonis entered the NBA immediately in 1986 when he was selected by the Portland Trail Blazers as the 24th over-all pick. At the height of his career, Portland could have inflicted much damage in the league in that era with the likes of Clyde Drexler, Jerome Kersey and Buck Williams leading the way then for Rip City. Sabonis at 7’3” during that era was way better than Dirk Nowitzki. He was an excellent post player and had pin accuracy in terms of his passing owe it to his eagle eye court vision. But politics got in the way of Sabonis and the NBA and when he finally got his chance to play in the NBA during the ’95-’96 season, the ones left to see were the flashes of potential brilliance which could have taken the league by storm and revolutionized how game was played much earlier.
That international influence was shown when the World Team beat Team USA 150-141 behind the solid performance of Jamal Murray scoring 36 points and 11 assists and Nikola Jokic’s 11 rebounds. It showed that International players who struts their stuff in the NBA are not pushovers and can be a factor for the team they are playing.
Another reflection of the international influence on how the NBA is played in this era. Kristaps Porzingis winning the Skills Challenge against Gordon Hayward. 20 years ago, bigs would not even have a slight chance to win that particular contest. Imagine the likes of Shaquille O’ Neil, Patrick Ewing and Dikembe Mutombo going against Gary Payton, Steve Smith and Jason Kidd in the skills challenge, it will be the guards and wingmen by a mile. Gone are the days when the big men are limited to play their back to the basket to be effective offensively and in the defensive end, just a rim protector within the shaded area.
Seeing Kristaps Porzingis’ dexterity in bringing down the ball with his 7 foot frame and drilling the pull-up trey with ease is just a sight to behold.