This is the first year that teams were determined via team captains LeBron James and Stephen Curry (leading vote-getter per conference) drafting players from the All-Star pool, and people were intrigued by how that would affect the star-studded game. Changes—including a $100K prize—were made to bring back the competitiveness of the annual exhibition match since Hakeem Olajuwon and David Robinson took it to Shaquille O'Neal in 1994.
It didn't take long before this new level of intensity was felt, especially when the two world beaters at their respective positions collided early in the first quarter, which elicited a collective gasp from fans, the Philly faithful in particular.
The heightened defensive awareness resulted in 20 steals, eight blocks (both probably all-time records), and a bunch of two-way highlights. Bad blood between some players, like Joel Embiid and Russell Westbrook, also spilled on the court.
One thing that wasn't missing from All-Star 2018 are the fantasy alley-oops, some of which you might only see in NBA 2K. While a Kyrie Irving-James connection was sheer nostalgia, we could've used another kumbaya moment from Kevin Durant and Westbrook just like last year.
Reserves were also out there ballin' and sayin' don't forget about us: Giannis Antetokounmpo 16 points 7 rebounds, Klay Thompson 15 pts 5 three-pointers, Damian Lilllard 21 pts 3 3s, Paul George 16 pts 4 3s, Andre Drummond 14 pts 7-7 field goals.
Despite the extra chippiness, camaraderie and good-naturedness still prevailed during the event, as seen from the bench. Bottomline was that the stars of the league were able to take a break and bond with their biggest rivals before the most grueling stretch of the season.
The captain head-to-head was a bit lopsided, with Curry's shots taking some time before it started falling. Meanwhile, it was another day in the office for The King, who fell shy of a triple double (29 pts, 10 reb, 8 ast) on his way to capturing his third All-Star MVP.
And this wouldn't be possible if not for this Game 7-esque defensive sequence in the waning seconds from Team LeBron:
148-145. WHAT. A. GAME.