ATLANTA – It certainly isn’t going to be like mid-season classics of the past in the NBA, especially a year ago in Chicago.
There won’t be a weekend full of events surrounding the All-Star Game, both on and off the court, and fans from around the world won’t take part in the festivities.
Players who were chosen to be at the game will only have one night – Sunday – to showcase their talents to the world with their peers. The NBA’s slam dunk and three-point contests will happen the same night as the All-Star Game itself.
But that doesn’t make the honor of getting chosen for the contest any less significant, especially for those who get to take part in the contest for the first time. Bulls guard Zach LaVine is in that group, as he’ll take the floor for Team Durant at State Farm Arena in Atlanta.
“It’s an honor. Obviously a lot of hard work goes into this. When you finally break through, you feel the love and the recognition,” said LaVine on Sunday morning. “For my family, that’s the main thing for me that made me happy, just to see the look on their face, to see how proud they are.”
They’ve had lots of reasons to show pride in what LaVine has done during the first two months of the NBA season. He’s sixth in the NBA in scoring with 28.7 points per game while also sporting what would be career-highs in rebounds (5.2) and assists (5.1).
LaVine’s play has been a big reason why the Bulls have overachieved this season, remaining in competition for a playoff spot in the Eastern Conference.
While he’s been at the All-Star Game in the past for events like the Slam Dunk Contest, which he won twice, and the three-point contest in Chicago last year, 2021 is certainly different. Being in the game itself figured to make that the case, but the pandemic has made this experience at the mid-season classic a bit shorter.
LaVine said he got to Atlanta on Saturday, staying only in the hotel except when he got to take part in a three-point shootout practcie. He’ll compete in that event before the All-Star Game tips off around 8 PM Atlanta time.
While the circumstances and hoopla around the contest are not the same, it doesn’t take anything away from the moment for LaVine.
“I’ve been a part of every part of the All-Star Weekend except for the game and I want to go out there and obviously you want to play with the top guys,” said LaVine. “You see yourself as one and you want to go out there and compete with them.
“You grow up watching All-Star Games and it’s always been a dream to be in one and continue to be in one. So I’m very happy to be here.”
He should. Over the past two months, he’s earned this chance to be fully a part of All-Star Weekend, even if it looks a little different.