2019 Taco Bells Skills Competition
An early lead meant nothing at the 2019 Taco Bell Skills Challenge. In all seven head-to-head matchups on Saturday, the winner was the player that was trailing after the mid-course pass (the most difficult skill in the challenge). In the final round, that was the Boston Celtics’ Jayson Tatum, who banked in a running 3-pointer from the mid-court line to defeat the Atlanta Hawks’ Trae Young, who missed his pull-up 3-pointer as Tatum’s heave dropped through the net.
“The previous two rounds, the guy was ahead of me,” Tatum said. “Figured I’d let him get a shot attempt so I could get closer to the 3-point line. I didn’t want to give Trae a chance. I honestly didn’t know I was going to hit the shot, but I had to give myself a chance, throw it up there, and it worked out for the best.”
In the semifinals, Tatum eliminated Denver’s Nikola Jokic by draining his first three after Jokic built a lead by firing his first one-handed pass through the circle. And in a matchup of two guys traded for each other in last year’s Draft, Luka Doncic had a slight edge over Young after connecting on his first pass, but Young beat him down the floor for the layup and then connected on his first 3-point attempt.
In the first round, Jokic eliminated Orlando’s Nikola Vucevic by draining his first 3-pointer, and Tatum eliminated Memphis’ Mike Conley when Conley missed his first two threes. Doncic eliminated the Lakers’ Kyle Kuzma, who missed his first three 3-point attempts. And Young eliminated the Kings’ De’Aaron Fox by hitting a running three after Fox missed his first attempt.
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• Mike Conley, Grizzlies
• Luka Doncic, Mavericks
• De’Aaron Fox, Kings
• Nikola Jokic, Nuggets
• Kyle Kuzma, Lakers
• Jayson Tatum, Celtics
• Nikola Vucevic, Magic
• Trae Young, Hawks
WINNER: Jayson Tatum
2019 MTN DEW 3-Point Contest
It’s not easy to upstage Stephen Curry in his hometown — and in his element — but this has been a year of unexpected surprises for the Brooklyn Nets.
And so Joe Harris is the new king of the MTN DEW 3-Point Contest, beating 2015 champion Curry in the Finals by swishing every ball on his money rack, which also happened to be his final rack.
It wasn’t that massive an upset. While Harris doesn’t have Curry’s track record or prestige as the best three-point shooter in NBA history, Harris is making 47.1 percent (132-280) this year, second in the league. Curry ranks sixth at 44.4 percent on an astounding 236-of-531 attempts.
“Steph is the greatest shooter of all time,” Harris said. “Shooting off the rack is not indicative of being a better shooter than Steph Curry. I don’t want anyone to get it twisted at all. For me to come in and win on my first time, it’s surreal. It’s been an honor for me to be here, for me to participate this weekend, and it’s something I’ll remember for a long time.”
In Harris’ first NBA season, he shot 36.9 percent; four years later, he’s one of the most feared three-point shooters in the league. Over his last five games in Brooklyn, Harris is averaging 18.2 points. The 3-point trophy is a just reward for someone having a breakout season — and reflects well a Nets’ team that’s currently in playoff position and also poised for a breakthrough.
“I think if you look at the makeup of our Brooklyn Nets team, it’s a lot of guys who have been castoffs and given a second opportunity. I personally was one of those guys, and I got lucky going into a situation to a team that had an emphasis on culture, and I’m sort of a byproduct of that system.”
• Devin Booker, Suns
• Seth Curry, Trail Blazers
• Stephen Curry, Warriors
• Danny Green, Raptors
• Joe Harris, Nets
• Buddy Hield, Kings
• Damian Lillard, Trail Blazers
• Khris Middleton, Bucks
• Dirk Nowitzki, Mavericks
• Kemba Walker, Hornets
WINNER: Joe Harris
AT&T SLAM DUNK CONTEST
CHARLOTTE, N.C. — Oklahoma City Thunder rookie Hamidou Diallo won the battle of young jumping jacks in the AT&T Slam Dunk, outlasting Dennis Smith Jr. of the New York Knicks by being the most consistent dunker of the competition.
Diallo brought the house down with his second dunk of the first round, calling out and jumping over Hall of Fame TNT analyst and original Superman Shaquille O’Neal to net a perfect 50 from the judges. After clearing Shaq, Diallo stuck his elbow in the rim, a nod to dunk contest icon Vince Carter, and snatched open his Thunder jersey to show off the Superman shirt underneath.
“Great dunk,” said Diallo, who also got some help earlier in the competition from Thunder All-Star Russell Westbrook. “The atmosphere was great and I came out and gave the crowd what they were looking for.”
Diallo nailed his final two dunks of the competition, snatching the ball off the head of rapper Quavo and finishing with a two-handed slam on his last dunk. He went for the pure vertical exposure on his first dunk of the final round, catching the ball off the bounce and getting eye-level with the rim before flushing the ball through with his right hand.
Smith Jr. missed his first dunk of the final round, so he was up against it with Diallo’s near-flawless execution.
Smith Jr. tried to save himself with his final attempt, bringing Dwyane Wade and Stephen Curry out to assist him on his final dunk — jumping over Wade and attempting to catch a toss from Curry. He finally got the dunk down, after two misses and a couple of aborted attempts. He snagged a 50 from the judges while drawing a smattering of boos from members of the Spectrum Center crowd looking for a first-time finish.
Ultimately it wasn’t enough to rescue the Fayetteville, N.C. native, who utilized some of the better props of the night.
For his second dunk of the First Round, Smith Jr. brought out rapper J. Cole, also a Fayetteville, North Carolina native. He put on Cole’s high-school jersey and then grabbed a pass from Cole, sitting in a chair in the paint, and finished with a come-fly-with-me jam that got the crowd buzzing.
Atlanta Hawks big man John Collins and hometown favorite Miles Bridges, a Hornets rookie, didn’t make it out of the First Round. Bridges scored a 50 on his second dunk, a wicked 360 jam off a corner-of-the-backboard toss from Charlotte All-Star Kemba Walker. But he missed all four of his attempts on his first dunk of the competition, sinking his score.
• Miles Bridges, Hornets
• John Collins, Hawks
• Hamidou Diallo, Thunder
• Dennis Smith Jr., Knicks
WINNER: Hamidou Diallo