All-Star Saturday night kicked off with a blend of eight NBA players competing in the Taco Bell Skills Challenge. This year’s field of competitors ranged from Mavericks rookie Luka Doncic to Nuggets star Nikola Jokic. The event tested participants’ ability to cover ground, pass accurately, and sink baskets in a full-court obstacle course. In this iteration, the three-point shot defined the event. Speed down the floor mattered little compared to the ability to strike the final shot.
In a tradition that started back in 2016, the field was comprised of both perimeter players and big men. The event opened with an added twist, as Karl-Anthony Towns and recording artist Ludacris filled the lines on the bracket by selecting numbers at random.
The early matchups were typified by contestants getting down the court, having completed passes and dribbling course adequately, but not being able to finish the three before their slower competitor. Nikola Jokic squeezed past Nikola Vucevic and Jayson Tatum bested Mike Conley, though both victors were last to the arc. The first big moment of the night came when Trae Young vanquished De’Aaron Fox with a 28-foot heave that sneaked in barely before Fox’s second shot. Mavericks sensation Luka Doncic bested Kyle Kuzma in the final opening-round matchup.
The trend continued in the second round as Jokic beat Tatum down the court by a full five seconds but couldn’t strike before Tatum did. Young took out Doncic when a tardy half-court heave from Luka missed its mark. That left Tatum and Young in the finals.
The event ended when Tatum, also behind by a large margin, surprised the heck out of Young and the world by hitting a halfcourt heave, knocking away Young’s shot attempt and hopes for victory in one massive stroke. One can only imagine the sick feeling of seeing that ball come out of nowhere like a missile and striking home.
Here are the highlights from Saturday’s notable moments:
- A pair of towering Nikola’s got the action underway. Vucevic only had the chance to attempt one three-pointer before Jokic eliminated him.
Nikola Jokic wins the battle of the Nikolas to advance to the #TacoBellSkills semifinals! pic.twitter.com/0AxwTBN7cm— NBA on TNT (@NBAonTNT) February 17, 2019
- Young stole the show by erasing Fox’s lead with this long-range three-pointer in the opening round.
Wow. @TheTraeYoung edges De'Aaron Fox to advance to the #TacoBellSkills semis! pic.twitter.com/HjacqU8jG8— NBA on TNT (@NBAonTNT) February 17, 2019
- Young kept things rolling in the next round by dispatching Doncic.
Trae's not playing around!— NBA on TNT (@NBAonTNT) February 17, 2019
He beats Luka Doncic to advance to the #TacoBellSkills championship! pic.twitter.com/rMuoNxDuMa
- Tatum did his best Young impression in the final round. The Celtics youngster captured the the trophy with this deep three-pointer.
"NO HE DIDN'T!"@jaytatum0 hit the half-court bomb to defeat Trae Young and win the #TacoBellSkills challenge! pic.twitter.com/5NMz3h4Ajt— NBA on TNT (@NBAonTNT) February 17, 2019