Top stars line up for NBA’s big weekend

Top stars line up for NBA’s big weekend

Top stars line up for NBA’s big weekend

The biggest superstars of National Basketball Association (NBA) will leave their rivalries aside at the All-Star Weekend in Orlando. The big three of the Miami Heat will lead the way for the Eastern All-Stars while Los Angeles rivals join forces for the West. Yet again, skill challenges will also present a great spectacle REUTERS Photo

A short NBA season needs its All-Stars, and the showcase event will be the highlight of the NBA showcase weekend.

The three-day event in Orlando will include the pivotal match between the East and West teams, where the 12 best players from each conference of the NBA will team up, as well as the always-entertaining Sprite Slam Dunk, the Foot Locker Three-Point Contest, the Taco Bell Skills Challenge, the Haier Shooting Stars and the D-League All-Star Game.

The weekend starts with the Sprite Celebrity Game and the BBVA Rising Stars Challenge, which brings together the finest young talents in the league.

The four players who will vie for the Sprite Slam Dunk championship Feb. 25 at Amway Center in Orlando include the Houston Rockets’ Chase Budinger, the Indiana Pacers’ Paul George, the Utah Jazz forward Jeremy Evans, who replaced the New York Knicks’ Iman Shumpert midweek, and the Minnesota Timberwolves’ Derrick Williams.

The 2012 Sprite Slam Dunk in Orlando will feature a series of firsts, including four first-time participants, a new single-round format in which the winner will be chosen solely by fan vote.

Online voting

The contest will consist of only one round and each competitor will execute three dunks. Fan voting will open after all four players have completed their first dunk. Previously, the Sprite Slam Dunk contest consisted of two rounds, with the first round scored by a panel of judges which determined two finalists.

Beginning this year, only fan voting will be used to determine the winner and voting also will expand to social media. For the first time ever, fans will be able to cast votes on Twitter by posting a corresponding letter assigned to each dunker along with the hashtag #SpriteSlam.

In the Foot Locker Three-Point Contest, also on Saturday, reigning champion James Jones of the Miami Heat will defend his title. Rounding out the field are Kevin Love of the Minnesota Timberwolves, Ryan Anderson of the hometown Orlando Magic, Anthony Morrow of the New Jersey Nets, Oklahoma City Thunder All-Star Kevin Durant and Mario Chalmers of the Heat.

But of course, the centerpiece to the weekend’s bill will be the midseason showcase for the NBA, the 2012 All-Star Game, which will feature 24 of the league’s brightest stars.

The Western team is dominated by players from the Los Angeles rivals, the Lakers and the Clippers, who have five players combined.

On the Eastern team are the Miami Heat’s big three, LeBron James, Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh, along with last year’s regular season MVP Derrick Rose of the Chicago Bulls.

But playing in front of his fellow Orlando Magic crowd, a spectacular Dwight Howard might be looking to steal the show, just as Kobe did with an MVP performance at the Staples Center.