It all added up to a high-flying start to the NBA’s All-Star Weekend.
Bridges scored 20 points and took MVP honors, Eric Paschall added 23, and the U.S. beat the World 151-131 in the Rising Stars Challenge on Friday night.
Bridges has been a bright spot for Charlotte in a difficult season. The Hornets are 11th in the Eastern Conference at 18-36. But the second-year pro put on a show in owner Michael Jordan‘s old home, and was presented the MVP trophy by Hall of Famer and Chicago product Isiah Thomas.
“We wanted to come out and play hard in the Rising Stars and show what Charlotte is about — me, Devonte’ [Graham] and PJ [Washington],” Bridges said. “And that’s what we did. I didn’t have any extra motivation, really, I wouldn’t say that. But MJ putting Chicago on the map, it definitely plays a big part, though.”
The Cleveland Cavaliers‘ Collin Sexton had 21 points, Atlanta Hawks All-Star Trae Young added 18 and Chicago product Kendrick Nunn of the Miami Heat chipped in with 16. Williamson scored 14 and had the baskets inside the United Center shaking whether he made or missed.
The annual showcase of the top rookies and second-year players helped tip off the first All-Star Weekend in the Windy City since 1988, when Jordan dazzled the home crowd at the old Chicago Stadium. Back then, “His Airness” edged Dominique Wilkins in a slam dunk contest that arguably remains the standard and scored 40 points to lead the East over the West in the All-Star Game.
As for Friday’s game, as expected, there were plenty of flashy dunks and not much in the way of defense.
Dallas Mavericks All-Star Luka Doncic drew a big roar from the crowd when he banked a 3 from half court just before the halftime buzzer to send the World to the locker room with an 81-71 lead. Bridges had the fans cheering late in the third quarter when he flipped the ball off the glass and jammed it during the quarter when the U.S. took control.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.