CHICAGO — Indiana’s Domantas Sabonis and Miami’s Bam Adebayo will make their NBA All-Star debuts on Sunday, but on Saturday night, the first-timers didn’t disappoint as finalists in the skills challenge.
The Eastern Conference big men stole the show in the eight-man contest, with Adebayo ultimately hoisting the trophy — which he says he’ll gift to his mother, Marilyn Blount.
“It’s because all she’s been through and all the struggles she’s been through and what the living conditions I had to go through and how she still strived to make me happy and make our house feel like home,” Adebayo said. “I can’t do nothing but give her that and keep giving her every other accolade I get.”
Prior to his victory in the skills challenge — which features an obstacle course that tests shooting, passing and ballhandling — Adebayo had knocked down only a single 3-pointer this season out of 11 attempts. He sank three 3s on Saturday, however, and didn’t hesitate to make the naysayers eat their words.
“I just want to say something. I read a tweet that I was last to win in Vegas,” said Adebayo, who was +1200 to win at FanDuel Sportsbook. “So whoever bet, I hope you got your money. I hope you go buy yourself a Ruth’s Chris, Cheesecake Factory, something in that fashion.”
Adebayo, 6-foot-9 and 255 pounds, became the first Miami Heat skills challenge winner since 2007 champ Dwyane Wade, who was sitting courtside to congratulate him with a hug. Adebayo, 22, said he’s trying to “be like him” and “live that legacy” of Wade, but also was honored to represent for the big men in the process.
“It just shows where this league is going, and it’s scary because when you got guys that are 6-10, classified as centers or power forwards, I don’t believe it’s any of that anymore,” Adebayo said. “I mean, [Kevin Durant] is 7-foot, so KD is a center? Anyways, it just shows how this game has transformed and it gets scary.”
“It’s just showing how the game is changing and how big men and power forwards are basically bringing up the ball, passing the ball,” added Sabonis, who is 6-foot-11. “It’s more of a point guard position.”
Chicago native Patrick Beverley of the LA Clippers, Brooklyn’s Spencer Dinwiddie, Oklahoma City’s Shai Gilgeous-Alexander, Milwaukee’s Khris Middleton, Toronto’s Pascal Siakam, and defending champion Jayson Tatum of the Boston Celtics were the other participants.