The NBA’s Saturday night festivities are when rising stars come out and play. It’s where Michael Jordan cemented his star power — and the Jumpman logo — by taking off from the free-throw line in two different slam dunk contests. It’s also where Larry Bird, Klay Thompson, Steph Curry, Craig Hodges and so many more would show us what the word “sharpshooter” really meant.
The NBA has experimented with things, too. They’ve featured 2-on-2 ball, a legends game, and other formats. But the skills challenge has been the one to stick. Since 2003, NBA guards have gone through obstacles to show us who’s the best— but Steph Curry’s flawless performance in 2011 still takes the cake for us.
Check out Saturday’s biggest winners, and check back for these names in a few years: they might be the future of the NBA.
Spencer Dinwiddie Wins The Taco Bell Skills Challenge
You might not recognize the name Spencer Dinwiddie now, but the 6’6 guard from the University of Boulder, Colo. is a silky smooth swingman for the Brooklyn Nets. The Nets are in a rebuilding phase right now, but every single night they ball out, and Dinwiddie has emerged as a baller for the future. If you can imagine a 6’6 Rod Strickland, Dinwiddie plays just like that. And he did not disappoint at the Taco Bell Skills Challenge. He beat Lauri Markkanen in the final to get the Nets some hardware. That’ll be as close as they come for a while, Nets fans, so enjoy this!
Joel Embiid Becomes The First Center To Participate In The Skills Challenge
Everyone knows Joel Embiid can ball, but a center in the skills challenge? Call it a result of the new-fangled NBA, where centers can step out and shoot the three, handle the ball in the open court, and still get double-doubles every night. He even made it to the second round where he lost to Markkanen. Unfortunately for Embiid, he didn’t take home the hardware or get a date with Rihanna, but you win some and you lose some.
Devin Booker Dominates The JBL Three-Point Contest
The man has one of the smoothest strokes in the NBA and we’re absolutely certain that he could hit a three from anywhere, but we had no idea he’d kill the contest and set a record. He hung a 28 on the field, and it became super-clear that Klay Thompson was his only real competition. Unfortunately, Thompson came up short — just like the Golden State Warriors will in the finals if they don’t get it together. Booker is only 21 years old. The future looks bright for shooters in the NBA if Booker is any indication.
Donovan Mitchell Wins The NBA Dunk Contest
After Zach LaVine and Aaron Gordon brought the NBA Dunk Contest back from the doldrums, this year’s All-Star cast seemed to falter. But, no matter what happens, we all know one thing: Donovan Mitchell got hops.
The NBA dunk contest is the marquee event of Saturday night. It’s where legends are born and legacies are cemented. It’s where athletes get shoe deals. It’s where people figure out who may become future staples of the ESPN highlight reel. This year, all of that belongs to Donovan Mitchell. But, the contest wasn’t quite up to the standards of last year’s epic class.
Here’s The Dunk That Got Mitchell To The Final
That was nice … but not quite the level of last year. Still, the rookie defeated Larry Nance Jr. to win the title.
Here’s the Vince Carter Inspired Dunk That Had Him Take Home The Hardware
Also, shout out to Mitchell for the tightest shorts in modern NBA history.