NEW ORLEANS – Saturday night of All Star Weekend is all about one thing – fun for the fans. Fortunately for Kevin Durant and Reggie Jackson, the experience was exciting for them too.
Before the three-point contest and the dunk contest, Durant participated in the Shooting Stars Challenge and Jackson took part in the Skills Competition. Alongside NBA legend Karl Malone and the Tulsa Shock’s Skylar Diggins, Durant’s Shooting Stars team made it to the final championship round, but fell just short.
Each player had to first hit a shot from their spot on the floor before all three attempted to knock down a half-court heave. Diggins was on the block, Malone above the free throw line and Durant behind the three-point line on the left wing. In the first round, Durant hit his second shot from his spot, then sank the half-court shot to complete the round in exactly 1:00. In the championship round the team improved on that time, making it in 43.6 seconds, but was bested by defending champions Chris Bosh, Dominique Wilkins and Swin Cash. Despite the loss, it was still a great time for Durant and company.
“I knew we had it when Skylar hit a big time shot with 43 seconds,” Durant said. “It was a tough loss, but it was fun.”
“Once you’re here, you forget about everything and just enjoy it,” Durant said. “It’s a blessing to be in these competitions and I’m glad I got this opportunity.”
Durant got a chance to spend a bit of time with Malone and Diggins, both of whom had glowing remarks for the Thunder’s five-time All-Star as a player, but more importantly as a person.
“He’s amazing,” Diggins said. “He’s everything you want in a player. His personality fits it because of the type of person that he is.”
“I love how he just plays the game,” Malone said. “He’s a young guy, but he has an old soul that I love.”
Making the Oklahoma connection, tonight’s event was a chance for Durant and Diggins to represent Oklahoma City, Tulsa and the entire state as professional athletes. With Jackson and Steven Adams participating in events this weekend as well as the Thunder coaching staff leading the Western Conference All-Stars, Oklahoma has been front and center in New Orleans this weekend.
“We’re representing here at All Star Weekend with Skylar, myself, Reggie, Steven and our coaching staff,” Durant said. “We’re doing pretty well.”
After Durant’s event, it was Jackson’s turn to be in the bright lights. With Adams cheering on his teammate courtside, Jackson and teammate Goran Dragic from the Phoenix Suns completed the relay race that is the skills competition in 42.3 seconds.
The obstacle course started with a driving layup, then slaloming through stationary “defenders”, making a pass into a vertical hoop and hitting a jumper from behind the free throw line before streaking back through another dribbling course and completing a layup.
Defending champion Damian Lillard, along with Trey Burke, knocked Jackson and Dragic out by finishing a few seconds quicker, ending Jackson’s time in the competition but not lessening his enjoyment of the evening.
“I just enjoyed it and tried to have fun,” Jackson said. “Unfortunately me and Goran couldn’t win. It was fun to compete and be out here for All Star Weekend.”
“It’s an honor just to be mentioned amongst all these guys,” Jackson continued. “I’m just trying to soak it all up, enjoy the weekend and make the most of it.”