This year's All-Star Game needs a boost, but it won't come from Zion Williamson

Chris Haynes
·3 min read

With the NBA going all-in on an All-Star Game and its other marquee events on March 7 in the midst of a pandemic, the league understandably has found garnering participants more problematic than usual.

But it did announce participants on Tuesday for the Slam Dunk Contest, 3-Point Contest and Skills Challenge with a mix of rising stars and familiar faces.

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No Zion in dunk contest

One player who could have made an impact, New Orleans Pelicans young star Zion Williamson, will not participate in the Slam Dunk Contest, sources told Yahoo Sports earlier Tuesday.

Players are eager to spend the All-Star break with friends and family. This year, the enticement to travel to Atlanta for the competition is extremely limited if one isn’t already going as an All-Star.

Most players notified the league months ago that they wouldn’t participate in any All-Star events if they were not named to the All-Star team.

The buzz hasn’t been there for this year’s All-Star Sunday, especially considering how many star players, such as superstars LeBron James and Giannis Antetokounmpo, have voiced their objection with there even being a game.

New Orleans Pelicans forward Zion Williamson (1) dunks the ball during a NBA game between the New Orleans Pelicans and the Los Angeles Lakers at Smoothie King Center in New Orleans, LA on Mar 01, 2020.
New Orleans Pelicans forward Zion Williamson could provide some buzz to the Slam Dunk Contest on Sunday. (Stephen Lew/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images)

Anthony Edwards turned down Dunk Contest offer

The NBA got commitments from Portland Trail Blazers guard Anfernee Simons, New York Knicks rookie Obi Toppin and Indiana Pacers rookie Cassius Stanley before the official announcement of the Slam Dunk Contest participants. Each are young, athletic talents but lacking tune-in appeal.

The league tried to add high-profile names. Minnesota Timberwolves rookie Anthony Edwards — who recently had one of the most jaw-dropping dunks you’ll ever witness — turned down the league’s request to compete in the Slam Dunk Contest, league sources told Yahoo Sports.

A field with Williamson and Edwards would have certainly made for must-see TV.

Boston Celtics star Jaylen Brown and Charlotte Hornets high-flyer Miles Bridges declined as well, sources said.

Established candidates who had previously stated they would bypass the event are Chicago Bulls star Zach LaVine, Orlando Magic forward Aaron Gordon and Portland Trail Blazers forward Derrick Jones Jr.

The Slam Dunk Contest will take place at halftime, while the 3-Point Contest and Skills Challenge will be held prior to the All-Star Game.

Damian Lillard pulls out of 3-Point Contest

On Tuesday, Portland Trail Blazers star Damian Lillard told Yahoo Sports that he was pulling out of the 3-Point Contest due to rest purposes. Golden State Warriors guard Stephen Curry will participate, as Yahoo Sports reported earlier Tuesday.

Charlotte Hornets rookie sensation LaMelo Ball turned down an invitation to participate in the Skills Challenge, sources said. With no Rising Stars Game this year, Ball’s presence was a long shot.

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