Author: Kurt Helin

LeBron James

LeBron James misses wide-open alley-oop dunk from John Wall (VIDEO)

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So LeBron James is human.

Despite this, John Wall and LeBron were part of the hot start for the East in the All-Star Game.

LeBron had 15 points on 6-of-9 shooting in the first quarter and looked like a guy who wanted to win MVP. Wall had six points and three assists in the first.

John Wall, Stephen Curry try H-O-R-S-E style shootout

NBA All-Star Practice 2015
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All-Star Saturday is about having fun.

Which is what Stephen Curry and John Wall did with the Degree Battle of the Game Changers competition. After their respective practices, the two tried to outdo each other with trick shots. Only to find trick shots are not that easy. One of those was selected by fans online: a blindfolded free throw.

Neither could knock it down,

Eventually, Wall won the event,

Relive best of Zach LaVine’s Dunk Contest win in slow motion (VIDEO)

Sprite Slam Dunk Contest 2015
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He was so good it’s worth seeing one more time.

Zach LaVine revived the All-Star Saturday Dunk Contest, at least for a night. He leaps so high and so effortlessly he seems to bend gravity’s rules. His dunks were modern updates of classics, done to perfection.

Relive them one more time. You know you want to.

Kobe Bryant adjusting to older body, still leading only way he knows how

Los Angeles Lakers v Minnesota Timberwolves
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In some ways, things are very different for Kobe Bryant now.

For years, he would push his body as hard as he could and it would respond. His work ethic was legendary, and the results have been a career with five championship rings and a guy who is third on the NBA’s all-time scoring list.

Now, Kobe can’t push his body that same way. When he tried at the start of the season — at the request of coach Byron Scott, who thought Kobe still could — he got exhausted. And eventually his body broke down.

However, Kobe isn’t walking away right now — he wants to leave the game on his terms. And while he does that he is trying to show some of the Lakers of the future how to win the only way he knows how.

All of that is the focus of a new long-form piece on Kobe that I wrote for NBC’s Sports World.

Here’s a quick taste, starting with Kevin McHale talking about great players leaving the game.

McHale played through a number of ankle injuries (that required surgery) and debilitating back pain his last few seasons. He could have retired when Larry Bird did in the summer of 1992, but McHale came back for one more go around, doing so on a team that was clearly not a contender.

There was a simple reason for that.

“I wanted to go out playing, and we made it to a playoff series and we lost but I went out playing as hard as I possibly could. I found a little magic in a bottle for a couple weeks and played pretty good, then that was the end of it,” said McHale, who averaged 19.6 points per game on 58 percent shooting during that first-round playoff loss to Charlotte in 1993. “It’s hard. You’re used to being able to do things, you’re used to your body responding, and if you’re a good player you’re used to your body bouncing back and doing a lot of stuff. You never really thought it could not hold up, but at some point it goes down.”

Should that aging body change how you lead? Not according to Chauncey Billups.

“No, it doesn’t,” Billups told me during All-Star weekend about whether his injuries changed the way he tried to lead. “The way you lead is who you are. It’s who you are no matter if you’re coming to the game in a suit, you’re on the sidelines cheering guys on, or if you’re dressed to play. That’s just who you are, it’s instinctual. So no, (an injury) doesn’t change the way you lead. Not at all.”

Kobe is going to leave the game on his terms. He’s going to go out the only way he’s known how to play the game for two decades.

Zach LaVine brings back Dunk Contest. At least for a night.

Sprite Slam Dunk Contest 2015
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NEW YORK — Zach LaVine made the Dunk Contest fun again.

I wouldn’t go so far as to say the Timberwolves rookie brought the All-Star Saturday night Dunk Contest back. We thought that before only to see it fade away once again.

But at least for a night, LaVine brought the dunk contest back — it was must watch. It was thrilling. In part that was because he started out with a bang.

Next he did this.

Those two dunks had the crowd in Barclays Center on their feet and people referencing Vince Carter.

“I came up with (those dunks) in high school, I’ve been working on them since high school,” LaVine said after the game.

That he could do those dunks in high school is just frightening. But the rookie knew hot to play to the crowd.

“I just wanted to come out here, put a jolt through the crowd, get everybody out of their seats,” LaVine said.

He did that.

But it wasn’t just LaVine, Orlando’s Victor Oladipo had an insane first dunk as well.

Mason Plumlee had a couple nice dunks, but the Nets’ center laughed at the idea he had any home court advantage.

“Zach would have won this no matter where we held it,” Plumlee said.

There were high hopes for the Bucks’ Giannis Antetokounmpo, but the Greek Freak may be one of those people who is a phenomenal in-game dunker who can’t really translate that to an exhibition setting.

LaVine not only one but brings hope for future dunk contests — he said he wants to do this again. Maybe defend his title in Toronto in 2016. The best quote of the night came when asked which one of those dunks was the one Andrew Wiggins tweeted about, saying it almost made him faint.

“That’s the funny thing, I didn’t do that one,” LaVine said. “I got some tricks in the bag still.”

If the Dunk Contest is going to continue to thrive, it needs more star power. LaVine said he would try to help with that by recruiting Wiggins to do it next year (and it’s not hard to picture the Canadian wanting to do it in his native land). Maybe other bigger names will want to challenge LaVine.

But LaVine brought the Dunk Contest back. At least for a night.