TORONTO — In a new twist to the Taco Bell Skills Challenge, the NBA made the decision this year to add big men to a competition that has traditionally focused on point guards. The new wrinkle created new layers of intrigue, an unusual amount of controversy and, ultimately, a new champion: Timberwolves rookie center Karl-Anthony Towns.
Towns didn’t know what to expect in the competition, given that it was his rookie season, and practice didn’t fully prepare him.
“Oh, I came in today at I think it was 11:00 in the morning and got a practice run,” Towns said after the competition. “But it doesn’t translate to what it is when you have millions of people watching, thousands of people in the stands and also your heart racing like mine was. So just to have that instance of just a feel of how it was.”
C.J. McCollum beat out Jordan Clarkson in the first round, and Isaiah Thomas took care of Emmanuel Mudiay. In something of an upset, Towns handled Draymond Green, who is the NBA’s leader in triple-doubles.
The other matchup in the first round came with some controversy: DeMarcus Cousins missed all three attempts at the chest pass into the ring but moved on in the obstacle course and ultimately defeated Anthony Davis. This led to widespread criticism on social media for Cousins being allowed to advance without completing all the drills.
But Towns beat out Cousins in the semifinals, thereby preventing a nightmare scenario where a winner might have to have an asterisk next to his title.
Thomas beat McCollum in the guards’ semifinals. McCollum lost his dribble early on in the round and never really recovered.
The final round between Towns and Thomas went down to the wire, but Towns’ three-pointer went down first, giving him the title.
Towns sees his title as validation for the NBA’s decision to add big men to the competition, as well as a victory for bigs who are skilled in more than the traditional ways.
“The bigs were amazing today,” Towns said. “We were able to just come out with a W, and I’m glad I was able to help the bigs come out with this trophy. This is bigger than me. This is for all the bigs out there, with the game changing the way it is, to show that bigs can stand up with guards, skillwise.”