An uncharacteristically good Dunk Contest and Fergie highlighted the 2018 NBA All Star Game

Headlined by a controversial reimagining of the American national anthem by Fergie, the 2018 NBA All-Star Game had more substance to it than it has in years. An interesting version of the Star-Spangled Banner aside, there are a number of reasons to consider this a potential draw for more eyes than past years’ all-star weekends have been.

The most substantial difference between this year’s event and previous ones was the change of format for the actual All-Star Game. With captains picking players rather than having a West vs. East contest, the game was far more competitive than it has been for a long time. With a final score of 148-145, Team LeBron vs. Team Stephen had a little bit more defence and a lot more actual competition. For once, the final play of the game, which could have tied it up at 148 apiece, defence was key, as LeBron and Kevin Durant came together to shut down a potentially huge three from Steph Curry.

On top of the competitive matchup of a pair of interestingly created teams, the dunk contest finally returned to a version of the eye-popping spectacle that it once was. In a moment of direct recognition of former dunk contests, Larry Nance, Jr. put down a frame-for-frame perfect version of his father’s ‘Rock-the-Cradle’ dunk from 1984, while wearing a replica of his father’s Suns jersey. The Cavs forward’s recognition of the history of the dunk contest may have only been bested in his performance by a final dunk that saw him double-tap the ball off the backboard before throwing it down.

 “I have a lot of respect for what guys like Larry Bird and Craig Hodges did in this contest. I’m just glad my name can be mentioned with those guys.” – Devin Booker after winning the 2018 JBL Three Point Contest.

The eventual winner of the dunk contest, Donovan Mitchell, had a tribute of his own to show off. Wearing a vintage Vince Carter Raptors jersey, he threw down a 360-windmill that was nearly identical to the one that Carter pulled off in what was without a doubt one of the greatest dunk contest performances ever in 2000.

Devin Booker was the 2018 three-point contest winner, holding off world class shooter Klay Thompson in the final. In his final round he closed out the contest with an event record 28 points, making 20 of 25 total shots, to beat Thompson by three.

“When I came out of college I was just considered a shooter but now I consider myself an elite shooter,” said Booker after the win. “I have a lot of respect for what guys like Larry Bird and Craig Hodges did in this contest. I’m just glad my name can be mentioned with those guys.”

That call back to some of the great All-Star Weekend shooters in NBA history, Booker encapsulated the feeling that took over this year’s events. The class of players in the league right now, especially those who make it to All-Star Weekend and take home prizes, are products of an era when we all wanted to emulate the clearly historic performances we were witnessing as kids. While the All-Star Game has fallen off in its importance recently, that reverence and respect for the history of the game and its moments of true spectacle may be what brings it back to the prominent spot it once held.