The NBA has happened upon something interesting with its ‘Bigs’ vs. ‘Guards’ format to the league’s Skills Challenge. Kristaps Porzingis, who stands over 7-1, has taken the 2017 version of the competition, defending the Bigs’ honor after Minnesota Timberwolves center Karl-Anthony Towns won the event in 2016.
The contest features NBA notables dribbling the length of the court 2 3/4 times while battling through stationary objects, asking the participants to nail both a 15-foot bounce and chest pass, leading to a three-point finale.
Porzingis, the 21-year old New York Knick phenom working on the New Orleans stage, did it all with aplomb. Watch:
Noted do-it-all types like Washington’s John Wall, Sacramento’s DeMarcus Cousins, hometown hero Anthony Davis and Phoenix Sun Devin Booker all fell in the first round, leaving the stage open for Boston Celtic Isaiah Thomas and Utah Jazz swingman Gordon Hayward (at 6-8, nearly a foot taller than his 5-9 counterpart) to battle to emerge out of the Guards bracket, with Kristaps Porzingis and hometown hero (and Denver Nugget wunderkind) Nikola Jokic locking horns in the final round for the Bigs.
Hayward made his way into the final round after Thomas’ three-point stroke abandoned him …
We should've told Isaiah Thomas that the Skills Challenge took place in the fourth quarter
— The Ringer (@ringer) February 19, 2017
… with Porzingis moving past Jokic after the Nuggets big man struggled with his bounce passes for the second consecutive set, prior to Porzingis nailing the second three-pointer he took in the ‘Bigs’ final.
“I’m happy that I was able to get this win for the Bigs. This win’s for the Bigs,” Porzingis told TNT’s Kristen Ledlow after the contest. The Latvian big man went on: “I was able to represent my country, my city … and I got the trophy.”
Following the contest, Porzingis spoke of the charm of watching a 7-1 man perform basketball tricks typically unique to much shorter players:
“It’s a good feeling that I’m able to showcase my skill with my size and show to the kids that you’re capable of doing that even if you’re tall and lanky like me. I think a lot of kids now growing up will improve those perimeter skills just seeing guys like– I don’t want to mention myself, but big guys with perimeter skills that can do it.”
And the bigs kept the trophy in house – a giant, goggles-strewn house – which says plenty. Even in contest featuring some of the greatest guards in the NBA, the Bigs hardly looked out of step when it came to replicating the sorts of moves needed to complete the course.
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Of course, not all the guards (we’re looking at you, John Wall) seemed as enthused to participate as some of the other, loftier, participants.
It is possible that the NBA will have to add in some features in order to even the competition, now set squarely at 2-0 in favor of the Bigs, out. Perhaps in 2018 some new obstacles will be added, with a course featuring participants being asked to sleep comfortably in a moderately-priced hotel room bed stuck right after the chest pass portion of the contest.
In a rough year for the New York Knicks in general, it was delightful to see the team’s mostly-unburdened player do what he does best. Everything.
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