Giannis Antetokounmpo’s All-Star experience was perfect on the court Sunday night.
Then it got even better as he angled for a special invitation for his year-old son, Liam, afterward.
Antetokounmpo made all 16 of his shots in a historic 35-point performance that propelled Team LeBron to a 170-150 victory over Team Durant in the NBA All-Star Game in Atlanta.
After earlier capturing the 3-Point Contest, Stephen Curry combined with Damian Lillard for 16 3-pointers and 60 points for Team LeBron, which won each of the first three quarters en route to a 146-125 lead that it massaged into the winning margin.
Each team lost a player when it was announced earlier in the day that Philadelphia 76ers stars Joel Embiid and Ben Simmons would not be allowed to participate due to Covid tracing. Each had gotten a haircut Saturday from a barber who subsequently tested positive.
Twenty-year-old Zion Williamson replaced Embiid in the Team Durant starting lineup, becoming the fourth-youngest starter in NBA history. Durant also did not play in the game because of a hamstring injury.
The win was the fourth in a row for the team selected by LeBron James under a revised roster dispersal that started in 2018. James played just 13 minutes in the first half before sitting out the entire second half with the game relatively in hand.
Antetokounmpo’s 16-for-16 game doubled the previous All-Star record of the Philadelphia 76ers’ Hal Greer, who made all eight of his shots in the 1968 in-season classic.
For his effort, Antetokounmpo, who was 3-for-3 on 3-pointers, was selected as the game’s Most Valuable Player.
The Milwaukee Bucks star was so hot, he even banked in a pair of 3-pointers.
“[The bank,] usually it’s closed, but not for me,” Antetokounmpo joked over the arena’s P.A. system while accepting the MVP trophy at center court. “For me it was open with extended hours. I called ahead.”
All of Antetokounmpo’s shots came in the first three quarters, after which he acknowledged he was informed by Team LeBron teammate Nikola Vucevic that he had a 16-for-16 night going. He wanted more nonetheless, but decided against pushing it, he later admitted.
“I wasn’t scared to shoot more. I wanted to shoot more shots, but Dame (Lillard) was on fire,” he observed. “I told Dame we all got to get out of his way, and that’s what we did.”
Lillard and Curry both earlier connected from just inside the half-court line in a long-range shooting exhibition that had even the game’s MVP in awe.
“These two guys, the distance from which they can shoot the three, it’s unbelievable,” Antetokounmpo gushed. “I told my son: I’m going to send him to (Lillard’s) summer camp so he can shoot like Dame. He’s going to have the skills; he’s going to be tall like me. I want him to shoot Dame way.”
Down 146-125 after three periods, the closest Team Durant got in the fourth quarter was 15.
Team LeBron took command of the game with a 27-8 flurry over the final 3.54 of the second quarter.
Lillard contributed 11 points, Curry seven, Antetokounmpo five and Chris Paul four to go with five assists as they did all the scoring in a burst that turned a one-point lead into a 100-80 halftime advantage.
Lillard finished with 32 points, Curry 28, Jaylen Brown 22 and Paul George 17 for Team LeBron. Paul added team-highs in assists with 16 and rebounds with eight.
“They make the game way easier for everybody else to play,” Antetokounmpo said of Curry and Lillard. “You enjoy every minute when you play with those guys.”
Bradley Beal had 26 points to pace Team Durant.
Kyrie Irving had 24 points and 12 assists in the losing effort, while James Harden and Jayson Tatum chipped in with 21 points apiece, Donovan Mitchell 15 and Zach LaVine 13.
Kawhi Leonard was Team Durant’s leading rebounder with nine to complement eight points and eight assists.