No one had more fun than Stephen Curry at the 2021 NBA All-Star Game. Curry didn’t hit the game-winning shot in Atlanta on Sunday — that was Damian Lillard — but, before the shot even went up, he was waving goodbye and walking to the bench. He didn’t win the MVP, either — that was Giannis Antetokounmpo — but he celebrated Giannis’ buckets as if they were his own. Curry missed All-Star weekend last year because of a broken hand, and, in a showcase that felt decidedly different than usual, it was heartening to see him back where he belongs, bringing his particular brand of joy with him.
Curry made his mark before the game even began, putting on a show in the 3-point contest and even having the courtesy to leave the outcome in doubt until his final shot of the second round. It was his second victory in the competition and his first experience with the “MTN Dew Zone,” the spot six feet behind the 3-point line from where players must take two shots in each round. Watching him hit three of his four from there, the whole thing felt slightly unfair. Trophy in hand, he dedicated the win to his Splash Brother. Klay Thompson couldn’t participate in Chicago last year, either, recovering from a torn ACL, and surely looked forward to returning to this stage with Curry before tearing his Achilles tendon in November.
Playing for Team LeBron in the main event, early on Curry gave a game that many stars vocally opposed some much-needed energy. After Zion Williamson missed a dunk, Curry threw a left-handed, no-look pass on the fast break to set up Nikola Jokic for a dunk.
Left alone in the corner, he turned around after releasing his shot and listened for the reaction to confirm it was as pure as it felt.
The highlights kept coming. He hit a logo 3 from LeBron James, then another one over Zach LaVine after losing his dribble. He threw down a two-handed alley-oop dunk from Chris Paul and hung on the rim for effect, then the two future HOFers flipped roles and did it again. After a swish from just a step inside halfcourt, Curry went into halftime with 22 points on 8-for-11 shooting. He finished 10-for-19 for 28 points in 22 minutes.
Unlike the 2020 All-Star Game, the defense was dreadful for most of the game and the final few minutes weren’t particularly dramatic, as Team Durant’s 21-point deficit after three quarters dulled the impact of the Elam Ending. While the halftime dunk contest had its moments, even the best dunks weren’t quite what they could have been — champion Anfernee Simons didn’t actually kiss the rim, runner-up Obi Toppin wasn’t even subtle about his push-off. But at least we got to see the greatest shooter of all-time scorch the earth in the 3-point contest, play with LeBron for the first time and yell at Lillard from the bench for not boxing out. Imperfect as this evening of basketball-related entertainment may have been, Curry made the most of it.