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After some early day festivities, Friday night kicked off the start of NBA All-Star 2022. Things first started over at Cleveland State's Wolstein Center, which was host to the annual Celebrity Game. Peloton instructor Alex Toussaint was named the game's Most Valuable Player as Team Walton, led by head coach Bill Walton, to a 65-51 victory over Team Nique and coach Dominique Wilkins. Cleveland Browns star defensive end Myles Garrett was on the losing side but was a one-man highlight reel, giving Cleveland fans in attendance what they were hoping for.
See @espn's post on Twitter.
See @espn's post on Twitter.
“It was tough,” said Garrett to Cleveland.com's Ashley Bastock. “I hadn’t been doing anything really the last three weeks, really since the season ended. I’ve been busy with flying. It was fun to just take a basketball and get some shots up.”
Garrett wasn’t the only Browns player to take the court on Friday. Cleveland running back Kareem Hunt was a last-minute addition to the Team Walton roster, replacing Olympian and professional skateboarder Nyjah Huston.
“I wasn’t expecting it, but I was glad to see him,” Garrett said. “He loves to chirp. … He said he was going to lock me up. Kareem, ever since we’ve played when he was on Kansas City, he’s always been a talker. I love his competitiveness.”
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Despite the loss, Garrett still ended up winning. The superstar defensive end earned some money for his Waterboys charity with his performance.
When Garrett appeared on TNT’s Inside the NBA on Thursday, Charles Barkley pledged to give Waterboys $1,000 for each point Garrett scored in the game, while Kenny Smith pledged an additional $1,000 for each Garrett rebound. Shaquille O’Neal, finally, bet the Browns’ star $1,000 that he would not score 25 points in the Celebrity Game. In total, the bets earned Waterboys $21,000.
“This is part of that Cleveland connection,” Garrett said. “This is a city that has embraced me and I’m just trying to give back however I can.”
Once the Celebrity Game concluded, things shifted over to Rocket Mortgage FieldHouse for another annual tradition – the Rising Stars game. But, it would be under a new format for the first time.
While Cavaliers superstar rookie Evan Mobley and star sophomore Isaac Okoro still have to wait for their chance to play in the weekend's main event, they got a taste of the big stage on Friday night.
“Once we saw our team, we knew we were going to win this,” said Okoro. “We just had the best build overall as a team. We knew if we locked in, we were going to get it.”
"When we all walked out and they introduced us, it felt like the big stage because all the fans were yelling really loud, especially for us two, because we're Cleveland Cavs," said Mobley. "Definitely felt like it was like a big stage."
The duo were both on Team Barry, named after NBA legend Rick Barry, and ended up winning the entire event. Team Barry defeated Team Isiah 25-20 in the final and battled, and won, against Team Payton 50-48 in the opener. The format consisted of three games, the first two played to 50 points, the second to 25 as the league celebrates its 75th diamond anniversary.
Mobley was outstanding for Team Barry throughout the entire night. By the end of the night, the Cleveland rookie totaled 18 points, 10 rebounds, 2 assists, 1 block and plenty of rim-shattering dunks. Mobley made a compelling case to be named the event's Most Valuable Player, and the fans who voted agreed. But, in the end, the honors went to Detroit Pistons rookie Cade Cunningham. Like Mobley, Cunningham was sensational as well but he still had a ton of praise for the Cavaliers big man.
"He is big-time. He can do so many things," said Cunningham. "I mean, obviously, he is a great player, so to be able to play with him and share this type of stage, All-Star Weekend, it was a lot of fun. The MVP trophy could have went to either one of us, I feel like. I'm sure it meant a lot to him to be able to win it in front of his home fans too."
Okoro, meanwhile, also had a strong outing in his Rising Stars debut. Prior to the game, Okoro shared that he felt like he always was a candidate to play in this game. But, due to his lack of a flashy offensive game, Okoro didn't get picked last season. This time out, the Cavaliers defensive stalwart was hoping to showcase more of his offensive repertoire.
"A lot of people don't think I have an offensive side," said Okoro. "But, I really do. I just try to play the role for my team. Of course, my defensive side is my primary side. But, every day I'm in the gym and I'm always getting up a lot of shots, working on my jumpshot and trying to improve that."
Cleveland's defensive stalwart finished the night with 6 points, 2 assists, 1 rebound and 1 steal. He also could've had one of the greatest dunks ever during the event, but, he unfortunately missed it. All in all, it was a strong weekend for the Cavaliers in their NBA All-Star debut. Things continue onward on Saturday night, with Mobley, Darius Garland and Jarrett Allen participating in the Skills Competition at Rocket Mortgage FieldHouse. More to come tomorrow!
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