The 2024 NBA All-Star Game will draw a lot of attention, but it will be the second-most star-studded game of the weekend.
That title belongs to the NBA All-Star Celebrity Game.
Each year, retired NBA players, WNBA players, actors, musicians and other professional athletes take part in a celebrity basketball game during the NBA All-Star Weekend festivities.
The game provides a note of levity to the NBA's highly competitive hardwood courts. Throughout its 20-year history, the All-Star Celebrity Game has produced moments of awe, comedy, pity and embarrassment. Some displays of athleticism have been predictable, such as when NFL wide receiver Terrell Owens dunked over his competition. Other athletic feats, however, have come from unexpected participants, such as the United States Secretary of Education.
The history of the NBA All-Star Celebrity Game
The inaugural All-Star Celebrity Game was held during the 2003 NBA All-Star Weekend in Atlanta, Georgia. The game was highlighted by singers Justin Timberlake and Jamie Foxx, as well as basketball legends Sue Bird, Spud Webb and Moses Malones.
In 2005, the NBA began naming an All-Star Celebrity Game MVP. Only two participants have won the award more than once. NFL Hall of Fame wide receiver Terrell Owens won MVP in 2008 and 2009, while comedian Kevin Hart won four consecutive MVPs from 2012 to 2015.
The All-Star Celebrity MVP is voted on by fans, which means there have been some undeserving winners over the years. In 2011, singer Justin Bieber won the award despite making just three of his 11 shots from the field.
The most deserving MVP was Arne Duncan — who technically wasn't a celebrity at all. From 2009 to 2015, Duncan served as the United States Secretary of Education under President Barack Obama, and he took his opponents to school. In 2014, Duncan finished with 20 points, 11 rebounds and six assists. No other celebrity had reached 20 points in the history of the game. and Duncan's passes made him look like Jason Williams. Duncan's points and assists accounted for more than half of his team's points in their 60-54 win. Duncan wasn't just a regular amateur, however. He was captain of Harvard's basketball team and spent several years playing professional basketball in Australia.
Some of the greatest plays in the history of the game came from NFL Hall of Fame wide receiver Terrell Owens, including an off-the-backboard alley-oop. Owens, who is likely the greatest NBA All-Star Celebrity Game player ever, finished with 18 points in 2008 and 17 points in 2009. In 2010, Michael Rapaport was named MVP for holding Owens to 10 points.
Grammy-winning rapper Nelly was a baseball player in high school, but his performance in the 2006 NBA All-Star Celebrity Game showed he could play on the court as well. Nelly finished with 14 points and 12 rebounds. His team lost, but he still earned MVP honors.
Nobody has won more All-Star Celebrity Game MVPs than Kevin Hart, but the 5-foot-4 comedian won the award for his entertainment more than his play. In 2014, he fought with retired NBA players and hurled shoes at referees. The loud, scrappy and dramatic effort was enough for Hart to win the MVP award year after year regardless of his basketball production.
The 2023 NBA All-Star Celebrity Game MVP was dominated by DK Metcalf. The All-Pro wide receiver for the Seattle Seahawks was named MVP after finishing with 20 points, 10 rebounds and four blocks. Metcalf also brought some electricity to the stadium with a handful of dunks.
NBA All-Star Celebrity Game MVPs
Kevin Hart, Arne Duncan
Cancelled due to COVID-19 pandemic
The 2024 NBA All-Star Celebrity Game will take place at Lucas Oil Stadium in Indianapolis on Friday, Feb. 16. The two teams will be coached by ESPN's Shannon Sharpe and Stephen A. Smith.
Former quarterback Peyton Manning and rapper 50 Cent will join Team Shannon as assistant coaches. WNBA player A'ja Wilson and rapper Lil Wayne will be assistant coaches for Team Stephen A. Dallas Cowboys pass rusher Micah Parsons, racing driver Conor Daly and WNBA player Jewell Loyd will be the only three athletes on Team Shannon. Team Stephen A. will feature four athletes, including former NBA player Metta Sandiford-Artest and Houston Texans quarterback C.J. Stroud.