CHICAGO With six former Kentucky men’s basketball players at NBA All-Star weekend, it shouldn’t come as a major surprise that the Wildcats are among the headliners in Chicago.
But when a 6-foot-9, 255-pound forward wins the NBA Skills Challenge, that raises a few eyebrows.
Those measurements belong to former UK star Bam Adebayo, who dominated all three rounds of the NBA Skills Challenge on Saturday night to beat a star-studded field. He beat another big man, Indiana’s Domantas Sabonis, in the championship round to underscore what’s already been a breakthrough All-Star season.
Adebayo – who will play in the All-Star Game on Sunday night for the first time in his career – became the second Wildcat to win the NBA Skills Challenge. Karl-Anthony Towns, who starred at Kentucky in 2014-15 and now plays with the Minnesota Timberwolves, won it in 2016.
A member of the 2016-17 UK team, Adebayo dedicated the victory to his mother, Marilyn Blount.
"It's because all she's been through and all the struggles she's been through and what the living conditions I had to go through and how she still strived to make me happy and make our house feel like home," Adebayo said. "I can't do nothing but give her that and keep giving her every other accolade I get."
Not long after, Devin Booker nearly made it 2-for-2 for the Kentucky Wildcats at the NBA All-Star Saturday Night in the 3-Point Contest.
Booker, who will make his long overdue debut in the NBA All-Star Game on Sunday night, nearly became a two-time champion. The 2014-15 Southeastern Conference Sixth Man of the Year scored 27 in the first round and 26 in the championship round but was edged by Buddy Hield on the final shot by a single point.
When Booker won in 2018, he set the scoring record with 28 points.
A former Kentucky player has won a major award in five straight NBA All-Star weekends. Towns won the Skills Challenge in 2016, Anthony Davis captured MVP honors in the All-Star Game and Jamal Murray won MVP in the Rising Stars Challenge in 2017, Booker took home 3-Point Contest honors in 2018, Hamidou Diallo won the Slam Dunk Contest last season, and Adebayo was crowned the Skills Challenge champions this year.
It’s already been a sensational start for the Wildcats at All-Star weekend in Chicago. Shai Gilgeous-Alexander, with the Oklahoma City Thunder, scored 16 points in Friday night’s Rising Stars Challenge. PJ Washington, with the Charlotte Hornets, recorded eights points and five rebounds. The Miami Heat’s Tyler Herro was also selected for the game but sat out due to injury.
Adebayo, Booker and Anthony Davis will play in Sunday night’s main event, the NBA All-Star Game. Kentucky’s three former players are more than any other school.
That game will tip off at 8 p.m. ET on TNT and ESPN Radio.