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Ovie Soko expects LeBron James or Kawhi Leonard to win All-Star MVP

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Ovie Soko, Sky Sports NBA analyst

Monday 17 February 2020 05:57, UK

LeBron James in action during the 2019 All-Star Game 0:59
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Ovie Soko backs LeBron James or Kawhi Leonard to win MVP honours at the All-Star Game and recalls his favourite All-Star memories.

Ovie Soko soars for a dunk during Adidas Eurocamp
Image: Ovie Soko soars for a dunk during Adidas Eurocamp

'No upsets, LeBron or Kawhi walk away with MVP'

Live NBA: 69th All-Star Game

For the second year in a row, we've had a one-sided All-Star Draft! Giannis likes to go with as many of the international guys and underdogs as possible. You've got to appreciate that in a way. It shows his mindset, almost a Kobe-esque 'we can do it no matter what' attitude. That has served Giannis well in the regular season with the Bucks, probably more than it will in the All-Star Game.

All-Star team captains Giannis Antetokounmpo and LeBron James 11:58
Team captains LeBron James and Giannis Antetokounmpo draft their respective rosters for the 2020 NBA All-Star Game

With the captains picking their team-mates and guys from their own conferences, we lose the benefits of what the All-Star Draft was designed to give us. For the most part, with a couple of exceptions, we’ve missed out on the possibility of seeing, say, guys from the East like Jimmy Butler and Bam Adebayo facing each other in an All-Star setting.

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You can understand LeBron picking Anthony Davis, or Giannis selecting his Milwaukee team-mate Khris Middleton, but I would have like to have seen both rosters be more of a mix of East and West than what we’ve ultimately got. One thing’s for sure, more mixed rosters would have given us a more even contest on Sunday night.

Trae Young and Luka Doncic are the leading candidates for the Rookie of the Year award
Image: Could Trae Young and Luka Doncic contend for All-Star Game MVP honours?

I would love to see one of the newcomers win the All-Star MVP this year, either Trae Young, Luka Doncic or Pascal Siakam. But we can’t be sure how much Luka will play, given he has just come back from his ankle injury.

Realistically, I don’t think we’ll see any upsets. I reckon it will be LeBron or maybe Kawhi Leonard walking away with the MVP after Team LeBron win the game.

'T-Mac and Vinsanity my favourite All-Star memories'

Tracy McGrady throws down his famous off-the-glass dunk in the 2002 All-Star Game 0:09
Tracy McGrady's 2002 off-the-glass dunk is Ovie Soko's most memorable All-Star Game play

My best memory of the All-Star Game? I’ll never forget Tracy McGrady throwing himself an alley-oop off the glass in 2002 All-Star Game.

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An iconic play. T-Mac, in transition, throwing it off the glass, Dirk Nowitzki didn’t know what the hell he was doing! Dirk followed the ball off the backboard but T-Mac came flying through for the dunk.

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It’s one of those plays that really pushes the ‘what if’ question with McGrady. What could he have become if he hadn’t been plagued with injuries? He had the flair, he had the skill, he had the size and athleticism. He was unbelievable.

You say Dunk Contest? I say ‘Vince Carter’! There is no comparison. His Dunk Contest performance in 2000 will never be topped. It’s not that guys won’t come out and do crazier stuff, that’s not what I’m saying. We’ve seen Blake Griffin jump over a car and Aaron Gordon jump over a mascot spinning on a Segway!

Vince Carter of the Toronto Raptors goes for a dunk during the 2000 NBA All Star Slam Dunk Contest 1:10
A look back to the iconic 2000 Dunk Contest when Vince Carter blew everyone away

I guarantee you every player who has participated in the Dunk Contest looked up to Vince Carter as a dunker. Every single one of those guys will tell you how iconic that 2000 Dunk Contest was.

The double point to the sky, the reverse windmill, the honey drop! It was more than just the dunks, it was the manner in which he performed and the swagger with which he did the dunks.

For me, that is the most iconic event performance in the history of All-Star Saturday Night.

'Introduce One-on-One event at All-Star'

I really don’t like this new format of the All-Star Game. Ultimately, all I want is to see the players playing harder. What originally made the All-Star Game so amazing in the late 1980s, 1990s and early 2000s? It was a showcase that gave us the very best playing at a high competitive level. Guys wanted to win that game.

Baron Davis, Bobbito Garcia and Rod Strickland explain the origins of this year's format that will be seen at the All-Star Game in Chicago

We are a long way from that now and, for me, it takes something away from the guys that win the MVP award these days. It’s a bit like whoever throws up the most shots against half-assed defense can get themselves an All-Star MVP and, in a sense, tarnishes what players did in the past. The history books will just list All-Stars MVP like it is just another accolade.

To me, an All-Star MVP won in the 1990s is very different from one won in this era. They are two completely different accomplishments but they will end up painted with the same brush.

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I would like to see new events at All-Star Weekend. A really interesting idea could be to bring in a one-on-one tournament. It plays into the way that the current generation of NBA players like to play.

James Harden flexes on his way to a 41-point triple-double against Atlanta 1:59
James Harden posted a 41-point triple-double to lead the Houston Rockets to a 122-115 win over the Atlanta Hawks

I reckon James Harden would love to have an All-Star One-on-One title on his resume and he wouldn’t be the only one!

Watch Ovie, along with Mo Mooncey and Jaydee Dyer, on Sky Sports Heatcheck, live on Sky Sports' YouTube channel on Tuesdays at 5:30pm

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