NBA All-Star Weekend: Paolo Banchero About To Do Something Rarely Done

 It’s not common for players in their first or second season to suit up all three NBA All-Star Weekend nights. But that’s precisely what the Orlando Magic’s Paolo Banchero will be doing this year.


The 6-foot-10, 250-pound forward, coming off a 36-point performance in a win over the New York Knicks at Kia Center on Wednesday, will become just the fifth player to participate in Friday’s Rising Stars game, at least one of the Saturday night events, and Sunday’s All-Star Game in the same year.

The others were Blake Griffin (2011), Kyrie Irving (2013), Damian Lillard (2014) and Joel Embiid (2018). Among them, only Griffin did it as a rookie, when he participated in and won the dunk contest. Lillard competed in all three of the Saturday night events; Irving did the three-point contest; and Embiid, like Banchero is about to do, did the skills challenge.

So, based on participation alone, nobody will be more active at this year’s midseason classic than Banchero, the ninth Magic All-Star ever and second to earn the honor within their first two years in the league. Shaquille O’Neal, who had his No. 32 jersey retired by the Magic on Tuesday night at Kia Center, was the other.

The night Banchero found out he was an All-Star was a special occasion. He was with all of his teammates, coaches and other team staff in a ballroom at their Minneapolis hotel having just left practice. Although it created some anxiety in the room, his name being announced last added to the anticipation.

“It was a lot going on,” Banchero said. “Everybody rushing to get to one room to watch. I was just super excited. I was hopeful to hear my named called, and then once it was called, it was just all joy and excitement.”

Above all else, the 21-year-old is happy to represent the Magic in Indianapolis. To him, that means the organization is going in the right direction. The team has a winning record; they are in playoff contention; they are elite defensively; and he and Franz Wagner have a chance to do something rarely accomplished by NBA teammates, which is each average 21-plus points, five-plus rebounds, four-plus assists and at least one steal in the same season.

With that in mind, Banchero sees this honor as just as much a team achievement as he does an individual achievement.

“Hundred percent,” he said. “That’s what I told the guys after was it’s been a journey since I got here, and before I got here. We’ve had a lot more success this year, and we’re just all going to continue to get whatever it is that we want, whatever goals that we have, we can reach them as long as we stick together and do what’s best for the team and win as many games as we can. I think everyone is going to get what they deserve.”

The Magic’s G League team, based in Osceola, will be well represented as well. Two-way contract players Kevon Harris and Trevelin Queen will both be playing in Sunday’s G League Up Next Game, while Mac McClung will be looking to become the fifth player to ever win back-to-back NBA slam dunk contests.

Michael Jordan (1987, 1988), Jason Richardson (2002, 2003), Nate Robinson (2009, 2010) and Zach LaVine (2015, 2016) are the ones who have achieved that. Dominique Wilkins and Harold Miner were also two-time winners, but not in back-to-back years. Robinson is the only three-time winner, having also won the competition in 2006.

Dwight Howard is the only player to win the dunk contest while with the Magic. Aaron Gordon was the runner-up in both 2016 and 2020. The last Magic player to participate was Cole Anthony in 2022.

McClung will also be playing in the Rising Stars Game on a team featuring only G League players.

This is the second straight year Banchero is competing in the skills challenge. He will be teaming up with fellow former No. 1 overall draft picks Anthony Edwards and Victor Wembanyama and will go up against a trio of Pacers (Tyrese Haliburton, Myles Turner and Bennedict Mathurin) and a trio of other All-Stars (Trae Young, Scottie Barnes and Tyrese Maxey).

Victor Oladipo, Elfrid Payton and Nikola Vucevic (twice) are the only other Magic players who have ever participated in the skills challenge.

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