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NBA All-Star Saturday: Skills Challenge

Patrick Beverley of the Houston Rockets Photo Credit: cbssports.com Patrick Beverley of the Houston Rockets

Patrick Beverley Shows He Has Skills

With the conclusion of the Degree Shooting Stars, the Taco Bell Skills Challenge began shortly after.

I know, just two more events until we can watch the Slam Dunk Contest.

As far as the skills challenge is concerned, this event is all about the point guard.

Since its debut in 2003, some of the best guards in NBA history, from the 2000's to the present, have been selected to showcase their PG skills and most importantly win.

Milwaukee Bucks Head Coach, Jason Kidd won this event in its first year of existence.

Miami Heat star Dwyane Wade is a two-time champion (06, 07) as well as future Hall-of-Famer, Steve Nash in (05,10).

The best up and coming guards in the NBA have contributed to this event and this year presented a new wave of the NBA's youngest new stars at the PG position.

And here are your gladiators: Patrick Beverley (Houston Rockets), Brandon Knight (Bucks, Now Phoenix Suns), Dennis Schroeder (Atlanta Hawks), Kyle Lowry (Toronto Raptors), Trey Burke (Utah Jazz) Isaiah Thomas (Suns, Now Boston Celtics), Jeff Teague (Atlanta Hawks) and Elfrid Payton (Orlando Magic).

In previous years, the course required the participants to first convert a layup, dribble between three obstacles, complete a pass into a net, shoot a mid-range jump-shot and proceed through a couple more obstacles, finishing the course with a layup, which stops the clock and serves as that players time.

This year, the course required those involved to dribble between a series of obstacles, complete a chest pass, convert a layup on the opposite basket and then return to the original basket, where a made three-point shot will stop the clock, signaling that players time.

Instead of the individual exhibitions we have seen in recent years where one player alone progresses through this obstacle course, the NBA has modified the competition where two players will compete against each other to determine who can finish the course before the other, tournament style.

The NBA is thinking smarter, thinking NOW, and its changes in the format of this event made for entertaining TV.

Just based off of the eye-test, I figured Teague would have the best chance to win or even Thomas, factoring their speed as my lone argument, and I was sadly mistaken.

This wasn't just about who was the fastest of the pool of players but who could be the most efficient guard for a couple of minutes. The conclusion of this event did not disappoint the viewers, especially if you favor the underdog.

In the first round, both sporting generous smirks, Beverley advanced to the next round against Thomas, who struggled to execute his first chest pass.

Thomas, due to his speed eventually caught up to Beverley at the three-point shot station, and several failed attempts by both players forced a layup challenge, as both players relied on their inside play, which Beverley outlasted Thomas and sealed his trip to the next round.

Next up, Teague, a member of the Eastern Conference division leading Hawks, showed that dominance on the floor and flew by Magic rookie Payton who, despite his enjoyable experience didn't look as though he was interested in winning.

Although Payton was able to keep up with the speedy veteran, Teague knocked down his first attempt from three, which eliminated Payton, as he was moments away.

In the final two match-ups of the first round, Knight de-throned the former Skills Challenge Champion, Burke on his third three-point attempt and Lowry represented "We The North" well, ending Schroeder's threat, wasting no time as he sped through the obstacles and connected on his first three-point attempt, with Schroeder in pursuit.

With the final four set, Beverley would continue his Cinderella story against Teague, a first-time All-Star, while Knight and Lowry would provide the other finalist.

While the grins remained on the exterior of our heroes, you could tell that their blood was boiling and that the competitive fire that we observe from these star athletes, throughout the NBA season, was present on Saturday night.

Of course in the smallest dosage possible.

And so it began, and Teague found himself exactly where he wanted to be.

He eased through the obstacles and successfully executed his first chest pass through the net, which took Beverley several tries, almost tying together his own shoes in securing his fate.

Teague converted his layup and jogged up the court, passing Beverley on his way, feeling comfortable about his chancing of having to only knock down one trifecta to compete for his first skills challenge championship, and somehow he came up short.

Atlanta, so far this season has won their share of games in an extensive fashion, but Teague, unfortunately, failed to bring home more good news.

Instead, Beverley's performance, this round, mirrored his NBA game.

He doesn't give up and he never backs down.

Although he was behind with Teague attempting his first three-point shot to advance, Beverley took advantage of Teague's first two-misses and connected on his first attempt, earning a spot in the final round.

Shortly after his shot, Beverley taunted the bench a little, all in fun and celebrated with teammate James Harden who was in attendance, as if this was Beverley's sole purpose for All-Star Saturday night.

Who says the Skills Challenge doesn't mean anything?

In the other finalist, Knight prevailed, knocking down his first three-point shot before Lowry could even challenge.

And with that result, Knight would battle it out with Beverley for the crown.

Maybe the writing was on the wall and I was unaware, because it seemed as if, on this night, everything went Beverley's way in this competition and the good vibes would follow the Rocket into the final round.

Yet again, Beverley found himself recovering from miscues.

Beverley's struggles with the chest pass almost cost him the title, but Knights initial misses to seal the deal from three, allowed Beverley to close the gap, and like the second round against Teague, Beverley sank his first three point attempt and entered the winner's circle.

"Definitely blessed to be here," said Beverley during his interview as he was awarded the honor.

"Blessed to be in this position. Blessed to even be in the NBA, coming from a humble beginnings."

Beverley, known for his defensive prowess and role on the Rockets as a perimeter lock-down defender, was given the stage to show the other facets of his game, and in doing so shattered the odds and early predictions.

"I hope Coach McHale is watching, and maybe I can get some plays now," Beverley said through laughter.

Hey if you can win the Skills Challenge and uplift yourself as well as your teams notoriety even though there was no final score except entertainment, then maybe he should have a couple X's and O's dedicated to his performance.

Even with the win, Beverley appreciated his exposure and did so with class.

"Getting to the NBA now, replacing someone and getting a chance to display my talents out here and winning it; helping a young kid like this for school and everything, it's, you know, a big testimony-- a bit humbled about it and definitely appreciate it."

I think Beverley made some news fans Saturday night.