NBA G League Alum Spencer Dinwiddie won the Taco Bell Skills Challenge as part of Saturday’s events at NBA All-Star 2018.
Dinwiddie, who had stints with the Grand Rapids Drive and Windy City Bulls, was the first guard since 2015 to win the event. Dinwiddie defeated rookie Lauri Markkanen in the final round to claim the title.
The fourth-year player grew up in Los Angeles, and said tonight’s Skills Challenge win was the cap on a season that has gone full circle.
“It’s big for me to even be at All-Star weekend given the road that I’ve been down,” said Dinwiddie. “It all really feels like it went full circle because I got to come home and do this in front of my family.”
Dinwiddie, who was drafted in 2015, has been through an interesting journey, from the Detroit Pistons, through the NBA G League with the Drive and the Bulls, and to now leading the Brooklyn Nets.
He credits a lot of his success and mental strength to his experiences in the NBA G League, and thanked the Nets for taking a chance on him when he earned a Gatorade Call-Up by the team last season.
“My G League experience was my first start to this journey and climb that I’m on now. That was the first time in a long time that I had my own team,” said Dinwiddie. “When you’re down there as a G League player, you’re trying to make it back to the NBA. You want to make it up any way possible so you always want to put your best foot forward every single time.”
Saturday’s Skills Challenge included a three-part series of events in a relay race. First, the player must throw a chest pass through a target, before dribbling through obstacles to the other basket (where they finish with a layup), and lastly a race down the court before a 3-point attempt from the top of the key.
In the first two rounds Dinwiddie let the opponent — first Buddy Hield and second Jamal Murray — get off to an early start. He had to come from behind to win in both rounds, including just barely draining his 3-pointer under the ball shot by Hield in the opening round.
In the second round, it was more of the same, another big Dinwiddie comeback. But the third round, Dinwiddie connected on his first chest pass and the rest was history. Markkanen made both of his triples in the first two rounds, so Dinwiddie said he didn’t want to have to hope for a miss.
“I didn’t want to mess up like I did on the first rounds, where I had to rely on a 3,” said Dinwiddie. “I didn’t think Lauri would give me more than one attempt at (the 3-pointer).”
It wasn’t a game, and was a part of NBA All-Star 2018, which is about having fun and showcasing the best talent from around the league, but Dinwiddie wanted to win the even from the beginning.
“I just want to win,” he said. “After my injury in college, I cherish every moment that I’m out here playing basketball. To do it in front of my family, made it even better.
“When I pictured myself after I got drafted, knowing that i was coming off an injury I could see myself being a backup for a couple years. But then starting, and making All-Star weekend and the Skills Challenge. This is what I always wanted to happen.”