CHICAGO — The NBA’s best young talent was on display on Friday night in the Rising Stars Challenge (along with 29-year old Nicolo Melli), with big names like Zion Williamson, Luka Doncic, Ja Morant and Trae Young taking center stage. None of those players took home the hardware at the end of the night, however, as Charlotte Hornets forward Miles Bridges won MVP honors after finishing with 20 points, five rebounds, five assists and three steals in 20 minutes, leading Team USA to a 151-131 victory. Golden State Warriors forward Eric Paschall was Team USA’s leading scorer with 23 points, while New York Knicks rookie RJ Barrett poured in a game-high 27 points for Team World.
Williamson won the fan vote for MVP — not much of a surprise given his popularity — but that only counted for one of the seven total votes, the other six coming from selected media members. Bridges received four of the seven votes, with Heat guard Kendrick Nunn and Paschall receiving one each.
Bridges, who became the first Hornet to ever win the Rising Stars MVP, put on a show in the third quarter, including one of the best dunks of a night that featured plenty of them — a one-handed self-lob off the backboard where he reached well behind his head to throw it down.
“I really just wanted to come out and have fun, enjoy the guys, and put on a show for the fans,” Bridges said after the game. “I mean, I’m happy I got the MVP. I really thought Eric Paschall or Collin [Sexton] was going to get it because they had more points than me, but I’m happy I got it.”
Bridges also somewhat called his shot at halftime, tweeting a diagram of a person leaning forward in his chair while playing video games, indicating that it was time to get more serious, with the caption “Alright bet.”
“They [Team World] were killing us, and we were like, let’s play for real,” Bridges said. “So I just tweeted that, just trying to be funny. It’s ironic we came out and beat them by 20. We just wanted to have fun and compete in the second half.”
Bridges is averaging a career-high 13 points per game for the Hornets, but has really come on of late. Over his last eight games heading into the All-Star break, Bridges averaged 19.6 points and 6.5 rebounds in just over 34 minutes per game.