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  • Taeler Hendrix

Tatum Skills Challenge

Jayson Tatum was unable to defend his Skills Challenge title Saturday night in Chicago.

After winning the competition at All-Star weekend last year in Charlotte, Tatum fell during the opening round of this year’s tournament to Indiana’s Domantas Sabonis.

“That was quick,” a smiling Tatum joked after the end of the competition.

The challenge, which features two players going head-to-head in a heat through an obstacle course that tests each players’ dribbling, passing and shooting skills, ends with one of the players making a 3-pointer. Tatum and Sabonis reached the 3-point line for their attempts at the exact same time, but Sabonis made one first.

Sabonis missed his first attempt badly while Tatum waited for him to misfire. Tatum’s first attempt then missed short off the front of the rim, and Sabonis followed up with his second attempt that fell through the net for the win.

Tatum said afterward that his loss came down to two things: how he handled his 3-point shooting, and how he prepared – or didn’t prepare – for the event.

“I shoulda shot the second 3 quicker,” he said. “I thought he was gonna miss, but he made it.”

He also added in some context about his lack of practice time.

“I didn’t get no practice in before. I shoulda practiced,” he said. “They let you practice like 30 minutes before they open the doors or something. I got busy taking pictures and other stuff.”

Well, that sorta thing will happen when you become a real All-Star and take over the final game of the NBA schedule before the All-Star break, which Tatum did Thursday night against the LA Clippers.

Despite the loss, Tatum was all smiles after the event, which was won by Miami’s Bam Adebayo. Tatum said he was surprised by all of the big men in the event making their first pass attempt into the small, circular net that that is in the middle of the obstacle course.

“All the bigs made it on the first try,” he said. “I ain’t get that … They had to practice that. I think they practiced.”

For what it’s worth, it didn’t sound like Sabonis was very excited when he found out on live television that he would be facing off against the talented defending champion in the first round of the bracket.

Sabonis told of the draw, “I was like, ‘Of course, I gotta go against Tatum! I couldn’t go against a big or something?’”

Sabonis wound up advancing to the championship round of the bracket before losing to Adebayo.

Tatum said that this may be the final time he partakes in the Skills Challenge, saying, “I’m gonna take some years off from the Skills Competition.”

He did, however, leave the door open for another competition: the 3-point shootout.

“I wanna do that one day,” he said quickly after being asked of his interest in the event.

As for the dunk contest? He shot that one down with authority.

“I ain’t got no special dunks,” he joked. “I just do regular dunks in the game… sometimes I dunk on people.”

He’s got a shot to do so tomorrow night in the big game.

A year ago, Tatum was heading out of town after winning the Skills Challenge title. This year, he gets to stick around and play in the premier event of the weekend as an All-Star for the very first time.

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