The 2023 Kia Skills Challenge proved to be an exciting team-based affair, with the hometown favorites, Team Jazz, taking home the crown.
The team, consisting of Jordan Clarkson, Walker Kessler, and Collin Sexton, defeated Team Rooks and Team Antetokounmpo with a stellar performance in Team Shooting.
Clarkson said, “Let’s go the easy route. … We know we can pass, we know we can shoot.”
Jordan Clarkson’s team strategy paid off as Collin Sexton and Walker Kessler took charge, making shots from all angles to secure the win.
When asked about the key to their victory, Kessler joked, “It’s simple. I came up with the strategy, and it worked.” His teammates were quick to agree, but they also made sure to tease Kessler and not let it get to his head.
“Okay, Walker came up with the strategy, and it was a great one,” Sexton said with a chuckle. “We give him credit for that. But this might be the only time we’ll give him credit.”
Team Antetokounmpo initially set the mark with eight points in the round, but the Jazz took the round by nailing a crucial 3-pointer from the corner by the rookie Kessler.
In this round, players took turns shooting from five different spots, each with values ranging from one to five points.
The Kia Skills Challenge is a three-round competition where teams of three players collect “Challenge Points” throughout each round. The team with the most points is crowned champion, with tie-breaker rules in place if necessary.
In the first round, Team Relay, and Team Rooks defeated Team Antetokounmpo and Team Jazz, setting a blazing time of 1:14.8 and earning 100 challenge points.
Jabari Smith Jr. and Paolo Banchero got Team Rooks off to a strong start, but Jaden Ivey came up big, hitting his corner 3-pointer and blazing to the finish line to beat Team Antetokounmpo’s time.
The course required players to make a 35-foot outlet pass, dribble through three moving pilons, and attempt three different shots – one in the lane, a left corner 3-pointer, and a layup or dunk.
In the second round, Team Passing, Team Jazz surged ahead down the stretch and finished with 88 points, besting Team Antetokounmpo’s 84 points and Team Rooks’ 78 points.
The round saw the teams trying to make passes to varying lengths and types – a 35-foot outlet pass, a 20-foot bounce pass, and a 25-foot chest pass – through moving targets in 30 seconds.
Each team had to attempt at least one pass at each target.
Team Antetokounmpo had a late change to their roster before the Kia Skills Challenge as Giannis Antetokounmpo was scratched from the event due to injury and was replaced by his Milwaukee Bucks teammate, Jrue Holiday.
The NBA followed the same format for the 2023 Kia Skills Challenge as it did for the 2022 edition of the event, converting it from an individual competition to a team-based affair.
And the move proved to be a hit, with the crowd at Vivint Arena in Salt Lake City treated to an exciting display of skills and teamwork.
In the end, it was the hometown favorites, the Team Jazz, who emerged as champions, showing their skills and expertise in the game.