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Knicks' Julius Randle and Obi Toppin were thrilled to be a part of NBA All-Star weekend

Julius Randle of the New York Knicks competes

Julius Randle of the New York Knicks competes in the 2021 NBA All-Star - Taco Bell Skills Challenge during All-Star Sunday Night at State Farm Arena on March 7, 2021 in Atlanta. Credit: Getty Images/Kevin C. Cox

When All-Star Sunday was over, the Knicks had little to show for it. Julius Randle was knocked out in the first round of the skills competition. Obi Toppin fell short in the slam dunk contest. And then Randle, in his first appearance in the showcase game, played only 13 minutes, among the fewest of anyone in the All-Star Game.

But afterward, both insisted they couldn’t be happier.

For Randle, earning a spot for the first time in his seventh season in the league was enough. Even though the game lacked the usual festivities and a crowd, with the exception of friends and family, he was thrilled to be a part of it, happy to be recognized as one of the elite players in the game.

"It was great," Randle said. "It definitely was everything I imagined, being a part of it all. I had a lot of fun. Excited. It was cool, something I want to be a part of a lot more for sure.

"It was a great experience just being on the court with everybody, conversations, all that type of stuff. I had a lot of fun. It was an experience I’ll never forget, being the first one, and something I look forward to doing again."

Randle had little impact on the game, playing only 40 seconds more than Mike Conley Jr. (the least-used player), and his two field-goal attempts were tied for the fewest. He had no issue with the minutes and was happy to connect on his two shots, get into the record book and be part of the show with his young son, Kyden, at courtside.

"It was a great thing," Randle said. "A great thing, man. I’m leading the league in minutes. It’s a great thing. Trust me, I’m fine. I’m ready to get back home, take care of my body, stay sharp and get ready for the second half."

Upon arriving Saturday night, he got in a workout to prepare for the skills competition, fell in the opening round to eventual champion Domantas Sabonis and then served as a prop in the slam dunk competition, squeezing in next to Toppin’s father and letting Toppin leap over both of them.

"I was confident," Randle said when asked if he was worried Toppin might not clear him. "He did it like 10 times Saturday. Saturday I was worried, but he did it so much, I had nothing to worry about.

"It was great, man. It was great being a part of it. It was a long day, I can’t lie. I’m looking forward to getting into my bed. Just being a part of it all, all the festivities, it’s obviously not an All-Star Weekend, but there still was a lot of excitement."

For a player who has not gotten this kind of attention and a team that has gotten only the wrong kind of attention in recent years, no matter the result, it was a worthwhile venture.

‘What’s up, Obi?’

Toppin, who has struggled through much of his rookie season, also was happy to get a taste of what it is like to reach these heights.

"Me given this opportunity to be on this stage with all these great players, it’s a dream come true," he said. "I didn’t get the win, but all three of us had great dunks and it was a fun experience. Hopefully I can come back next year.

"I mean, I always said LeBron [James], he was one if I saw him, wow. He came up to me, ‘What’s up, Obi?’ I was like, dang, he knows my name? Everybody here is a great player and is here for a reason. Just being here with these guys is amazing."

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