Staged with COVID-19 an ominous backdrop, the 2021 All-Star game was far from a fairy tale affair.
But, in Zach LaVine's eyes, his first All-Star game appearance was a rousing success.
"It was a lot of fun," he said. "Go out there and play. I think the players we did a good job of making our own energy...
"The recognition is the main thing that you want. The game is the fun part."
The Bulls guard finished with 13 points, 4 rebounds, 3 assists and 3 steals, shooting 5-for-10 in 28 minutes. His side, Team Durant, fell to Team LeBron 170-150, with a Damian Lillard logo heave pushing the latter to the target score.
LaVine promised a "Zach LaVine highlight" at one point or another, and he delivered multiple on that front in the first half -- slamming home a halfcourt alley-oop from Donovan Mitchell, then finishing a twisting layup on a bounce feed from James Harden minutes later.
But his personal favorite of the night?
"I was able to make my first shot," he cracked of his seal-breaking bucket, an off-the-dribble 3-pointer from the left wing in the first quarter.
Oh, and watching Steph Curry and Lillard, who combined for back-to-back halfcourt shots to close the first half and 16 3-pointers on the night, hurl flames for Team LeBron.
"I know they do it against us sometimes in the games, but this was a little extra this time," he said.
While fans weren't permitted, NBA protocol allowed LaVine to bring his fiancée, parents and best friend along for the festivities, which, from the Skills Challenge to 3-Point Contest, to the game itself (and Dunk Contest at halftime) were all compressed within a roughly five-hour span.
"They were literally across from our bench facing the basket," LaVine said of his loved ones. "It was really cool."
That snapshot -- and the pictures LaVine said they snapped throughout -- should endure.
As did LaVine's cool-headed approach to reflecting on finally earning his first career All-Star nod. He's made clear he's honored to receive the recognition. But his focus remains on what's next.
"You reach this (the All-Star game), you’re of a certain stature. You want to uphold it," LaVine said. "You have a target on your back, essentially. I’ve always played that way. I’ve always thought I was, especially over the last couple of years I thought I played at an All-Star level. Now you’ve just got to continue to go out there and show it."
That mentality, and his newfound experience, is one he hopes to bring back to the Bulls.
"I think it just shows that if you’re in the right, winning mindset and guys on the team are playing the right way, you can definitely have fun with multiple teammates in the All-Star game," LaVine said. "I think that’s something you can take away, back to your teammates, ‘Let’s get a couple of guys in here next time.’"