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The 2019 NBA All-Star Game concluded Sunday night in Charlotte, North Carolina’s Spectrum Center, with LeBron James’ team beating Giannis Antetokounmpo’s squad. However, it seems basketball is beside the point: All Twitter could talk about were the performers, specifically Meek Mill, J. Cole, and Anthony Hamilton. Yes, there was a meme.
The first performance that went viral was Charlotte hometown hero Hamilton’s soulful rendition of the national anthem.
Anthony Hamilton really making the star spangled banner a hit pic.twitter.com/WJn18yyBYE— Sweet Jones (@nevergonnlose) February 18, 2019
Anthony Hamilton just had one of the best National Anthem performances I’ve seen. That was fantastic.— T.J. McBride (@TJMcBrideNBA) February 18, 2019
If you’re feeling like the soul of America is dying of late, listen to Anthony Hamilton’s rendition of the National Anthem. It’ll make you feel 🇺🇸🇺🇸🇺🇸.— Nick Knudsen 🇺🇸 (@DemWrite) February 18, 2019
Anthony Hamilton just knocked that National Anthem out the park. Might be the most relaxing rendition yet#NBAAllStar— Marcel Louis-Jacques (@Marcel_LJ) February 18, 2019
It drew comparisons to Marvin Gaye’s rendition during the 1983 NBA All-Star game, “what many—until now–regarded as the greatest rendition of the National Anthem,” Fox News notes.
Anthony Hamilton’s rendition of the anthem was almost as good as Marvin Gaye’s...ALMOST...He was great— Mychal Thompson (@champagnennuts) February 18, 2019
Marvin Gaye song the national anthem at the 1983 NBA All-Star game. Still one of my all-time favorites rendition to date. pic.twitter.com/gz48XAyfW8— E.Harper (@EricHar97044491) February 18, 2019
I think Anthony Hamilton just overtook Marvin Gaye for the greatest national anthem in NBA All-Star Game history. That was one of the best I’ve ever heard. Full stop. #NBAAllStar— Brooks Doherty (@Brooks_Doherty) February 18, 2019
Anthony Hamilton with the best ad lib melody of the Star Spangled Banner since Marvin Gaye👏🏾👌🏾— MarkJonesESPN (@MarkJonesESPN) February 18, 2019
i just saw someone compare Anthony Hamilton’s star spangled banner to Marvin Gaye’s. i’m not even watching and i know that’s a lie.— Cianne (@fatandbougiee) February 18, 2019
Some Twitter users, like @neutraljing, think it “saved Black History Month.”
look at Anthony Hamilton singlehandedly trynna save this sham of a Black History Month... pic.twitter.com/vg5kvrwKhV— Ayanna Pressley’s Smirk (@NeutralJing) February 18, 2019
Yet what truly stole the show for eagle-eyed Twitter users during Hamilton’s performance was his background guitar player’s infamous side-eye toward the end of the song, where the singer may have done a little “improv.” It has since become a meme:
My man playing guitar behind Anthony Hamilton smelled something funky pic.twitter.com/OQC3pRI6mN— gifdsports (@gifdsports) February 18, 2019
Anthony Hamilton’s guitar player was not pleased with the improv at the end of the song pic.twitter.com/iouAJGOTBw— carsey (@quaysea) February 18, 2019
The dude behind Anthony Hamilton is like, "That's not what we rehearsed" pic.twitter.com/zDYG8NLcmy— MB (@babyitsmb) February 18, 2019
He has unofficially been dubbed the NBA All-Star MVP by some users:
Yoooo Anthony Hamilton's guitarist deserves MVP for the All-Star game😂😂😂 pic.twitter.com/TsQht6ydMb— Wes😂🖖🏽 (@Wesl3yyyy) February 18, 2019
Elsewhere, rapper Mill’s fiery opening performance featured a medley of his hits like the Phil Collins-sampled “Intro” from his Championships album, the Drake collab “Going Bad,” “Uptown Vibes” to introduce Team Giannis, and “Dreams and Nightmares (Intro)” to herald Team LeBron.
Meanwhile, North Carolina native Cole, clad in a ’90s throwback Charlotte Hornets jacket, performed “ATM” from his KOD album and more recent single “Middle Child” during half-time.
The rapper even threw in a shoutout to recently released 21 Savage, which was not lost on Twitter. “J. Cole just did what his peers refused to do last week at the Grammys—acknowledge and show love and support for 21 Savage,” tweets @DJBooth.
J. Cole just did what his peers refused to do last week at the GRAMMYs --- acknowledge and show love and support for 21 Savage.— DJBooth (@DJBooth) February 18, 2019
The other thing that was not lost on Twitter was how the Super Bowl halftime performances paled in comparison to that of the NBA All-Star’s, with some even going so far as to say this makes NBA the better league. “The NFL hires a shirtless Maroon 5, and the NBA hires Meek and J. Cole… and people wonder [why] the NBA is the most popular and relevant league in the country in the modern era. A great league is a woke league,” tweets @briancordova.
(The NFL is considerably more popular when it comes to TV ratings in the U.S., but the NBA does seem to routinely match the NFL when it comes to real-time tweets.)
The NFL hires a shirtless Maroon 5, and the NBA hires Meek and J. Cole... and people wonder the NBA is the most popular and relevant league in the country in the modern era. A great league is a woke league. #NBAAllstar— Brian Cordova (@briancordova) February 18, 2019
NBA gave us Meek Mill and J Cole, while the NFL had Maroon 5 out there for entertainment pic.twitter.com/y34C2YtGnX— drew. (@NBAYoungDrew) February 18, 2019
The NBA All-Star Game had Meek Mill, Anthony Hamilton and J. Cole. The NFL Super Bowl halftime show had Maroon Five. 😂😂😂— Jay King (@ByJayKing) February 18, 2019
J Cole > Maroon 5, Travis Scott, and Big Boi— Abdul Memon (@abdulamemon) February 18, 2019
J cole halftime show killing SuperBowl halftime ! #NBAAllStar— Marcus Cromartie (@Cromartie_M) February 18, 2019
J Cole’s performance at the All Star game is better than Travis Scott at the Super Bowl. It ain’t even close pic.twitter.com/k8gtcxmydf— Jaime Ortiz (@jaimeeortiz) February 18, 2019
FIRST THINGS FIRST— Ty Trammell (@tytrammel) February 18, 2019
J. Cole’s halftime show killed Travis Scott’s Super Bowl halftime show pic.twitter.com/R5t6Hl9Z6A
J. Cole alone destroyed the trash Super Bowl halftime show. #NBAAllStar— Miguel E. (@miguelem06) February 18, 2019
“let’s give j. cole a 30 minute set... just so we can flex on the NFL”— 2001: a space jodeci (@normalmogs) February 18, 2019
i respect the vision pic.twitter.com/pa9AeIgiir
J Cole has already smashed the Super Bowl half time show pic.twitter.com/x3YRV46Z6F— SportsLyfe (@_SportsLyfeDFS) February 18, 2019
User @Mojo99_ thinks the NFL should “take notes.”
In case you were wondering, Kevin Durant is the All-Star game’s official MVP for the second time in his NBA career.
Trixie Reyna-Benedicto is a lifestyle editor and writer based in the Philippines. Previously, she helmed Cosmopolitan Philippines’ website, Cosmo.ph, as its founding editor. She later served as editor-in-chief of lifestyle and entertainment portals for Manila-based media company TV5. Her work has appeared in several print and online publications in her country, and she contributes to Speed Magazine, DG Traveler, and Connected Women, among others. Visit her website, trixiereyna.com.