The Star-Spangled Banner is the most recognizable song in the United States aside from, I guess, the Happy Birthday jingle. But over the years, our country’s national anthem took some wild twists and turns for the sake of creativity. You can bet on how long it’ll last before the Super Bowl, and there are no shortage of performances that have turned our country’s anthem into something completely different.
In 2018, Fergie’s rendition of the national anthem at the 2018 NBA All-Star Game was so bad, she had to apologize. The next year, Charlotte native Anthony Hamilton gave his own rendition that sounded nothing like Francis Scott Key’s original, but was at least met with applause from fans. Then, at the 2020 All-Star Game in Chicago, legendary singer Chaka Khan took center court in her hometown to sing the national anthem before Sunday night’s riveting matchup between Team LeBron and Team Giannis.
It took nearly three minutes to complete, and NBA fans quickly aligned the Queen of Funk’s national anthem performance as one of the worst in recent memory.
Chaka Khan’s National Anthem Performance
Confused faces aside, social media exploded with tweets and criticism at the risks the ten-time Grammy Award winner and platinum-selling recording artist decided to take with the song, even if Khan’s rendition fit her musical style and legacy perfectly.
The fact that this was probably the greatest NBA All-Star Game in the last 20 years made up for the odd start, which also including pregame tributes to the late Kobe Bryant and daughter Gianna from Jennifer Hudson, rapper Common, and Hall of Famer Magic Johnson. Chicago’s own Chance the Rapper headlined the halftime show alongside guest appearances from Lil Wayne, Quavo and DJ Khaled.
Paced by the game’s MVP Kawhi Leonard— he was given the first Kobe Bryant All-Star MVP Award, named after Mamba—Team LeBron came from behind to seal a 157-155 victory in a thrilling fourth quarter thanks to the game’s new format. LeBron James finished with 23 points, six assists and five rebounds, while Chris Paul’s hot hand shot 7-of-11 from 3-point range to finish with 23 points off the bench.
Team captain Giannis Antetokounmpo was a force all night and finished with 25 points, 11 rebounds and three blocks. Three of his teammates—Joel Embiid, Trae Young and Rudy Gobert—logged double-doubles in a game that contributed $500,000 to local Chicago children’s charities.
Had it not been for Chaka Khan’s national anthem rendition, the night would’ve been a complete success on every level.
And just for comparison’s sake alongside Chaka Khan’s rendition, listen to Fergie’s national anthem from a few years back. (Headphones are advised…)
Fergie’s NBA All-Star Game National Anthem
NBA All-Star Weekend also featured a pair Miami Heat teammates taking home trophies, as Bam Adebayo won the Taco Bell Skills challenge while Derrick Jones Jr. won a controversial Slam Dunk Contest. Sacramento’s Buddy Hield knocked off Phoenix’s Devin Booker to win the 3-Point Contest as well.