Portrait of an All-Star: Victor Oladipo's path from underdog to the big game

This is the first piece in a four-part series looking at NBA All-Stars at different stages of their careers as All-Star Weekend approaches.

Victor Oladipo remembers cherishing the NBA All-Star Weekend as a participant in various events in his first two seasons, a thrill for the No. 2 overall pick in 2013. Oladipo played in the Rising Stars game and Skills Challenge as a rookie, then the Rising Stars game and Slam Dunk competition in his second season. Oladipo blossomed into an All-Star this season for the Indiana Pacers, being voted in as an Eastern Conference reserve the last month and again competing in the Slam Dunk contest.

Oladipo’s All-Star turn is the result of a breakout fifth season in which his athleticism, shooting and defensive abilities fully melded. For Oladipo, 25, the mindset is simple: one All-Star honor down and many more accomplishments to go.

“It definitely means a lot to me, an accomplishment that is humbling to me,” Oladipo told Yahoo Sports. “I’m just proud I get to represent not only the Indiana Pacers — but my family — as an All-Star. When I got voted in, I was so honored and excited. I look at this as a stepping stone. I have a lot more goals, a lot more things that I want to accomplish as a team and as an individual.

Victor Oladipo is averaging 24.4 points, 5.4 rebounds and 4.1 assists this season. (AP Photo/Michael Conroy)

“That’s my mentality, that I have one [All-Star honor] under my belt, but there’s more I want to accomplish. I truly believe that and I know I have to keep working so I can achieve more. I grew up idolizing players in the All-Star Game, and now I’m one of them. It will be surreal.”

An All-Star nod for Oladipo was born out of individual and team success. He joined Domantas Sabonis as part of the Pacers’ return for trading Paul George to Oklahoma City, and has led a balanced, energetic group to a 32-25 record and the sixth seed in the Eastern Conference, just two games out of the third seed. For the season, Oladipo is averaging 24.4 points, 5.4 rebounds and 4.1 assists and is top five in the league in steals at 2.1 per game.

Oladipo dealt with trade rumors in his first three seasons in Orlando, had a unique learning experience alongside Russell Westbrook last season with the Thunder, and now has his mind on All-Star Weekend with the Pacers. He’s also starring in his return to Indiana, where he played collegiately for the Hoosiers.

“Being able to play in the game, it’s going to be surreal,” Oladipo said. “Having my family and friends there for the entire weekend, it’s going to be a good time for me. I’ve watched it twice as a Rising Star, not going at all and viewing the whole weekend — it’s important to be there.

“It’s a weekend NBA players all look forward to, and to be part of it is an honor. Representing this team as an All-Star is important to me, and it will be a special weekend doing the dunk contest and my first All-Star Game.”

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