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In professional basketball, there is no greater individual accomplishment more rewarding then being selected for your league’s All-Star game. Imagine, after a long first half of the season where you put in maximum effort and drive your body and mind to its limits to be voted in to the All-Star game, but then you step onto the court and realize it’s an absolute dumpster fire of half-assed basketball. Players are showing no effort and play little to no defense which may allow for a high scoring game but the points are being scored at such a slow pace that it lacks any entertainment value and it’s because nobody is playing at a high level, and why should they? This game has no meaning other than the honor of being selected.
It’s not just the NBA, all professional sports are having a hard time figuring out exactly what to do with their all-star games, because the truth is players don’t seem to want to play in them and that lack of competitive fire leads to fans not wanting to watch them.
Commissioner Adam Silver has decided to attack this issue head on with a new format for the NBA All-Star game that will be implemented this year in Los Angeles. Instead of the classic East Vs. West format we will now have the two highest vote getters from each conference (lets just be honest, Stephen Curry and LeBron James) becoming team captains and selecting their teams – playground style – from a pool of players selected by fans and coaches. The thinking here is that this will allow for some interesting team-ups which makes it more interesting for fans to watch.
That’s not all though, each team will also be playing for a game check given to a charity of their selection, which should provide extra incentive for the players to play harder. To me, this is actually a genius move by the NBA, because no matter what, something good comes out of All-Star night with money being donated. You’d expect that the players wouldn’t want to be caught looking lackadaisical when charity money is on the line and risk the bad PR, and on the other side it is automatically good PR for the NBA as a league.
My only problem is with All-Star weekend as a whole. One of the biggest events in basketball history is the NBA Dunk Contest, and while All-Star weekend is littered with skills competitions and the always entertaining Celebrity All-Star game, the Dunk Contest is what people want to see, or at least used to want to see. The days of the iconic Michael Jordan dunks are over and now we’re getting end-of-bench guys like Glen Robinson III and Derrick Jones Jr. battle it out for the crown, and it’s just not what fans are wanting to spend their time watching.
With the NBA introducing the idea of charitable donations to the All-Star games it makes you wonder if the potential to add this perk to the Dunk Contest is in our near future. Stars like LeBron James, Russell Westbrook and Anthony Davis have always had the opportunity to participate in the Dunk Contest but have never been pushed to actually compete, whether this be a matter of fatigue, fear of injury or maybe fear of losing, the fact remains the NBA has not been able to attract big name players to this contest that used to be a major event in sports. If the NBA waved a big charity check in front of star players’ faces I would imagine it’d be hard for them to turn it down, especially with a possible PR backlash if they refuse.
There’s plenty of potential with this new format, and I’m interested to see just how much grander it could make the All-Star weekend. Adam Silver continues to make his mark on the NBA, and so far it’s been for the best.