NBA’s annual All-Star weekend, held two weeks ago, is an event basketball fans look forward to for a variety of reasons. There’s the dunk contest, the three-point contest, the skills challenge, the All-Star game itself and most importantly, the perfect excuse to avoid spending $200 on a Valentine’s Day date.
The dunk contest was my favorite part of the weekend. Zach Lavine and his freakish athleticism won the event for the second straight year, and Aaron Gordon unleashed three of the best dunks I’ve ever seen in my life.
The three-point contest was a close second. The star-studded lineup didn’t disappoint, and it was fun to see teammates and all-time-great shooters Stephen Curry and Klay Thompson battling it out.
However, the actual All-Star game left me disappointed. Again.
This year, the lack of passion and effort from the players was more apparent than ever. Both teams played defense like James Harden was their coach. They barely ran. The only effort they exerted was when they jumped for an alley-oop. Congrats, Lebron, you’re 6’8” and can dunk! Woohoo!
Alley-oops are entertaining. Long threes are fun to watch. But it doesn’t impress me when everything they do is wide open without contest. I would expect them to be able to dunk or hit an open shot. Call me old-school, but what entertains me is picking apart a defense or making a defender look silly while he’s giving his best effort.
When I imagine a game with the best players in the world going head-to-head, I anticipate a battle. I expect their competitive juices to flow and for them to care a little more. I expect some gamesmanship. Some snarkiness. Some good, old-fashioned hostility. I expect the players to show some pride.
That’s how the game used to be back in the ‘80s and ‘90s. I understand the league has gone Hollywood these days, as every player is basically buddy-buddy with each other. But, I think the All-Star game is suffering the most from that premise.
I know the players don’t want to risk injury, but I think the fans deserve an All-Star game that’s better than your average pickup game at Markin. I don’t know the perfect solution to solving it, but I think they could look to the MLB for guidance.
The MLB’s All-Star game determines which league has home-field advantage in the World Series. The NBA could do the same thing or something similar: give the winning conference of the All-Star game home-court advantage for games one and two of the NBA finals.
If they put some real stakes on the All-Star game and make it mean something, I know the players will show at least a little bit of competitiveness, and the fans will get to see the best product.
Whatever Adam Silver decides to do, he’d better do it fast, before the NBA All-Star games turns into something like the abomination known as the NFL Pro-Bowl.