Another NBA All-Star Weekend has come and gone, and once again it was almost completely forgettable.
Sure, there were a couple of highlights across the three days such as Zach LaVine’s performance in the Dunk Contest and Russell Westbrook scoring 41 points in the All-Star main event, but these highlights were few and far between.
Each year myself and countless other fans lose more interest in what is supposed to be a showcase weekend for the league, and I think I speak for these fans when I say it’s in need of some changes
NBA commissioner Adam Silver seems to have started moving the weekend in a positive direction with the Rising Stars Challenge this year. Instead of meaningless teams of first and second-year players being arbitrarily picked, this year saw a USA versus The World format introduced, which gave the game some life.
In previous years the Rising Stars Challenge was just a less exciting All-Star Game, but the changed format seemed to motivate the players and what we ended up with was a contest that was at least taken half seriously.
The USA-World team format also gives fans an actual team to support, which can only be viewed as a positive.
Alongside the rookie game on All-Star Friday Night is the Celebrity All-Star Game, which literally dozens of people pay attention to. An NBA celebrity game has so much potential, but it falls flat when Kevin Hart is the only celebrity anyone can recognise.
Next year they need to seek out celebrities with actual star power to drum up interest in the game, or alternatively, why not have a legends game? I’m sure the NBA could find 20 past players who are keen to lace up their sneakers for another game.
Who wouldn’t be excited to see Larry Bird or Michael Jordan go at it one last time?
The Shooting Stars competition is the one event that needs no tweaking. It currently serves as a warm-up event for the main course of All-Star Saturday, and the time trial format works well for this.
Right now everyone largely forgets the Skills Challenge, but there is potential for it to be one of the highlights of the night. In its present form it’s less of a test of skills and more of a test of who’s the fastest, which was evident in Patrick Beverley’s win this year.
In every round Beverley messed up the chest pass portion three or four times, but because he was flicking out passes so quickly he easily caught other participants who had completed the skill in one attempt.
I’d like to see the Skills Challenge take on a decathlon type format, with players being tested in dribbling, passing and shooting events, with the winner being the player who performed the best overall. This format seems to be a much better way to determine which player is the most skilled, rather than a time trial.
Now we come to the main course of All-Star Saturday Night, the Three-Point and Slam Dunk contests.
Most fans were satisfied with this year’s Three-Point Contest, as for the first time in a while it seemed like they had all of the best long-range shooters participating. If they keep getting the best players and remove the silly ‘moneyball’ rack, this contest will remain a highlight for years to come.
The Dunk Contest however, has become a complete joke.
This year’s contest emphasised this, with Zach LaVine being the only participant who should be anywhere near a dunk contest. Apart from LaVine, the contest was filled with unimpressive dunks (I’m looking at you Mason Plumlee), and a plethora of attempts that contestants never completed.
I will never understand why the rules state judges have to at least give a six out of ten even if you miss all of your attempts. To fix this, the NBA needs to seek out the best Dunk Contest dunkers, rather than picking people who dunk well in-game.
Sure, Victor Oladipo and Giannis Antetokounmpo can throw down in the middle of a game, but they looked overwhelmed when trying to complete flashy dunks, which no doubt contributed to the amount of failed attempts. As Zach LaVine showed, we don’t need the highest profile players like LeBron James competing, just players who can impress us with spectacular dunks.
Finally, we arrive at the All-Star Game.
Fundamentally, the All-Star Game is sound, although I would like to see fans not have a say in who gets picked to play. All I’m asking for is a serious contest, instead of a ridiculous game where a combined 321 points are scored.
Sure, it’s cool to see Russell Westbrook score 41 points with absolutely nobody on the court trying to defend him, but highlights such as that feel so shallow. We’re peppered with so many dunks, alley-oops and three-pointers that they start to become less and less exciting as the game goes on.
Everyone’s favourite part of the All-Star Game is the final quarter where the teams actually play semi-seriously, so why not tell the teams to play a proper game?
An actual battle between the East and West would more than make up for not seeing an alley-oop or uncontested three every play, and would certainly make the highlight plays which do happen so much more exciting.
The players would probably be against this as All-Star Weekend is supposed to be a break, but the game doesn’t have to be an energy drainer. If you use a 15-man squad for each team and spread out the minutes with players only playing at 75 per cent intensity, everybody wins.
In years gone by the All-Star Game was one of my most anticipated events on the sporting calendar, but it has deteriorated to the point where I only pay slight attention to it.
Adam Silver seems to be in favour of change all around the league, so there’s hope the NBA’s All-Star Weekend can return to form and be an event we once again look forward to.