It really doesn’t matter anymore.
Yes, it still elicits plenty of commentary on social media, but no one cares about the events, and until serious interest was renewed last night, the game.
Players simply want the honor of being an All-Star, but would probably prefer the extended vacation during the middle of the season to playing in an exhibition game that features only suggestions of competition.
The Celebrity Game doesn’t even provide the excitement of an MTV Rock ‘N Jock affair.
Each year the Rising Stars Challenge becomes more and more like its Sunday successor, with no discernible effort other than to try to create a GIF. The final minutes of this year’s edition weren’t even basketball. It was just Zion Williamson being force fed dunk opportunities that he seemed not to want.
The skills challenge is borderline unwatchable, and the three point contest has lost its edge. I like Buddy Hield a lot, and the field was full of fine players, but there was no pride on the line there. There was no “Who’s coming in second” moment.
Finally, the Slam Dunk Contest used to be the pinnacle of All-Star Saturday night. The reactions of players sitting court side was nearly as entertaining as the actual contest itself.
Now, the top names avoid the contest like the plague; either concerned about potential embarrassment or suspect judging.
The game itself feels more like an open run than a chance for the best of these to really go at each other.
Now, I haven’t been asked by the NBA to revamp their All-Star festivities, but I have a few ideas for the league to make the event an event once again:
Scrap the Celebrity Game
Spice Adams is a funny dude, but there’s a reason you find his best work on Twitter and Instagram. He’s best enjoyed in small doses. Seeing him and other people ranging from pretty famous to “who the hell is that?,” isn’t entertaining.
Listening to Stephen A. Smith coach is just annoying.
Instead of giving extremely privileged people the opportunity to show how little they’ve actually played basketball, why not make the game representative of the fans of each city?
Hold an in-season contest in every NBA city, where a field of players can compete to represent their team in the Fan’s Game.
Send those 30 players to the All-Star site, split them up East versus West, and put $150,000 on the line for each team, winner take all.
That simple change makes the buildup to the actual game an ongoing story. I get how Chance the Rapper is selected, I want to find out how Steve the Electrician earns his chance for one night of glory.
Rising Stars Challenge
We all want to see the future stars of the league, but with the number of true impact rookies being rather limited, the format no longer makes sense.
Players don’t all become rising stars in their first or second seasons. Open it up to players in their first four seasons to give the league the chance to put some really good but not yet great players on display.
Also, dump the USA vs. The World format. It hamstrings the rosters and haven’t we pissed off the rest of the world enough already?
Adios Skills Challenge
Yes, the Skills Challenge must be sacrificed to the basketball gods as well. It really just an extended competition that would normally take place during a time-out of any regular season game.
“H.O.R.S.E.” has already failed as an All-Star event because no one really wanted to try. Plus, how do you think an event about making difficult shots is going to draw eyeballs when the contestants are Kevin Durant, RAJON RONDO, and OMRI CASSPI?!?
Give me a few rounds of Knockout instead. It’s a game that everyone has played, it doesn’t require a lot of explanation but it does require hustle, and it ends quickly. Best of all, it is both fun and competitive.
The Three-Point Contest
The purpose of each one of these suggestions is to up the level of competitiveness in every event and make it more enjoyable for the fans.
Adding Mountain Dew-colored basketballs failed to do either.
People dig tournaments. Make this a tournament as well. Players would shoot against each other on opposite sides of the court simultaneously in each of the first two rounds. In the final round, each shooter would get the floor to themselves.
To add the extra spice, make players draw their opening opponent at random. Use four pairs of black sticks with colored tips, the equivalent of drawing straws. Whoever has the same color, that’s who they face. Second round and final seeding gets done by point totals.
The Dunk Contest
This past weekend there was a big controversy over “The Renegade,” a dance invented by a 14 year old girl from Atlanta that was gentrified until a social media uproar finally brought Jalaiah Harmon the credit she was due.
What does that have to do with the dunk contest you say?
The best innovations come from regular people who are just really passionate about something. There are guys out there just waiting for the chance to take on the NBA’s highest flyers.
Much like the Celebrity Game, the stakes have to be raised to make this thing interesting.
Team NBA vs Team Street. Four NBA dunkers against four dunkers chosen via online voting. They submit their best dunks on video and the fans decide who gets to participate.
Winners take all once again, but the dollar amount increases to $500,000 per team ($125K per person).
That’s life changing money for some people. The format is up for discussion, but one thing that has to be dealt with is the judging, which has been suspect for years. Someone smarter than I am is going to have to figure that part out, but otherwise, you have a far more intriguing and exciting event.
The All-Star Game
To me the All-Star game died when Steph Curry laid down in the middle of the court rather than even attempt to play defense in 2017.
This year there was some life brought back into the game, and though it may have been inspired by the tragic passing of NBA legend Kobe Bryant, the 2020 All-Star game turned out to be a huge success.
The winning of each quarter didn’t add or take away from the drama. But the game was as competitive as any of the recent vintage.
The Elam Ending worked for the most part, though the game ending in a free throw is something that was disappointing and yet easily fixed. Simply state that the game must end on a made basket.
The changes made this year did create the requisite buzz and fan feedback seems very positive.
There may be even more we can do.
Starting with the selection process. I don’t really care how the players get chosen other than eliminating the conference designations. I have Swaggy P to thank for that one.
I don’t get it ... the all star game is not east vs west no more so why do they pick Eastern and Western conferences I think you should just pick the top 24 players in the league and not by east or west...— Nick Young (@NickSwagyPYoung) January 31, 2020
After those 24 are taken, there is always a list of players who are classified as “snubs.” Snubs tend to take this designation very personally. Players are quick to take to social media to voice their displeasure at being omitted from the All-Star roster, but are much quieter when it comes to figuring out who shouldn’t have made it.
The simple solution to settle these disputes. A game of one-on-one. Any player who feels snubbed gets to call out a player at the same position and play them to 11. Make it, take it, and win by two. You lose the game, you lose your spot.
On to the drafting of the teams. The two captains don’t get to sit miles apart and pick their teammates during a made for television event.
Team selections go down on the court, right after player introductions. With the captains at center court, the remaining 22 players form a circle around them and the fun begins.
Just like on the playground, the fans get to watch as players have to look their peers in the eyes and decide right then and there who they want. Give them a 24 second shot clock to decide in order to keep things moving.
Watching a multi-millionaire deal with the indignity of being chosen last is worth it by itself, but we can do more.
Get rid of the coaches. There are no coaches at the park. Let the captains pick the subs and watch the tension increase as certain players don’t get the minutes they expected to play.
While we’re at it, get rid of the refs too. Make the teams call their own fouls. Imagine James Harden having to defend his own call.
Taking a cue from Ice Cube and The Big 3. Make a guy earn the ball. If there’s a dispute on the call, one-on-one. The offensive player gets one chance to score. No bucket, the ball’s going the other way.
The scoring and charity elements are fine. They don’t really matter as far as the game play goes. The ultimate goal here is to make the game meaningful to the players and more fun for the fans.
The NBA took a big step forward with the All-Star game itself, but maybe a few other ideas could make the entire weekend as special as the on court product was Sunday night.