There’s nothing wrong with the NBA All-Star game.
The league has it right where it likes it. A 3 day celebrity celebration, laden with corporate sponsors attaching their names to every silly little event (including a fashion show?!). The players like it. Hollywood likes it. TNT likes it. And core basketball fans like it.
If you have a hangnail and don’t feel like playing… fine.
If you are getting ready to “shut it down” for the season because of a bad knee, but still want to play in front of your hometown fans… fine.
If you need to make the most absurd excuses to never enter the dunk contest despite being the high-flying face of the league… fine.
Last I checked, the game sells out easily, and there are no shortage of teams and cities who are ready to host it.
That said, it’s pretty silly what the actual 48 minute “game” has become. It is light years away from what it used to look like back in the NBA’s hey-day 80’s. Sure the scores were still high. Sure, players made crazy, ill-advised passes they would never make in a real game.
But at least the game looked like… A GAME. Don’t believe me? Here, watch the top-10 plays from 1983.
Yes, that’s right. Dr. J sprinted down court to reject Gus Williams at the rim, even (gasp!) knocking him over! Artis Gilmore elevated to 14 feet above sea level to try to block at Dr. J dunk. (Boom… roasted!) Players actually ran hard up and down the whole court, and didn’t just melt away defensively once an offensive player approached the paint.
Compare that highlight reel to this year’s, which you can watch here at NBA.com – although they unfortunately don’t let me or other bloggers “Embed” it for your convenience.
I mean, it’s night and day.
Oh, and one more thing: in 1983, both teams combined to attempt four (4) three-pointers. For the whole game. FOUR. In this year’s event, they shot 133.
That is not a misprint.
In 1983 there were 39 personal fouls called. This year, just nine.
Again, not that I care – because I just stated the league is doing just fine with this event as is – but wouldn’t the game be a touch more watchable if it actually resembled a game? Is the risk of injury so great, so feared, that you can’t at least watch the best players in the world grind against each other a little in the 4th quarter?
This is problem for basically ALL of the major sport’s “All-Star” games. The money is now so great, and each player is a mini-corporation, that it’s just too easy to pretend like these exhibitions don’t even need to look like an actual game.
I will concede that in football, it’s insanity to play a full tempo tackle football game, after a long and brutal season, with only a week of practice in Hawaii to get everyone on the same page. NFL, you are excused.
NHL, I’m going to send you home too, because at least in the Olympics every 4 years, we get a spectacular, full blooded round-robin “All-Star” tournament that now includes full NHL participation. And given hockey’s higher potential for injury, I can understand why the All-Star game is a glorified stick-n-shoot. NHL, you are excused.
MLB, you have made a stride in the right direction by making the game count for something, no matter what the purists say. When ball players were literally in the air on private jets (literally!) while the game was winding down in the 9th inning, you knew there was a problem. At least in baseball, when a pitcher throws, he’s throwing at actual game velocity, and there are no restrictions on types of pitches thrown And the batters are trying their hardest to get a hit, and when the ball is in play, outfielders don’t just melt away and let a guy get an inside-the-park home run. MLB, you are excused.
Now, NBA… I ask you: don’t you want to at least stop this game from becoming even more of a joke? Is a 205-203 game coming in 5 years? Would it be awesome, or stupid?
As one writer put it Sunday night: “If the NBA All-Star game was so amazing, how come you could hear a pin drop throughout most of the game at Madison Square Garden.”
Just go back and watch those highlights from 1983. A better product might be easily produced, with just a few tweaks.