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How To Save NBA All-Star Weekend

Jeffrey Dubrof |
February 2, 2015 | 12:56 p.m. PST

Staff Reporter

Michael Jordan and Kobe Bryant in 2003 All Star Game (Flickr, tzuan3)
Michael Jordan and Kobe Bryant in 2003 All Star Game (Flickr, tzuan3)
The month of February is a sad time for sports fans all over the country. February marks the official end of football season with the Super Bowl leaving us with only the NBA. Don’t get me wrong, I love the NBA and all it has to offer, but February is the mid-point of the season. The season hasn’t really gotten close to a playoff push, games are becoming repetitive and ESPN will be broadcasting their 50th Lebron James game of the year thus far. But these things can dealt with and more bearable with some outside distractions, and knowing that spring training is around the corner. However, nothing can help America survive the ever-growing train wreck that is NBA All-Star Weekend.

The NBA All-Star weekend is a three-day event full of glamor and flare. It features athletes from all over the world attending wearing flashy clothes and for Russell Westbrook, a pair of glasses without the lenses along with a white jacket with pictures of rubber ducks on it. Usually held in some sort of big city, this year’s All Star game will be held in Brooklyn, i.e. New York City. The event begins on Friday with the debauchery of basketball known as the Rookie-Sophomore game. The game features some of the NBA’s best young talent and is usually aired on a some ESPN affiliate, maybe ESPNU or the Longhorn Network. The game usually ends with the score for each team being somewhere in the mid-80s. The game is overall a dud and needs big time improvements or straight elimination. 

Next on the lineup is the skills day on Saturday. Usually the start to the most exciting day of the weekend, this contest consists of various challenges to test a certain players ability in a certain area of the game. There is the skills challenge, the three-point contest and the most notable and popular of the three (which is not saying much), the dunk contest. Each contest contains its own element of drama and fun, and has remained consistent with the rules of the contest in the past. However, the NBA decided to change the rules of their most popular event, the dunk contest. In previous years the contest consists of individual competition between five competitors. There is high-flying action and unbelievable moments. I will never forget the dunk battle between Dwight Howard and Nate Robinson. But last year, the NBA decided to make it some sort of team event. Having a Western Conference team and an Eastern Conference team, the players on each side would compile dunks together to see who would receive the higher score. Just in this one change, the drama and a lot of the intensity was lost.

Finally Sunday rolls around. The day of the marquee event, the All-Star Game. A fast and furious game that showcases the world's top talent and even Kobe Bryant with a torn achilles. The game is high scoring and the plays are top-10 worthy. Aside from that, the game is not the same as it used to be. To me, All-Star Weekend is now a dwindling fad. There are many improvements that need to be made in order to get the All-Star Weekend back on track.

To start it off, fans should not be allowed to vote! I will be blunt and honest in my opinion about this. I love the fact that the NBA is reaching out to their fans and trying to get them involved. But at a certain point, fan participation becomes a little absurd. Last year, Kobe Bryant was voted to the Western Conference All Star team. This just should not be the case. Kobe was out last year with a season-long injury. He played in 6 games! How does that make him an All-Star, America? It is turning into a popularity contest. The NBA needs to keep the integrity of the game and put players in the game that actually deserve to be in it. For most NBA players, being selected as an All-Star is a big deal especially for players with Hall of Fame aspirations. Why let the fans decide a player’s fate when the majority of the people voting may not be intelligent NBA fans? Fan discretion is not the way a player wants his career to be decided. For teams in a small market, it is hard to get prime-time coverage on ESPN or TNT. Players get snubbed every year due to fan near-sighted voting. Damian Lillard, the point guard of the Portland Trail Blazers, was not given a spot, but Russell Westbrook, who has missed plenty of games this year did receive a spot. I concede that Westbrook’s stats are better, but he has played in fewer games, which allows for stats to be diluted. It ultimately comes down to the fact that Damian Lillard deserves to be in this game. The only good thing about the voting process is the fans vote for solely the starters, while the coaches in each conference vote for their reserves. If it weren’t for this process, players like Tim Duncan would not have been flashy enough in America’s eyes to receive a spot.

Gerald Green (Flickr, Stefano Brivio)
Gerald Green (Flickr, Stefano Brivio)

Next, I would put the game broadcast on ESPN. I love TNT and their basketball coverage. I think the Thursday night broadcast of TNT basketball is far superior to that of ESPN, but let’s face it, ESPN is the worldwide leader in sports. I love Marv Albert and Reggie Miller, but there is a reason the NBA Finals has been on an ESPN affiliate that is ABC for as long as I can remember. TNT’s crew is hilarious and great, but ESPN is just too big to fail. They advertise well and we all know we would see thousands of commercials with a voice over saying something along the lines of “for fans of fantasy basketball… this is your game." I am not saying that TNT has failed to make the All-Star Game good, I just feel as if ESPN would have a greater sphere of influence to make it better. The Rookie-Sophomore game and the skills competitions would get more views. I know for me the first thing I do when I turn on the TV is turn on ESPN. If there happens to be nothing else on, then sure I’ll watch what ESPN is broadcasting.

Jersey design has been something of great concern and controversy over the past few All-Star Games. Trying to be some sort of pioneer with crazy NBA jerseys, the All-Star Game jerseys have gone over the top. Which brings me to my next improvement, bring back the era when players would wear their own home team jersey. Pride is a big element of sports, and nothing would make a player more proud than representing their team in what is considered to be the game consisting of the best talent in the world. To me, when I would see Tim Duncan in his Spurs jersey, passing to Kobe Bryant in his Lakers jersey, I thought it was pretty neat. It really brings about the idea that these players for one night are representing their conference, but more importantly they are representing the team that gave them the opportunity to be on that stage. Adam Silver, take those train wreck jerseys and throw them away please. 

This is not so much an improvement as it is a plea, but LEBRON JAMES PLEASE PARTICIPATE IN THE DUNK CONTEST! LeBron James is hands down the most athletic basketball player in the world, even if he is aging and coming down from his prime. I am sick and tired of Lebron saying at each dunk contest, “next year I’ll be in the dunk contest." It never happens! James is the most popular player in the world. Would it be outrageous to think that the ratings for the dunk contest would go up if he participated? The NBA needs to take matters into their own hands. Adam Silver, get on your hands and knees, and beg LeBron to participate. He is too good to be sitting in the courtside seats wearing some big-framed glasses and eating a bucket of popcorn, and watching the competition happen. LeBron, you have nothing to lose!

The NBA All-Star Weekend is not in deep trouble, yet. It is not in the same trouble that the NFL Pro Bowl is. Because of the glamor and the “pizazz” that the NBA has, the All-Star weekend is able to attract viewers. However, if they do not make improvements soon, it could be the end of NBA All-Star Weekend.

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