Long gone are the good ol’ days of Magic, Jordan, Bird, and co. Those were the days when NBA All-Star Weekend was classified as “must see TV”. I recall rushing home after work on Saturday and postponing all of my plans for the evening to watch the Three Point Shootout and of course, the Slam Dunk Contest. Every year we could expect to see a dunk or two that no one had seen before and something no one thought was humanly possible. No one wanted to be “that guy” who missed what everyone was sure to be talking about for days and maybe even weeks to come.
Sunday’s All-Star game was the crown jewel however. It wasn’t just to a game with the NBA’s best and brightest going head to head. It was a showcase of your favorite celebrities sitting in the stands and special All-Star edition footwear being premiered on court. For example, the 1996 All-Star Game was the first time we saw one of favorite shoes of all time, the Air Jordan XI. As a whole, NBA All-Star weekend was actually something that people looked forward to. I greatly fear that those days are a thing of the past.
As we all know, business ruins most everything. All-Star weekend is a spectacle. And like most spectacles, everyone is looking to cash in. Commercialization and personal interests have completely watered down the essence of what All-Star weekend is supposed to be. As crazy as it seems, there once was a time when the stars of the game actually WANTED TO PARTICIPATE!!! Just think about it for a second… Companies make money off of commercials, players make money from sponsors, and the NBA makes money off of both. What is left for the fans? The people you want to see dunk, don’t. Why? Because no one wants to take the chance to get hurt or lose in front of a massive audience and there’s no longer any value to being a dunk champion anymore. In 2011, Blake Griffin won the trophy by doing a mediocre dunk over the latest vehicle from the official car company of the NBA. The 3-Point Shootout is also something that most people couldn’t care any less about. Why? Because 3-point shooting isn’t exciting, plain and simple. Don’t lie to yourself and say that it is because it isn’t!! I won’t even waste any time talking about the skills challenge. That event is as contrived as they come.
Another big factor in the underwhelming appeal of All-Star Weekend is the players. Of course people are excited to see the usual suspects: Kobe, LeBron, D Wade, KD, etc. I’m talking about the lesser-known guys whom I affectionately refer to as “space fillers”. It’s hard to get excited to see Paul George, David Lee, LaMarcus Aldridge, etc., unless you’re a fan of their respective teams. The NBA is facing a great challenge when it comes to generating and maintaining a high level of interest in All-Star Weekend.
A great idea would be to have some sort of poll where a list of prominent players would be selected to perform in all three events. This would be a great way to generate some buzz and reinvigorate the dunk and 3-point contests. LeBron might actually be in a dunk contest under the format I’m proposing. Who knows, stranger things have been known to happen. At this point, the NBA should really cast a big net and find ways to reinvent the whole weekend. The weekend needs to go back to making it about the players and not an entertainment event. Then and only then, will REAL fans come back to the fold and begin to revere All Star Weekend as they once did.