Last weekend marked the mid-season break for the National Basketball Association (NBA), which means the annual spectacle of All-Star weekend is approaching.
Every year, the NBA gifts fans with a combination of challenges for NBA players to participate in such as the skills competition, three-point contest and slam dunk contest. The weekend culminates with the heralded All-Star game on Sunday night.
For years, the All-Star game threw the traditional rules of basketball aside and has been referenced to as a glorified pick-up game featuring the best players in the league. Lately, the All-Star game has been an excuse for celebrities and movie stars to flood Los Angeles, New Orleans or wherever the location may be, and watch players make a mockery of the age-old tradition for three hours.
The All-Star game used to be a competitive match-up of NBA legends facing off against each other, looking to prove that they were the best in the league. Back in 2003, fans were able to see a weathered Michael Jordan battle against a raw and young Kobe Bryant, and it was magical. Match-ups like these are what fans wanted and waited for as the NBA took its mid-season siesta.
In recent years, the All-Star game has ventured far away from what it used to be. Defense is nonexistent. Steph Curry is jacking shots from 35 feet, hoping that one might find the bottom of the net. LeBron James is catching half-court alley-oops while every player on the court simply watches. Is it fun to see players cut loose after a grueling few months of practice and games? Yes, it is. However, when players show little effort and act as if it’s not a nationally televised event in prime time, then the line is being crossed.
People want to see the best of the best duking it out against each other trying to make themselves known to the sports world. Last year might have been the breaking point as the Western Conference toppled the Eastern Conference with a mind-boggling final score of 192-182. This wasn’t basketball anymore. Players were simply going through the motions as they looked ahead to the second half of the season.
Commissioner Adam Silver knew that things had to change. Luckily enough, he answered the numerous calls of frustrated NBA fans and switched up the format for this year’s competition.
Rather than separating the two teams by conference, there would be a draft where two captains would pick their squads. LeBron James and Stephen Curry, the two faces of the association, proceeded to construct their teams and a week later, fans witnessed one of the best All-Star games they’ve seen in a very long time.
With the new format and an added incentive of a large charity donation for the winning team, the game content was much-improved. Fans still got what they wanted out of their favorite stars such as alley-oops and big-time dunks, but players were competitive. The effort was there; defense was being played, and fans across the country rejoiced. We found out that Joel Embiid stuffing NBA royalty such as Russell Westbrook and Paul George at the rim was just as enjoyable to watch as LeBron giving a bounce-pass alley-oop to Anthony Davis. Fans were drawn in to the intensity and combative play rather than turning the game off at halftime.
The new and improved All-Star game is just one example of how progressive and fan-friendly the NBA is. Credit should be given to Commissioner Adam Silver. He, unlike many other commissioners of professional sports leagues, answers the requests of fans and is always looking for ways to improve the industry.
This is what separates the NBA from other major sports industries such as the NFL and MLB. Where something isn’t working, Silver finds ways to improve it. The All-Star game is a testament to that.
It has already been confirmed that the All-Star draft will be televised next season, something that players and fans alike wished for this season. This is another reason that more and more people every year are tuning into NBA broadcasts.
The association continues to grow in popularity, and it isn’t hard to see why. The association was able to save the All-Star game last weekend, showing the world that it is willing to go against the grain and resist the status quo. One can only hope that other sports leagues will take notice and follow in the footsteps of professional basketball.
Connor Sodak is a fourth-year student majoring in communications and minoring in journalism. ✉ CS824220@wcupa.edu.