Appreciating All-Star Weekend

I don't know if my love of All-Star Weekend has been blinded by my love for it, but I have read more negative opinions of All-Star Weekend this year, than any other year in memory. My earliest memory of the All-Star game was the 97 game at Cleveland's Gund Arena. I was only 9 years old at the time, and had followed basketball as much as a 9 year old could. It was that All-Star game that I understood what the NBA was bringing to the fans. It was about showcasing the best talent in the world, with the best players in the world, and showing the incredibly quality the game could be played at when all the best talent was on one team. It was a weekend-long show that amazed me every second I watched. Now, people have compared the All-Star game to a circus. Critics are calling for defensive incentives to players (awards, bonuses, etc.), removal of the Rookie Game, Slam-Dunk Contest, 3pt contest, etc. I can't believe this is even being circulated as a mainstream opinion. Here are my thoughts on the recent news of the All-Star Weekend.

First of all, I'm still unsure of why the fans voted in Rudy Fernandez. I actually haven't seen any sign him being a better than average dunker. I have seen him catch a few lob passes, and I have seen him finish some dunks on a breakaway, but what NBA player hasn't? I have a feeling it will be similar to Chris Anderson's 2005 run. And, if we are lucky enough, Nate Robinson will have another awkward, seemingly endless run, at about 100 consecutive missed dunks, but still managing to win the contest. I'm glad that J.R Smith go the go-ahead over Rudy Gay because J.R is an athlete. We have seen him finish countless times, and he will be a fun guy to watch. Apparently, he is asking teammate Chris Anderson for tips, but we hope that Smith is just using that as a guide of what not to do.

As far as the Rookie Challenge is concerned, I think it is fine. It is another chance for fans to see raw skills on a stage. Yes, it kind of inflates the young players' perception of themselves, but they are the future of the league. Most fans do not get to see these players play on a regular basis, so it is good for everyone to see these players have some fun. A handful of these guys will be All-Stars in the near future. It can also act as an incentive for these young players to work hard. They get a taste of what All-Star Weekend is all about, and they have something to work for. That has to be worth something.

Ok, I'll concede that the Celebrity game is a bit excessive. C'mon, we know that it is all marketing. There has to be some level of interest in seeing Justin Timberlake throw a lob to TO that he can't finish, but still claim he could have played in the NBA if given a second chance. It is good for the league. I know that my 15 year old cousin that has no interest in the NBA watches the celebrity game because of, well, the celebrities. It gives the NBA some level of exposure to fans that would never think twice about skipping over an NBA game on tv. In that sense, the game can stay, and we can use marketing to a different demographic as our scapegoat.

Lets group the Shooting Stars, Skills, and 3pt contest challenges all together. You have got to be joking if you can't find some level of enjoyment from seeing Moses Malone, Scottie Pippen, Clyde Drexler, etc. coupled with a WNBA player, and a current NBA player launching half court bombs isn't entertaining. The Skills challenge is really entertaining. Watching some of the best players in the league showcase their pinpoint accuracy, handles, and speed is definitely something every hoops fan can appreciate. Of course, the 3pt contest is the same old thing every year, but it is similar to seeing a player in practice. Shooting ball after ball, systematically and rhytmically. Tell me you haven't gone out into your driveway/backyard and done some kind of 3point contest with your friend. The 3pt shootout is another way that we can appreciate shooting skill and stamina.

Yes, I agree that 30 minutes of introduction prior to actually playing the game on Sunday is a bit much, but the players have worked hard to get there, and for some, it may be one of the only times they are showcased. Let them have their spotlight. It is a time for these individual players to represent their team. Although some may think that this feeds into the stereotype of the NBA being a self-centered league, these players have exceled, and in many cases, brought their team to the next level. The game is an honor. It has no implications besides a little bigger paycheck to the winning team. Why can't we sit back and enjoy the game? We are a society that is built on scoring. Isn't that one of the reasons this country has never fallen in love with soccer? Isn't that why this country complains when a football game ends 9-6? A field goal is less exciting than a touchdown. A base hit is less exciting than a home run, and a home run is less exciting than a grand slam. A layup is less exciting than a 3pter. We love to see flash. We love to see the most amazing play. That's what is so enticing and addictive about sports. We admire the ability of an athlete to do something we cannot. We are awed by their physical superiority and skill. So why have we fallen out of love with the All-Star game? It is a time for us to see a glorified pickup game without any losses. There does not need to be an elevated form of defense. Let the players play. Let their creativity amaze us. It is a show, and nothing more. The All-Star game would be much less entertaining if the players were playing for real. So on Sunday, watch the game from a different perspective. Watch the game differently than we normally would. No need to criticize the defense like you would when you are watching your favorite team. Just understand that if a player makes a bad decision, it was to make a play. We should also know that if the game is close, these are professional athletes, which is synonymous with "professional competitor". Their instincts will kick in, and they will try and win the game. We point to the MJ heroics at the Atlanta game in 2003. If we are lucky enough, we will be graced with another highlight to add to one of the greatest players in the league.

So I hope that this positive light on these events has allowed everyone to at least try to take a different perspective when watching the festitivities this weekend. We should appreciate the product for what it is, and not compare it to the playoffs. If none of what I said has struck you, just know that the trade deadline is a few days after this is over, and the season is serious when Monday hits. Enjoy.



Powers said...

I think the All-Star Weekend is lacking one main event. The game, 3pt contest, and dunk contest are always great and eternal standards. However, it seems like the NBA is desperately searching for one other event to push it over the top, and tries a new mediocre idea every new year.

How about this for next year: The 20th Anniversary Game. The NBA contacts every member of the 1989-90 All Star teams and invites them for a shorter version of their event 20 years ago. The possibilities are endless, and who wouldn't watch fat MJ take on fat Magic Johnson or fat Clyde Drexler.

The biggest question would be if they would accept it. But there's a reason these guys were All-Stars in the first place, their unmatched competitiveness. This is the same reason Charles Barkley didn't refuse possibly getting embarrassed running against 70 year old Dick Bavetta. This competitive spirit would also help make the games exciting to watch, as the game could become a source of major bragging rights as a testament to the players' maintenance of their skills over the years. Get ready for next year's game: http://www.databasebasketball.com/awards/allstarbox.htm?lg=N&yr=1989

Kivell said...

I like your writing a lot. I have a basketball blog also. It is nba-insidescoop.blogspot.com. Greg Payne (the celtics blog guy) contacted me about joining his network that he was trying to start. I noticed that he had a link to your site and you have one to his, so I assumed he has talked to you also. Check my site out, and if you like, throw a link up for it on your site and i'll do the same for you on mine. Just leave a comment on one of my articles so I know whether we are going to do this or not.