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All-Star Tweakin’ February 15, 2010

Posted by dczarum in Uncategorized.
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This was supposed to be a feel good story about the sudden abundance of star-power in the NBA. Considering the monster seasons of Josh Smith and Carlos Boozer weren’t enough to translate into all-star selections, I would have argued, the days of appearances by the likes of Shareef Adbur-Rahim and Glenn Robinson (I actually liked the Big Dog, but still) are likely over. The NBA talent pool, it seems, is overflowing to the point where every team has at least two or three superstars. Or so the story would have gone. Instead, I feel I need to call an audible and address the elephant in the room: for all its hype, All-Star Weekend was downright awful. Now we can finally confirm that, when mama said “there’d be days like this”, she was referencing the 2010 NBA all-star experience. Go figure.

The weekend got off to a rocky start thanks to, of all things, a snowstorm in the host city, Dallas. Ideally, we can look to the weather and subsequent travel delays as a catalyst for the general lethargy on display, yet in actuality, the whole charade is just played out. All-Star Saturday Night has long been the NBA equivalent of a punt-pass-and-kick competition (read: boring), but at least the slam dunk contest always makes up for it. Well, almost always. The warning signs for the demise of the dunk contest were apparent as far back as 2002. That years’ contest featured a roulette-type wheel that contestants spun to determine their dunk, leading to Gerald Wallace attempting Dr. J’s Statue of Liberty dunk (with the Doctor as one of the judges, no less) and unsurprisingly failing. It was a lose-lose situation. Though they smartly got rid of the wheel, and with the exception of 2003’s epic showdown between Jason Richardson and Desmond Mason, the dunk contest has been on a downward spiral ever since. Luckily, I have a simple solution: more money. We know that one thing NBA players respond to is cash. The formula is simple: NBA players + an opportunity to get paid = incentive to try. I guarantee it works. While we’re at it, consider these proposed tweaks to all-star weekend:

  • Expand H-O-R-S-E: In the ‘70s the NBA experimented with a bracket-style Horse tournament that saw a series of one-on-one matchups featuring stars like Pete Maravich and George Gervin. Why not bring that back and make a day of it? Actually, if we’re going to go there…
  • 1-on-1 Tourney: Same idea as Horse: let’s say a 16 player bracket pitting the likes of Tyreke Evans and Derrick Rose against one another. At the very least we can turn the celebrity game into a 1-on-1 tournament. What could be more riveting than a first round matchup of PGA star Anthony Kim vs. Dr. Oz? (Those two actually competed in this years’ celebrity game. I couldn’t make that up.)
  • Bring back the Legends game: Featuring retired players, the Legends game was a staple for years and provided classic moments like Tommy Heinsohn giving an oxygen tank the Doug Benson treatment during time-outs.
  • All-Star Pickup Game: The All-Star game is already considered a glorified pick-up game, so why not embrace it? The fans choose two captains who subsequently pick their teams from the remaining all-stars. Mainly, I just want to see how Chris Kaman will react to being picked last.
  • NBA JAM: The premier basketball video game of my youth is being re-released sometime this year. In honour, the NBA should adopt an NBA Jam tournament where each team sends two representatives to this 2-on-2 league-wide tournament. To make it interesting, we’ll add an under-25 stipulation. Kevin Durant and Russell Westbrook are the perennial favourites.

So, in summary, NBA All-Star Weekend can return to relevancy by dusting off some classics, re-thinking the familiar, and keeping it relatively simple. Also, I just want more brackets in my life. All-star weekend will always have mass-appeal, but its’ current unrealized potential is agonizing. American poets/blues band Canned Heat once sang, “a change is surely gonna come”. I hope they were right.