Just like all entertainment businesses, the NBA is always looking for a way to make their brand more appealing. What’s better than having all of the best stars together under the same roof? All-Star events are the go-to. The NBA consistently does this better than the NFL, MLB and NHL. The league is always trying new things, albeit changing too much sometimes, with the idea of making every year more entertaining than the last.
The most recent controversy with NBA All-Star weekend is the game roster format. In the past, the best from the Western Conference would face-off against the best from the Eastern Conference. Now, the two players with the most votes, regardless of conference, draft from the next group of players who have received the most votes. Think of it like a pick-up style game. This change has caused mixed feelings among fans, but it seems to be catching on.
Let’s break down the weekend’s activities:
Celebrity Game – If you don’t pay attention to pop culture, the celebrity game will be full of people you haven’t heard of. There are some familiar names, rapper Quavo, Dr. Oz and instagram star Famous Los, who ended up winning the game’s MVP award. However, I had never heard of most the other participants. It also doesn’t seem fair that Ray Allen got to participate in the celebrity game. Afterall, he is just a few years removed from his NBA career. I guess he can be considered an actor even though his performance in “He Got Game” was poor at best. Overall, the game wasn’t terrible and apparently the term “celebrity” has a loose definition these days.
Rising Stars Challenge – One change to the weekend that I really do like is the format between the game’s best young talent. Before, the best of the rookies had to play the best of the second-year players, now the best young American players compete against the best international players. This year, team USA easily beat team World. Kyle Kuzma from the L.A. Lakers took home MVP honors leading all players with thirty-five points. Personally, my favorite part of the game was watching Hawks’ rookie, Trae Young. Young finished with twenty-five points and ten assists, but really entertained the audience with his fancy ball-handling and passing. Young is going to be a good player in the league for a long time.
All-Star Saturday Night – Saturday night is usually the most entertaining; and it didn’t disappoint this year. The skills challenge is often overlooked due to the excitement of the weekend’s other events, but I’ve always loved watching it. Growing up watching Steve Nash and Dwayne Wade, both fundamentally sound players, participate in this event really makes you appreciate how a bad, or good pass, can change the outcome of a game. This year, it was Boston’s Jason Tatum who won the contest with a half-court heave. Tatum took the desperation shot as other finalist, Trae Young, was lining up for his much more manageable three-point shot. Shortly after, we were excited to watch sharp-shooting brothers, Steph and Seth Curry, battle for the three-point trophy. One of the biggest stories of All-Star weekend was the Curry brothers’ big bet: loser has to pay for all travel and tickets to the final matchup later this season. We didn’t get the all Curry final as we had hoped as Seth failed to advance beyond the first round. Instead, Joe Harris of the Brooklyn Nets was able to steal the show upsetting Steph Curry in the finals.
Finally, we were on to the main event, the dunk contest. Former Kentucky Wildcat, Hamidou Diallo, upset the field after impressively jumping over the 7’1” Shaquille O’Neal. To add extra flare, Diallo paid homage to Vince Carter by putting his entire foreman through the rim and hung with the use of his elbow, revealing the Superman logo underneath his OKC jersey. Diallo’s win came just minutes after Kentucky handed #1 Tennessee their first conference loss of the season.
All-Star game – No defense or effort, but that’s what makes the All-Star game fun. It’s a free-for-all of wild dunks and thirty-five foot shots. This is not for basketball purists; the game is meant to be fun for fans of all ages, young and old. It is simply a spectacle intended to be entertaining to watch. You don’t take the weekend too serious, and that’s the point. Just have fun. My favorite All-Star, Bradley Beal, was picked by Team LeBron. I wasn’t looking for nicely defended pick and rolls and out of bounds plays. I was looking for Beal to dunk, throw up ridiculous shots and win.
When the dust had settled, Team Beal LeBron took home the win with Kevin Durant winning MVP honors for the second time in his career. Beal finished with only eleven points, but helped spark the comeback by nailing a couple three-pointers when it seemed as if Team Giannis was ready to run away with the game. Antetokounmpo led all scorers with thirty-eight points in the losing effort.
Once again, NBA All-Star weekend proved to be the most entertaining of all the major sports leagues, and even if some think it is not as good as once was, it’s still something fun for anyone to watch before we get back to real, playoff basketball.