The NBA’s All-Star Saturday has lost its luster and the NBA is trying to get it back. No, it isn’t promising big stars in a declining Slam Dunk Competition, or a total wipeout of the painstakingly boring Shooting Stars and Skills Challenge. Instead it’s just a duct-tape resolution, one that involves stringing together the four events by creating East and West teams — including naming captains — and implementing a scoring system, in which the winning conference gets a larger cash prize to donate to charity.
As part of the new format, points earned by each conference throughout the four All-Star Skills Competitions will determine the conference that earns the title of 2013 State Farm All-Star Saturday Night Champion. Also, each conference will have an All-Star Saturday Night captain who will lead his team during the event.
In addition, NBA Cares and State Farm will make a joint donation of $500,000 as part of the event, with $350,000 going to the winning conference’s charities and $150,000 to the runner-up conference’s charities. All of the charities will be selected by the conference captains, the NBA, and State Farm. The State Farm All-Star Saturday Night captains and the charities receiving donations will be selected and announced at a later date.
OK, so while the charity thing is a nice flourish, throwing in a bunch of State Farm ads and having “captains” won’t boost viewer interest in events that, for a long time, have never captured viewer interest. As long as these events are around, there is very little the league can do to get us to watch them because these same players do these things during games, when things matter, and they aren’t flashy enough to stand on their own as entertainment.
The fact is, the NBA isn’t really putting anything on the line, or at least, anything a fan can tangibly invest him or herself in. Fix what you can. Instead of trying to bulk up events we’ve never cared about, focus on something like the Slam Dunk Competition, which has been lackluster for the past few years, but can be great theater with the right actors.
All-Star games as we know them are pretty much relics of an era gone by, where TV and the Internet wasn’t around to give sports fans immediate access to watching any athlete or team they wanted. Back before ESPN and social media, All-Star games were actually the only way to showcase the best players across the league that you couldn’t watch because they didn’t play in your market. That shit must have awesome, but these showcases have since been devalued. They aren’t ever going to be what they once were, despite the dumb frills leagues try to implement to improve viewer interest.
[SI.com, Getty Images]