Another NBA All Star Saturday, another round of complaints about how boring NBA All Star Saturday is. The NBA has never been more popular worldwide than it is today. So why is it that its midseason popularity contest is so maligned on an annual basis? And what can we do to fix it? The answer is simple: restrict any/all All Star festivities to actual All Stars.
Truthfully, the Three Point Shootout has never really lost the stars. Larry Bird won the first three shootouts and other All Star winners have included Mark Price, Ray Allen, Peja Stojakovic, Dirk Nowitzki, Paul Pierce, Kevin Love, and this year’s winner Kyrie Irving. And those are just the winners. Many more All Stars have also participated and lost. Same goes for the Skills Challenge, which has been won by the likes of Jason Kidd, Steve Nash, Dwyane Wade, Derrick Rose, and others.
And there was a time when the Slam Dunk Contest featured mostly All Stars. But as time has passed, the event featured fewer and few stars to the point where it was eliminated for one season in 1999 before being brought back in 2000, featuring, you guessed it, actual stars: participants Vince Carter and Jerry Stackhouse were All Stars that year and Tracy McGrady and Steve Francis would be the following season. Not surprisingly, the 2000 Slam Dunk Contest is also generally regarded as the last great dunk contest.
Given all of that, the solution to fix the Dunk Contest, and the rest of All Star Saturday, is obvious. By restricting participants in all events to actual All Stars, not only do you raise interest levels in all events, you actually help the weekend live up to its billing. This is supposed to be “All Star” Weekend, not “Dudes At The End Of The Bench Have Their Moment In The Sun” Weekend. As much as I enjoy watching the likes of Gerald Green and Jeremy Evans throw down, they should have their own event (Why not expand the Rising Stars Challenge to include contests featuring some lesser knowns? They do that for the D-League All Star Game.).
Here is my solution. Between all of the All Star festivities, there are 18 total participants (six apiece for the Skills, Three Point, and Dunk contests). There are 24 total players in the All Star Game. So why can’t every participant from these events be pulled from actual All Stars, especially nowadays when there are hardly any slow-footed centers to potentially gum up the works?
Let’s look at this year’s All Star class for example. The players from today’s game could have easily been divided up into Saturday’s events as follows:
Skills Challenge: Dwyane Wade, Jrue Holiday, Kyrie Irving, Chris Paul, Russell Westbrook, Tony Parker
Three Point Shootout: Carmelo Anthony, Paul George, Kyrie Irving, Kevin Durant, Kobe Bryant, James Harden
Slam Dunk Contest: LeBron James, Paul George, Tyson Chandler/Chris Bosh/Kevin Garnett, Blake Griffin, Dwight Howard, Kevin Durant
There are a few guys double-dipping here, and the third Eastern Conference dunker is one of three guys who don’t belong there, but wouldn’t this be much more exciting just for the name value alone than watching a mix of bench players battle for glory? In another season that isn’t quite as injury plagued, there would be even more players to choose from for these events, including Derrick Rose, Rajon Rondo, and more.
I know not everyone in these events are necessarily going to be all that interested in doing it. But All Star Weekend is supposed to be for the fans. And the fans want to see All Stars. So as much as Chris Paul might not want to do the Skills Challenge or as much as LeBron definitely doesn’t want to do the Dunk Contest, the fans are why you’re even there in the first place. This is an easy way to give back to the people who made it possible for you to earn $10+ million per year to play basketball for a living.
Since these guys obviously aren’t big enough to take the responsibility upon themselves like legends of years past, it might be time for the NBA to force them to do the right thing for a while for the good of the game.
Photo via Yahoo!