How to Make the All-Star Game Watchable
Another year, another All-Star game. As I scroll social media and see the highlights of the contest, I see no point in watching. The game consisted of flashy, wide-open dunks and uncontested three pointers from deep. No rebounding, no defense, no real basketball. The game resembles that of a YMCA pickup game where the guys are so tired they simply can’t defend or get back down the court. When people complain about the NBA and the lack of effort, the All-Star game encompasses that sentiment. This does not have to be the case. NBA Commissioner Adam Silver has continued to individualize the league by glorifying individual metrics and personalities rather than team success. The NBA has shifted to building super teams rather than loyalty to the organization that drafted the young prospect. Elite players want to win championships and join organizations with that mission in mind. In my opinion, there isn’t a team out there that doesn’t want to win a ring. There are specific teams that are primed to do so based on market location and if they have perennial stars on the roster. That is why “The Big Three” formed in South Beach, the Paul George/Kawhi Leonard Clippers were created, and now the no-nickname (yet) Brooklyn Nets.
The All-Star game was created in 1951 to see the best basketball players play against each other. It was built to display competition and camaraderie but also players wanted to win. All-Stars wanted to bring home the trophy and represent their part of the country. There was pride in who you were playing for in an effort to send a message to other elite players that you were coming for the championship at the end of the season. Somewhere in the midst of the NBA continuing to gain popularity and the rise of player sponsorships is where the determination to beat out your competition was lost.
Silver has continued to push for individualism in the game of basketball through the new draft process of the All-Star game. Captains, who are decided by fan vote, are able to select teammates from both conferences. This has led to a draft viewing event that is held on TNT and displays which players have friendships with players around the league. This gave elite talents like LeBron James, Steph Curry, Kevin Durant, and Giannis Antetokounmpo more of a limelight where they are the center of attention which in turn boosts league interest. This idea has been fun watching which guys get selected, but the problem at hand has not been fixed. The All-Star game is out-right boring (unless you are 12 years old).
Adan Silver can change this. Players will do whatever it takes to win a championship, so why not incentivize a competitive All-Star game? The NBA formed the All-Star game by emulating the MLB, so in turn they should also implement one rule from the Major League All-Star game as well. The first step would be to reset the teams to Eastern and Western conferences. Players are already selected based on conference, so let’s get back to having those teams split almost perfectly by the Mississippi River. (besides Memphis, New Orleans, and parts of Minneapolis. East versus West has been a part of the All-Star game since it was founded almost 60 years ago. The next step would be to give the winner of the All-Star game home court advantage in the NBA Finals.
Currently, home court advantage is given to the team with the better regular season record. This is not indicative of one team being better than the other, as one conference could be much weaker in talent relative to the other. The Western Conference has clearly been the better conference in recent years so this gives an advantage to the top Eastern Conference teams because they play lesser competition to garner a better record to receive home-court advantage. In this new system, teams in the East would play teams in the West, which is more of a representation of which conference has better players. If either team wins it proves that they should have home court advantage because they have harder competition amongst their respective conferences based on the talent on their All-Star team.
Players would be willing to risk one game per year at a high level to get an advantage as they chase a ring. If players are reluctant to play based on injury concerns then they are replaced by another player similar to how it works today. There might be two or three big names that opt to sit out, but I would hope most players would lace them up to get a competitive advantage towards their title chase. Each team would receive three practices to learn some basic sets and defensive principles. Adam Silver can continue to push individualism because players can prove in this game that they are the best of the best. The All-Star Game MVP would mean so much more. This would result in one of the most watched annual basketball games in the world. It could potentially turn into the spectacle of the year besides the NBA Finals or the Olympics Championship game.
The best of the best would play hard enough to ensure victory and go back to their organizations ready to bring home court advantage to their city. Fans would want to watch the game, not just the highlights. Players would want to play not just for the honor but the privilege to prove that they can contribute to the success of their conference to potentially bring home a championship.