Words by Phlip
It is high time for a change in the NBA All-Star participation…
When interest in the NHL All-Star started to sag, they juiced it up by getting fans more invested in it by simply making it interesting. First there was the filling one team with players from North America against players from around the world.
[Phlip note – I KNOW this wouldn’t work in the NBA, but stick with me]
Before that, up to the 1998 Winter Olympics and up to the 2002 Winter Olympics, that was the format that Hockey used. Before and after that, they used the normal fan vote for the starters and coaches/operations selection of the reserves.
Then it got fun…
Reeling from a 2004-05 lockout that wiped out a whole season (as opposed to simply a third of it, like the NBA is in right now) and with WILDLY angered fans, they changed the format completely…
A combination of fan votes and NHL operations, CAPTAINS of the All-Star team were selected. Once that is in place, the captains DRAFT the people who will be on their team – like a fantasy league – and there are no conference (Eastern or Western) differentiation made as to who goes where, it is “team [captain] vs. team [captain]” format…
And THAT is the format that the NBA should take, in my opinion.
… well, at least partially.
The fans voting the starters has resulted in some non-deserving people to start the All-Star game, which in turn freezes out someone who DESERVED to be there, and all because most “fan”-types are ignorant.
As a means of keeping the fans interested, allow them to vote from the season start up to about 5 weeks prior to the game to select two captains, who will naturally start the game at whatever position he plays. He and the other captain, on a no-games-scheduled night built into the NBA schedule will have a press conference in which they select the remainder of their starting lineup. Coaches’ vote would still determine reserves and league offices would still appoint injury replacement selections.
Players eligible to be selected will be the same as if fans were voting. The onus is on the captain to pick 4 cats who are a good enough draw for the exhibition to keep fans interested and PERHAPS win a game in which little defense will be played.
On the whole, this allows us to keep fans feeling involved and therefore interested. What it AVOIDS, however, are years where some over-the-hiller is selected to start the All-Star Game in a year he should probably already be retired or some hotshot 1st-3rd year player taking that spot from someone who is all around better but not in as many commercials during the voting process.
In a league where “friends” seem to be few and far-between in the name of competition, I could see this working out just fine, considering a guy can’t pick the 3 guys who were in his wedding, because two of them play the same position he does already.
Not down to the level of the NFL Pro Bowl, where no one really tries at all because of how easy it is to get your contract voided with an injury in an exhibition game in the NFL, but the All-Star game itself has supplanted the Slam Dunk Contest as the crown jewel of the NBA All-Star weekend, and the sad thing is that even that isn’t saying much. The game usually features high scores from the same people who do it in regular season game, but nothing short of a compelling story makes it terribly worth watching for extended periods, and perhaps an event/some events leading up to it would give it some chance of interest.
Next, they should kill the unnecessary events of all-star weekend. In my mind, it goes like this:
3rd – Slam dunk contest… again, last year’s winner is in it, automatically, fans vote via write-in for which players are in it. This means that LeBron will not be allowed to do his middle-of-the-fence “will he/won’t he” dance until too late. One rule I WOULD carry over would be to limit involvement to players will less than certain tenure in the league, as I know what the constant jumping does to knees and that interest in this contest is preserved in the involvement of younger more athletic players.
… and that’s IT!
Players who win their events and members of winning teams get a check just the same as currently, presumably paid off of the sponsors’ money, but again, the admission dough should ALL go to charity after paying the employees of the venue and covering the bills.
It seems that the league has jammed so much crap into all-star weekend that it has become almost unwatchable. If anyone WANTED to watch D-League players playing “H-O-R-S-E” game and events matching the big-money NBA draws, then we MIGHT be willing to actually sit through or play to attend D-League games and it would be treated like more of a minor league system than it is. With that in mind, 3 items are gone from the weekend. Next, kill the “Skills Challenge” and “Shooting Stars Competition,” as they serve as nothing more than a properly scheduled time to go for beer.
This is definitely a “less is more” approach. There is just so many uninteresting things crammed into the All-Star weekend, presumably in the chase for more advertising moneys, that people are just not watching ANY of it anymore.
And that, folks, is why All-Star weekend needs an overhaul.