Despite adding some spice by having the leading vote-getters from each conference select their own personalized teams in lieu of tradition, it’s still not enough for me — especially when I look at the entire weekend festivities. My conclusion from last year is still the same: It’s not the All-Star game, but the entire All-Star Weekend that is broken.
I love how the team selections are now televised (as opposed to the closed-door ceremony last season) — it created some buzz, but things pretty much die down from there. There will be a schedule outlining the events starting this Friday, and the Rising Stars Challenge may be the most interesting contest of the weekend. After that, it seems all eyes will be on the Three Point Shooting Contest, while there will be mild interest in the dunk contest, and the usual “ho-hum” interest in the All-Star game itself (until the last few minutes — if it’s competitive).
This year, I’m happy that the NBA heeded some of my advice. They retired Kevin Hart from the celebrity game, and there will be no Paul George and Kyle Lowry on the three-point shootout.
That’s a start, but here are some more suggestions.
Did not make the cut
Free-Throw Birdbox Challenge: Because it’s ridiculous, and some players still can’t hit their free-throws.
Add the G-League Dunk Champ to the Dunk Contest: Because the players are spooked enough as it is.
Two-Ball Challenge: A contest that combines shooting ability, teamwork, and competition and potential drama? Who’s not down for that.
For anyone who doesn’t know how the two-ball is being played, it’s played like this:
Two teams of two players each. One player will try to clear five shooting spots around the arc, while the other will fetch the ball. Once the first player clears the five spots, they switch positions, with the second player needing to clear the same five spots around the arc. Both teams would have to shoot on the same court, which adds more drama to the game. The first team that clears all of the spots twice wins the game.
(Note: This is not the same 2-ball competition that replaced the slam dunk contest between 1998-2000)
Buzzer Beater Challenge: Player would start from one end of the court, with 10 seconds to work on. The player would start from one end of the court and hit a shot on the other end (i.e. a quick sprint for a layup), then come back to hit another going back. Who didn’t practice a game-winner in their driveway doing a buzzer beater while shouting “Jordan” or “Kobeee”?
Rising Stars Challenge
Eliminate the World versus USA format. Don’t even go back to Rookies versus Sophomores. The template is already there: Pickup-style team selection, but make the selection before the game to add more intrigue to the game. At the end of the day, it’s a pickup basketball game, they won’t be running or learning new plays from the coaches.
All-Star Team wildcard spots. People complain about the lack of competitiveness in the All-Star game, but have you seen how much worse the Rising Stars Challenge is every year? How about granting the two best players a spot on the All-Star team as special participants? It’s like having two-way players. They won’t count towards an all-star nod, but the experience and the chance to play with the big game players would surely sound appealing to these kids.
Last year, I suggested that they change the scoring system to reflect the scores out of “100” as we all know, all of these 10s that we’re seeing doesn’t have the same value.
Signature shoe deal. The Dunk Contest is an ideal platform for the young guys that don’t have a name for themselves, and marketing/branding is something that these young pups are craving for. So how about: the winner gets their own limited edition signature shoe? I know it might be a little tricky, as some players have their own sponsorship already. How about a collaboration? That’s going to make this shoe even rarer. It’s very unlikely for 1st/2nd/3rd year players to have their own shoe line, and this is a good platform to test the waters for these shoe companies.
Also, it’s time for the Dunk Contest to take a backseat and let the Three-Point Contest be the main event.
Add a former player to the pool of participants. Who wouldn’t want to see whether certain retired players can still stroke it? Dell Curry is old, but he looks like he can easily get 15 points. Imagine Dell going against Stephen Curry and Seth Curry and beating them!
Add the G-League shootout champion. G-League is all about showcasing talents that are not in the NBA yet. What better place to showcase that than the three-point shootout? Today’s NBA is all about skills and shooting, in particular. Three-point marksmen are in high demand. Who knows, maybe they get a 10-day if they perform well, and that’s good publicity for the NBA/NBAGL.
Add WNBA players. The winner and the runner up of the WNBA shootout should be there. Definitely got to be there. They can play, they can shoot, and they are really good. Allie Quigley’s been killing it for the past two years, and there’s no doubt that she can hold her own against NBA players in a three-point contest.
All-Star Selection Fix
Teams will not agree to totally abolish the conferences when it comes to selection, because at the end of the day, it comes down to the game being a business, and having an All-Star helps them market and sell their team to their fanbase.
Some key points:
1. Keep the East/West starters voting. The way it’s currently constructed seems to be the best compromise for now. Fans want to be involved, the league wants them to be involved. The players also would like a voice. The media stirs the pot.
2. Remove the position designation. Just go with the top 5 vote-getters regardless of the position in each conference. The NBA is almost position-less right now, and this way, the best players in each conference are rewarded.
3. Limit the conference reserve selections to four spots for each conference. This might be the best compromise to make sure that the players playing at an all-star level, yet did not get voted in could get a chance to get in. It also limits the decision making of selecting somebody because there’s nobody else left, especially when you’re choosing the 10-12th guy on a weaker conference.
4. 6 wildcard spots regardless of the conference and position. As a continuation of the changes suggested on #3, this way, players on a stacked conference could get in, and less deserving players on the weaker conference can take a vacation in the Bahamas or somewhere nice.
5. Top two players from the Rising Stars Challenge special participation - They will not be considered an All-star, think of this as a two-way position that the NBA teams currently have right now. This is to reward the players that played well in the Rising Stars Challenge. These players have to play on separate teams and will be mic’d up.
The NBA All-Star Weekend is a celebration of the league and its players, but there’s always room for improvement. The NBA has shown its willingness to be a progressive and try new thing in the past, so with just a few tweaks it can really unleash the potential of its signature weekend.
What do you think the league can do to improve All-Star Weekend? Sound off in the comments!