February 22, 2005

NBA All-Star Weekend Offers Few Thrills

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I’m going to be the first one (at least in Ithaca) to come right out and say it: this year’s NBA All-Star Weekend sucked. The dunk competition was totally pathetic — no Lebron, no Vinsanity, and the fact that the whole thing has now become simply the best alley-oop competition made Saturday night’s biggest moment quite an unmemorable one.

Then we came to Sunday’s game, the “main event,” where the usual passive efforts and attempts to mimic an And 1 Mix Tape Tour ensued. This ridiculous display isn’t really breaking news, but watching the All Star Game every year is kind of like watching a bad movie over and over again.

Nonetheless, the NBA All Star Weekend drew its usual millions of viewers, in a perfect example of when monopoly power goes wrong. As you’ve probably heard on every sports talk program out there a hundred times over, the time between the Super Bowl and the start of the baseball season may be the most boring time for anyone who follows sports.

But this year, frankly, it’s worse. Now that NHL commissioner Gary Bettman ’74 has announced that there will be no NHL season, the NBA indeed has a genuine monopoly on sports viewers, unless you enjoy a sport other than the big four in this country (no, NASCAR is not a sport).

So, what did the NBA do to alleviate this miserable time? Nothing. In its one shot to give even those sports fans that don’t enjoy basketball a glimmer of joy in this veritable sports desert, the NBA gave us the usual garbage that we see every All-Star Weekend. Instead of an opportunity for the best players in the world to showcase their abilities, we saw a classic stereotype of the NBA — a bunch of overpaid athletes who aren’t particularly concerned with playing defense. One word: boring.

The high point of the weekend was Steve Nash, who is legitimately one talented guy. The skills competition that he won was definitely one of All-Star Weekend’s few enjoyable moments, and is something the NBA can definitely work with to make it more entertaining. Perhaps even the over-glorified dunk competition can be modified to something where we’ll see more originality. Clearly the fans — and the judges — liked the dunks that included two players, so why not turn the whole thing into an alley oop competition? Seriously, there’s only so many between-the-legs or almost-to-the-foul-line dunks that you can watch before it gets a little old.

Another option for the NBA is to have better incentives in the competitions. $25,000 — the top prize in the dunk competition — is just about how much Lebron James’s bathroom mat costs. This clearly wasn’t enough incentive for him to enter the dunk competition. If basketball would up the stakes, maybe we’d see some real competition instead of watching Chris Andersen make a fool of himself. Honestly, who is that guy anyway?

As for the actual All-Star Game, maybe next year the NBA could make it entertaining MLB-style, by making it determine home court advantage in the championship series. This idea was pretty unpopular, but, then again, the Major League Baseball All Star Game was already entertaining and didn’t really need it. The NBA needs to realize that hockey might actually come back one day (wishful thinking), or maybe even be popular again (more wishful thinking), and it might have to compete with it a little. But as of now, here’s one basketball fan who couldn’t care less about 2006 in Houston.

Archived article by Mike Pandolifini