The NBA All-Star Weekend is considered to be a “rest week” for both NBA players and NBA fans alike–it’s one whole weekend where most players don’t do anything (which will feel like a godsend for NBA players). For us fans, it’s a time to rest, relax and enjoy some good, all-fun basketball–without the pressures and frustrations of a meaningful NBA regular-season games, but with still enough competitiveness to make it worth watching.
Hence the All-Star Weekend has featured a series of games masquerading as competitive, but they are actually just for entertainment. These include things such as the Celebrity All Stars and Rising Challenge.
But after a few years of being the same, it’s suddenly become painfully obvious to an informed fan that the All-Star Weekend is all show–it’s no longer about actual basketball entertaining us. It’s just a show! This is more evident when you see what actually happens in games — unchallenged alley oops, players missing layups in the skills challenge and especially using props on dunk contest to make you look good (when the actual dunk was pretty ordinary).
It’s all a show.
Now, there is a way to make basketball look like a show (it is supposed to be for entertainment) without it looking like a joke! Here are five suggestions that I have:
1.) Limit the type of dunks they can do and 2.) Make the dunk contest a bi-annual event
Right now here are a couple of moves I can think of that have been “cheesed” for so long that they no longer hold as much value–360, windmills, jumping over someone small, between-the-legs, liberty dunks, free-throw-line dunks.
The league should tally the history of the dunk contest for the past 10 or so years and note which dunks have been used excessively and penalize players that do them with the penalty depending on how “excessive” that specific dunk has been used. So if it’s only been used for say five times in the past 10 years, then it won’t carry any penalty with it (like a behind-the-back alleyoop dunk).
But if, for example, it’s been used 10 or more times, then there should be a penalty that’s increasing in value, depending on the league office’s discretion. Example: if Terrence Ross decides to jump over a player while doing a windmill, he gets penalized (maybe) 10 points for doing an “excessively” used dunk. If he gets a 45 score, then his actual score becomes 35.
Also, there can only be so much dunks the body is able to do. No matter how creative you get, at some point, the well just runs dry until a new set of ideas come through. So I propose that instead of making the dunk contest a yearly event, make it a bi-annual event or every four years. This way, players (and the league) can think of ways to innovate their dunks. Also, this event carries the biggest risks among all All-Star events so limiting that risk is a must.
This way, creativity is increased (more time to think, penalty for overusing a dunk) and risk is minimized. Making a creative dunk isn’t about actually creating a “new” dunk pattern. Usually, it’s about putting previous dunk patterns into new scenarios. Paul George’s “glow-in-the-dark” dunk comes to mind (a dunk pattern made famous by Vince Carter). Chase Budinger’s “blindfolded” 180 dunk also comes to mind (Cedric Ceballos made this famous). But of course, you can create a whole new set of “dunks” with new props Howard’s 12-foot dunk was a good idea but it lacked a little bit of flavor, so was Gerald Green’s “cupcake” dunk.
3.) Make the Skills challenge literally about passing and obstacles
I’ve always wondered why this event had layups and jumpers in it. It’s an event that focuses on agility, quickness and passing and they put layups in it? No.
Make this event a pure passing and obstacle event. Just make the obstacles and passes harder. They could add a half-court pass, behind-the-back passes and add off-the-backboard passes. They could convert some of the obstacles into spin moves, crossovers or behind-the-backs.
And for the last part, they could ask one shooter assistant to help them where they pass off a curl and the shooter shoots–this highlights their ability to make accurate passes off curls (of course, the shooter comes into play, but there is no restriction on who can be selected as shooter, so a competitor could choose who they thought was the best shooter off curls). This accentuates all the needed skills we need to see in a skills challenge.
4.) Required minutes and expansion of rosters (All-Star Game, Rising Star Game)
Right now, the All-Star game isn’t serious until the last few minutes (if it’s close). And that sickens me.
I’m not watching that boring basketball game where it looks like they are just warming up. I want real basketball. Now, I can understand the players not wanting to go all-out because of injury risks and fatigue issues. But there’s a way to make this competitive and fun!
This can be accomplished by expanding the rosters and mandating substitution patterns. The All-Star rosters should be expanded to 15 players (as alluded by LeBron James). With that in place, the league should enforce a minimum minutes per gam, so all 15 players must play at least six minutes each half for a total of 12 minutes in the game. This way, injuries are limited, stars are fresh even if they go all-out and there are fewer All-Star snubs!
5.) More incentives for games
The best way to improve any event is to increase the stakes. Usually it’s money–and it does a great job of being an incentive to most players. But for some, this isn’t necessarily true–for players who earn eight figures per year, getting another few thousand dollars won’t make that big of a difference to them.
So instead of playing with just money, why not give them some incentive they would really want??
A couple of things that pop into my head–and some of these ideas are pretty interesting to say the least:
a.) Winners of All-Star games (East vs. West) get to choose if they want to retain their home-court advantage in the NBA Finals. The current NBA Finals format (2-3-2) is one that’s been mired in controversy because it’s believed that the team that actually has more advantage in that situation is the lower-seeded team that gets three consecutive home games in the middle of the series.
b.) Winners of each contest gets specific endorsement rights for a company that closely associates with the event. Example: Winners of the 3-point shootout get a one-year endorsement deal with Verizon (long-distance communication), winners of the skills challenge receive a one-year endorsement deal with Spalding (good at handling the ball), winners of the dunk contest get a one-year endorsement deal with Nike or Adidas (light shoes, higher bounce).
You get the point. Of course, this all hinges on whether the respective companies will agree to this, but if they did, it would be a huge boost to the competitive nature of the events.
c.) There should be a lottery for fans in which they get a chance to play in the celebrity games. The winner is chosen by whoever gets the most people to vote on the All-Star ballot, or whoever gets the most people to buy tickets, whoever gets the most retweets on Twitter with a certain hashtag, or something of that ilk.
This way, not only are the fans involved in the promotion of the event, but they are actually involved in the event itself.
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