Well the 2012 version of the NBA All-Star Weekend is past.
The West beat the East in the main event but few people really care about the actual game anyway. It’s not like the winning conference has home court advantage in the NBA finals after all.
Kevin Love won the 3 point shooting contest which was impressive, but no one really believes Kevin Love is the best perimeter shooter in the league. Jeremy Evans won the slam dunk contest but did nothing spectacular in doing so. Team Chuck beat Team Shaq in what is dubbed the Rising Stars Game but it was even less interesting than the formerly named Rookie-Sophomore game. Does anyone even know who won the Skills competition?
All in all the weekend wasn’t really that spectacular. For the most part the events looked scripted, forced and incredibly boring. Not exactly the event that the league hoped would re-energize the fans still somewhat apathetic after the lockout before the season.
The best part of the All-Star weekend might be the improved play fans see when the teams, finally well rested again, take the court this week.
It’s too bad because it doesn’t have to be this way. With just a few changes the All-Star weekend could be truly entertaining putting it way above any other All-Star event.
The players need to understand that this weekend is not about them. The honor to be named to the teams is for them but the actual event is for the fans.
That means no more players refusing to compete in events unless actually injured and unable to participate in any of the events. It is a complete slap in the face of the fans to have Blake Griffin, Dwight Howard and Lebron James participate in Sunday’s game but refuse to compete in the slam dunk contest. For a league that already slapped the fans hard with the lockout and shortened season (while still charging full price for the NBA League Pass) they owe the fans something.
But it is hard to ask millionaires to care about the middle class fans who pay their salaries. I am sure if pushed the players will just fake injuries and bag out of the event all together. That is not what anyone wants.
So can the league do to improve the experience? Glad you asked.
First, the legendary Slam Dunk Contest. The league doesn’t understand why it is not so popular. I can tell you why. Too many gimmicks. Too much media talking and not enough actual dunks. People don’t want a bunch of time wasted while people roll out motorcycles, change into Superman Costumes in a phone booth or even changing their outfits during the competition. They want to see incredible dunks. That is all.
And they want to know who the players are that are dunking the ball.
My suggestion is to radically change the contest. First, select the 10 best dunks in actual NBA games from the first half of the season. Let the fans vote for their favorites and the top 4 make it to the contest. That eliminates people in the contest who no one has seen actually dunk the ball.
That part is easy. It would require the players agreeing to participate but that goes back to my first point anyway. The players need to understand that the weekend is for the fans.
Then we really change things around. Instead of multiple freestyle dunks, the players must do the same dunks for the first three dunks. The best two are decided by a panel of past slam dunk winners. The finalists then get one final dunk to show their stuff and let the fans vote for the winner.
This would dramatically increase interest. Instead of Chase Budinger, Jeremy Evans, Derrick Williams and Paul George the fans would get Blake Griffin, Dwight Howard, LeBron James and maybe Rudy Gay. The players only have to come up with one dunk on their own too instead of four or more. Sure it would be less imagination but then again it means fewer no names in the event.
Finally, get rid of Kenny Smith. He may be a good setup man in a studio but he is terrible announcing. If nothing else happens the league needs to replace him.
For the 3 Pt Shootout simply invite the top 6 players by 3 pt % with a minimum number of attempts taken. The fans want to know who is the best 3 point shooter overall after all. No one wants to see Kevin Love win the contest. They want to see real 3 pt shooters battling it out under pressure. Again, it requires the players to accept the invitation but that goes back to my position that the players need to understand the All-Star weekend isn’t for them. It is for the fans.
Scrap the Shaq vs Chuck experiments and let the Rookies face the Sophomores again. It makes more sense. And let it be coached by the coaches who were runners-up to coach the all-star game. Real coaches make for better games anyway. Move the Skills competition from Saturday night to halftime of the Rookie-Sophomore game as well. It deserves its own setting.
Finally, cap the minutes played in the All-Star game to 24. Once a player passes the 24 minute mark he is out of the game. It’s nice to see Durant, LeBron and Kobe play backyard ball for a while but 30+ minutes is too much. Let the other all-stars get a chance to play as well.
If the league wants to have all-star events then they need to have all-stars competing in them. Stop this nonsense with no names filling up the events. The only reason fans are bored with the events now is that the league and players don’t give them any reason to be excited.