We need to talk about what Adam Silver can do to fix the NBA All-Star Game.
The answer is simple. Adam Silver can’t do a damn thing. This is on the players.
We had a great dunk contest thanks to Mac McClung, and Dame Lillard gave us a show in the three point shootout. Only to have All-Star Weekend ruined by the actual All-Star game?
If fans loved layup lines, every seat in every NBA city would be filled an hour before gametime.
But nobody outside of young kids and enterprising Instagram models care about layup lines.
So why should anyone build their day around watching a defenseless “All-Star” game where everyone acts like a Harlem Globetrotter when they have the ball, and a Washington General when they don’t?
Before you think I’m some crotchety old man shouting “get off my lawn,” ask yourself if your time is valuable. You have a finite amount of minutes on this earth, and when you sit down to be entertained, do you want to watch people give minimal effort?
When you’re at an Avengers movie do you want the actors forgetting lines and the special effects to be unfinished?
When you save up to go out to a nice steak dinner do you want them bringing your medium rare filet mignon to you on a paper towel?
The All-Star game is supposed to be a special occasion, where the best of the best show you WHY they’re the best of the best.
It’s in the middle of the season because it’s supposed to be something that motivates players toward excellence in the first half of the year, and so that the athletes come into the break in peak physical condition so they can put on a show for the fans.
Somewhere along the way, the players got it into their heads that the NBA All-Star game is equivalent to the NFL’s Pro Bowl, a reward for a full season of excellence to players that deserve a vacation.
20 years ago, the All Star game had one injury replacement, and despite going to double overtime, had 47 combined three-pointers attempted. This last weekend, several players either opted out or acted like no-shows on the court, and the teams combined to launch 126 combined three pointers, with Pandemic Paul George missing all nine of his attempts.
You can change as many details as you want about the game, but that will only get you so far. Team Captains, and the Elam ending have both been pleasant surprises, and one of the only compelling things about this game was whether LeBron would keep his undefeated streak going.
But no cosmetic action can replace individual effort from the players. And for the players that do want to take this game seriously, we’re de-incentivizing their desire to participate. Nikola Jokic is on the verge of his third consecutive NBA MVP award, and is telling media members that he wouldn’t draft himself because the All-Star game doesn’t suit his skillset.
The NBA has established that it wants this weekend to annually honor and reflect on the memory of Kobe Bryant, but the way things are trending, this would be like honoring your mother’s cooking by going out to eat.
Are we to believe that the same Kobe Bryant that got hyped up about Dwyane Wade accidentally breaking his nose in the All-Star game wants to see defensive specialist Bam Adebayo pull down zero rebounds in 24 minutes?
Do we really think the Mamba would have respected the seven combined personal fouls last night when in three separate All-Star games he committed five fouls by himself?
If Kobe Bryant’s name is going to be on that MVP trophy, the least these players could do is pretend to care.
Let that sink in.