So All-Star Weekend is upon us. Yes, I’m looking past the Lakers tonight and already counting a win. As long as the Blazers don’t do the same, we’re all good.
And there is something to look forward to here, as three Blazers have been tapped to participate in the festivities for the sixth time in history – 1978, 1988, 1989, 1991, and 2009 were the other years this has happened.
Still, there is always room for improvement – and not just by the Blazers. The NBA has long tinkered with various aspects of the All-Star Weekend, and this year has seen the greatest number of changes at once in the way it has been approached. The voting period opened later. You could vote for any player in the league. There are more ways to vote than ever. There is the longest mid-season break ever. The Rising Stars challenge has become USA vs. the World. The dunk contest has reverted back to an individual event. There’s even going to be some HORSE-like competition between Stephen Curry and John Wall that is not sanctioned by the NBA, but will be aired on NBATV.
Maybe this is how it should be. Why not simply continue to adapt and morph the All-Star Weekend into something that forever tries to maximize entertainment value? What’s the point of ‘tradition’ in entertainment if we end up getting bored by it, complain, and eventually tune out?
This week, we’ll vote on some ideas that have been suggested to improve the experience:
Change voting…again: There long has been the debate – should fans be allowed to vote for the starters if they’re going to vote in past-their-prime stars like Kobe Bryant? Or maybe they shouldn’t be the only ones - should sportswriters or former players be given a weighty vote as well?
Expand rosters: This could help to alleviate ‘snubs’. Silver is already talking about this.
Change the way Dunk Contest Participants are chosen: I’m kind of amped about this year’s crop of dunkers, but many casual fans may not be. Should the Dunk Contest continue to be proving grounds for up-and-comers? Or do we need some real ‘star power’ here? Some suggestions have included fans voting on who participates, or voting on the best in-game dunks of the year to date.
Why stop there? Could include best dunks seen anywhere that end up on camera during the calendar year – Zach LeVine’s body of work online would seem to speak for him, and probably already helped his candidacy this year. How about including some streetballers as wildcard competitors? Could involve social media and / or a reality show run-up…
Change the format of the Dunk Competition…again: There’s long been complaints that the Dunk Contest is like Rock N’ Roll – where do you go from here? Everything’s already been done. Maybe making it a HORSE format, giving a single dunk attempt per round, or having the rim raised each round could lend more drama? Any of that would be better than the more likely future of requiring dunkers to integrate some sponsors’ product in every attempt…
Bring in another event: The Curry / Wall event hints that it might be trick-shot HORSE, where players draw cards for the shots they have to attempt. How about involving more players, and using both ends of the court to keep the action moving?
Maybe replace the moribund ‘Shooting Stars’ competition with a giant game or three of playground favorite Knock Out, involving current stars, legends, and WNBA players?
Or how about some kind of mini-tournament? 1-on-1, NBA Jam-style 2-on-2, or the gaining in popularity 3-on-3? Or games of ‘21’?
Add a wrinkle to the main event: The All-Star game already only loosely resembles pro basketball as far as effort and structure, and celebrates cartoonish and outlandish play. Why not up the ante? Who wouldn’t want to see Rock N’ Jock style ‘bonus point shots’? Maybe you don’t want the extra high 25- and 50-point baskets, but how about putting some 10 point shot zones, like you see in this video? At the very least, a 4 or 5 point line may be in order, the way guys can bomb these days.
Also could impose ‘minute limits’ on players – like say, no one could play for more than 24 minutes in the game. This would allow for more even minute distribution, and bring strategy into how and when players are employed.
Eliminate Conferences: There doesn’t really seem to be any ‘Conference pride’ or rivalry anyway – why not just have the top two vote-getters pick their teams from the players selected, schoolyard style?
You could also go one step further and have the rosters filled by the best 24 (or whatever number) players, regardless of conference.
Completely change the Main Event itself: One outside-the-box suggestion I’ve heard is to divide the game into 3 twelve minute mini-games, creating a best-of-3 situation with conferences dividing into two separate 6-man rosters, each of which will play in either Game 1 or Game 2, with all 12 players being available in game 3, if necessary. This would raise competitiveness throughout the event -- rather than just at the end if it is close -- and allow everyone to play meaningful minutes.
Or maybe replace the whole game with any of the mini-tournaments described above, involving the all-star selections -- or as some have suggested, having a NCAA-style midseason tournament…which could include the teams in current playoff seedings, or top four in each conference, or…every team. This has been done in other leagues around the world and is often looked at as prestigious as winning in the end-of-season playoffs. This would briefly give a new lease on life for floundering teams, and could have interesting repercussions on how the rest of the season plays out. Dropping a few exhibition games in October could offset the extra games here, and they could be shortened games – 15 or 20 minute halves, say.
So what do you think? Which areas, if any, should be a priority for change in the future? Outline your ideas, or add some new ones, in the comment section below!