Kevin Durant will not play in the 2021 NBA All-Star Game, recovering from a hamstring injury. This weekend it was announced that the Brooklyn Nets forward will still serve as a team captain, lining up against LeBron James to choose opposing squads, playground style. Indiana Pacers forward Domantas Sabonis will replace Durant in the actual game.
The “captains” system was an interesting wrinkle when it came out. Lack of superstar movement and imbalance in conference strength had made All-Star lineups predictable, if not boring. Watching different combinations of players, lining up for more balanced teams, brought excitement back to the event for a year or two.
I’ll be honest, though. I’m over it. It’s hard to form any kind of allegiance to “Team LeBron” or “Team Durant”. Technically, I’d like to see them both lose. Lack of continuity year-to-year means there’s no history to provide in-game rivalry to reverse that inclination. Most of the tools of good storytelling or drama are absent. It’s just a bunch of really good players scoring over at least three quarters of non-defense.
The league could make up for that if they’d go Reality TV and show the selections being made live, with players waiting to be chosen. The grimaces—and grim determination—of the players chosen late (or last) would rivet viewers. Fans of those snubbed players would hold it against the captains for the rest of the year, creating new reason to want to beat them. We don’t get any of it. Protecting the reputation of their All-Stars (perhaps rightfully so), they do everything they can to downplay the only aspect that provides real dramatic tension.
If the league continues with this system, I think the popular vote should determine two captains and EVERYBODY else should be up for selection at any time...no guaranteed starters, just a free-for-all. I want to see the draft live, in real time, too and have the captains answer for it.
Since that’s not going to happen, I’d just as soon the league go back to the old East-vs-West format. Philadelphia, Milwaukee, and Brooklyn have enough All-Stars to form a core for the East. I can root for the West against them, plus enjoy Damian Lillard teaming up with Nikola Jokic and LeBron James yearly. Plus we’d automatically get some version of the covets Lillard-Steph Curry backcourt.
I want to throw open that question on a lazy Sunday afternoon, though. Do you like the selection system like it is, would you prefer they modify the “Captains” concept, or would you like to see them go back to conferences? Let us know in the comments below!