NBA All-Star Game 2021 festivities commence this weekend. Portland Trail Blazers star Damian Lillard is in the main game, while Anfernee Simons participates in the dunk contest and Robert Covington in the skills challenge. That’s a fair amount of Portland presence over the short weekend, which is enough to get Dave Deckard and Dia Miller talking about the annual event.
Dave: So big picture, what’s your take on NBA All-Star Games? Do you love them, hate them, or just not care? Has your view changed over time?
Dia: I love them. I love that no one takes them super seriously and they seem to be having fun. That’s what this is about. Fun. Basketball is a game. I know that the NBA is also serious business, but watching these superstars let loose and just enjoy themselves is so fun. I also like seeing the relationships. I think it’s so easy to forget that a lot of these guys have played together previously or just know each other from being in the league. It’s such a treat to get to see those relationships in a more relaxed environment. Plus there’s some showmanship and I’m here for all of that.
Dave: I used to take them kind of seriously, and I loved them more when I did. This was the time for Trail Blazers to get national attention. I was always sad when they hardly got minutes, but I watched with keen anticipation anyway. Clyde Drexler got plenty of shine, of course, but then 1992 (grumble, grumble). Brandon Roy had great showings in 2008 and 2009. But by then I had figured out it was just a show. It was kind of like the old sports radio gag. When the Lakers won, sports talk people gushed over how they’d win a championship. When the Lakers sucked, sports talk people talked about how the Lakers could get back in position to win a championship. The ultra-stars were going to shine no matter what. Nobody from Portland was ever going to reach that level of fame. Damian Lillard is the highest-profile Blazers player there ever was in terms of market penetration and number of people knowing his name. He still can’t get voted to the starting team.
After coming to that realization, my enthusiasm dimmed. My big hope is that Lillard’s team this year will come to the conclusion that he’s been snubbed too many times and decide to make him the MVP. Team Durant has no captain playing and God knows LeBron doesn’t need an All-Star MVP designation to bolster his legacy. If Durant drafts Lillard first, there might be a reason to watch with interest and hope. Otherwise, as a Blazers fan, it’s like watching your main star become somebody else’s afterthought.
Also defense. I think it’s gotten more painful over the last decade. They play the kind of “D” that they used against Magic in ‘92 to let him overtake Clyde for the MVP honor, except it’s all the time now.
There’s not even the exposure angle to love anymore. Everybody is YouTubed, Top Tenned, and now Top Shotted ten seconds after they make a decent play. Nobody doesn’t know who Damian Lillard is.
If I read you right, though, you like the atmosphere and aura as much as the actual game itself. I can see it from that point of view.
Dia: I will admit, I’m new to it. I’ve really only watched it a handful of times until the last few years. But yes, I like the atmosphere—the entertainment of it. I’ve never really taken it all that seriously, at least not once I realized the players themselves didn’t seem to. I think this year especially, realizing—with the vote we definitely don’t want to talk about— that this is so much more a popularity contest than it is an actual all star game has taken some of the seriousness away from it for me. But I love the game of basketball. I love watching strangers play terribly at the park, I love watching little kids try to get the ball in the hoop, I love watching March Madness, I love watching basketball on literally any level. So putting a bunch of super stars from the NBA in one place? You betcha I’m going to be watching that. I think because I’ve never really taken it seriously as far as who wins or who loses, it makes it a lot more entertaining and a lot less disappointing.
Dave: I get it. And that totally makes sense. The best pick-up game imaginable! You know what cranks my motor, though? All-Star Saturday. This year it’s all in one day, but oh well. The Skills Competition seems a little gimmicky to me, but I love me some three-point shootout and the dunk competition has been great the last couple years. Zach LaVine and Aaron Gordon. Oh my GOSH! I wanted them to dunk all night. That was some wicked, nasty, filthy, beautiful stuff. Plus this is one area that even Portland players can reasonably compete in. Not that they’ve done that well, but still. I always get a little thrill with those events.
Dia: You know the reigning dunk champion is a Portland Trail Blazer now. Derrick Jones Jr won last year. I’d say that’s doing pretty well. Grated he wasn’t on the team when he won. I love those as well. Especially the dunk contest. My biggest desire in life is to know what it feels like to dunk. I’ve played basketball since I was 6 years old, but I’m just barely over 5 feet tall. Dunking is never going to be in the cards for me. But man, I love to watch them sail through the air. It’s incredible. This year is going to be a lot of fun to watch (not that I think there should even be an all star game this year, but that is a whole different discussion). We have a Blazer in every single competition. When was the last time that happened? We actually have a solid chance too, in my opinion. But you know me and my rainbows and unicorns.
Dave: You have children! Lower that hoop, Mama! Even you can dunk on a 7-foot hoop and that’s developmentally appropriate for a 5-year-old. Shaq away on the kids!
The last time the Blazers had someone in every competition was, let’s see, when Dame did literally everything back in...2014, was it? I was driving home from a meeting that day and listening to everything he did on the radio.
Technically, though, I think Derrick Jones Jr. winning the 2020 NBA Slam Dunk Contest as a member of the MIAMI HEAT would disqualify him from being considered a “Blazer” winning it. I’m picky that way.
Do you think they should add a halfcourt rack for the three-point shoot-out though? How fun would that be?
Dia: Derrick is ours now, we claim him, and with him comes the trophy. I’m not picky, so I’m counting it!
I absolutely think they should add a half court rack. It’s happening in games regularly now—Those shots are being taken. If the purpose of all of this is entertainment (which it is), then entertain us! Give us logo shots! Give us half court! Heck, give us a full court shot just for fun!
Dave: I still want to see someone take off legit from behind the free throw line, without touching said line, and dunk it. That’s my golden goose moment. How do you feel about all the props and cameos that have overtaken the dunk competition?
Dia: Honestly, I get it. I mean, how many different ways can a person dunk before they have to start getting creative? It’s fun to watch guys leap over other people, or wear superhero costumes. But truthfully, I’m always going to love a good, clean, no props involved dunk the most. I’m thrilled that Anfernee Simons is finally going to get to participate. I spent a large part of last year hash tagging my tweets #LetAntDunk because, let’s be honest, the man can dunk. He was made for this.
Dave: Back-to-back Blazers dunk champions? Sign me up.
How about all of you? Do you like NBA All-Star Weekend, shrug your shoulders, or something in between? Add to the conversation below!
Note: In their weekly podcast, both Dave and Dia have logged their strong objection to holding the event at all this year due to COVID-19. This article underplayed that aspect in the spirit of having a decent conversation, but rest assured, those objections remain.