NBA All-Star Weekend: Painfully Boring
Written by Mikey Ward. Media by Ryan St. Hill.
If you spent more than twenty minutes watching the venues of the NBA All-Star Weekend then you either have no idea when to turn off the television or enjoy inexplicable bouts of torturing boredom. If I were to describe the All-Star weekend in one word it would in fact be, boredom. What once was an attempt to maximize viewership over a three-day weekend event has now turned into one of the most disappointing sports venues in all professional sports. Let’s take a look at what makes the weekend painful to watch and who may be culpable for the corruption of what once was the most exciting weekend in sports.
In Sports Illustrated last week, Lee Jenkins wrote a story about the infamous NBA Dunk Contest of 1988 between MJ and Dominique Wilkins. In it, Rick Welts (former NBA chief marketing officer) talks about how he pitched the idea of a prolonged NBA All-Star weekend to eventual commissioner, David Stern.
In this prolonged weekend pitch Welts proposed an “Old-Timer” game and a dunk contest. From 1984 on, the weekend was approached as an opportunity for players to showcase their skill, but also as an opportunity to entertain fans. Players took pride in it and consequently, fans ‘paid’ to pay attention. One could even state that this All-Star weekend is one of the main reasons the NBA is an internationally acknowledged leagues. Dominique Wilkins and MJ provided some of basketballs most memorable memories during the first five years of the elongated All-Star weekend. Since then, the likes of Spud Webb, Isaiah Ryder, Vince Carter, and Jason Richardson have come and revitalized the Dunk Contest and the elongated weekend with once thought unimaginable dunks. However, in the past five, the Dunk Contest has been disappointing.
Along with the dunk contest the NBA has tried to add various venues that have been discontinued for a lack of success. A few of these discontinuations are: “The Old Timer” game, Rising Stars Challenge, and the D-League All-Star game. The venues that still comprise the weekend are: the NBA All-Star Celebrity game on Friday, Three-Point Shootout, Skills Challenge, and Shooting Stars Competition on Saturday, and the All-Star game on Sunday. Needless to say, each are painful to observe, but for various reasons.
Let’s begin with the Celebrity All-Star game. This game is painfully slow. It is full of washed-up fifty year olds and C-grade celebrities who are too short, too slow and trying too hard to show the nation that they have an ounce of athletic ability. The result of this game is usually one highlight on Sport Center’s Top Ten Plays including Kevin Hart, innumerable air balls, and a long, deep nap for me. Please, David Stern, discontinue this game before you leave the commissioner’s office. Saturday’s Skills Venue begins with the Shooting Stars Competition and culminates in the long-awaited and frequently disappointing dunk contest. What was once an exciting night of sharp shooters and gym jumpers wanting to put on a show for fans is now a night of players participating with the whims of their agent’s whispers in their ear about their health and possible long-term contract. Consequently, the venue and fans suffer.The weekend ends on Sunday with the long-awaited All-Star game. This was once the place where dramas between divisional rivals played out in freeze outs and the best basketball of the season.
(image via basketwallpapers.com)
However, it is now where Dwight Howard can jack up threes and Joakim Noah can show his cross over. This is to say that the game is no longer taken seriously. No one plays defense and rather than shutting down fellow stars on defense, players now wait for their turn to ‘show their skills’ on a fast break play. Consequently, no one should take the plays or outcome of the All-Star game seriously—especially Kobe and LeBron fans. Needless to say, the All-Star Weekend has lost its luster, but who is culpable? I have three possible culprits:
01. TNT:Turner Network Television has been the source for NBA basketball as I can remember. My first memories were watching basketball games on TNT after New World Oder or NWO wrestling. It included the best one-two punch on television: Hulk Hogan and Michael Jordan. However, in the years since the Bulls second three-peat TNT has been lacking in its production of the NBA. Take this weekend for example. On Saturday TNT stayed on-air for close to five hours with its four skills-oriented challenge. For the moments I watched, I noticed long spells of silence and bizarre shots of the Houston skyline. The time in between these long spells was filled with Reggie Miller and Charles Barkley talking a lot, but not saying anything productive. Rather than long spells of silence, I would have loved to see periods of time devoted to the panel of NBA sharing their favorite All-Star stories. That may not sound too entertaining, but it would be an improvement from Saturday.
02. The NBA: David Stern is largely responsible for making the NBA one of the most successful and acknowledged brands around the world. However, the elongated weekend may be one thing that Stern & Co. is holding on to that no longer ought to be. One could possibly say that the only creditable part of the weekend nowadays is being named an All-Star.
03. The Players: When Jordan and Bird participated in the All-Star weekend venues they did so with pride. This may still be the case today, but it definitely is not the first thought for the players involved in the weekend. If this were still the case, LBJ would be an 7-10-time Dunk Contest Champion. The same goes for Ray Allen in the 3-point Contest. The game itself would be scored below 100 and players would demonstrate defense that would make Thibodeau show a quasi-smile.
The lack of effort may be accredited to the desire to have a good time with your peers or the players desire to not get injured. Whatever the reason may be it is apparent that the All-Star Weekend is not what it once was. The NBA needs to revitalize it or disband it all together because the days of viewing the All-Star weekend as a special event is no longer a reality. It may be better to discontinue it and look back on weekends of years past with wonder than to continue the deterioration of what once was a great idea in 1983.
 The only worse venue is the NFL Pro-Bowl. Nothing is worse than watching haphazard football being played by men who consider the trip to Hawaii to be a long-awaited vacation with their family rather than an opportunity to display their skills.
 Look up Isaiah Thomas and Michael Jordan’s long tenuous relationship. Thomas is credited with two All-Star freeze outs of MJ which cost him the opportunity to play on the ’92 Dream Team.
 Tom Thibodeau says he will no longer coach or watch another All-Star game. He reportedly cried in his halftime speech in 2012 due to the lack of defense being played…that is a joke.