This year’s NBA All-Star Game showed why it is second only to Major League Baseball’s midsummer classic for the best game in the four major sports. There were more than 300 points in a flashy offensive showdown where East and West tried to out alley-oop their way to an All-Star game win until LeBron James and Dwayne Wade decided to make it a close competitive game. While many analysts are complaining about the lack of defense and level of indifference from the players, the fans were treated to an electric game they can’t see any other day of the sports year.
The paradox found in any All-Star game is how can the athletes compete at half speed, for fear of injury in the exhibition contest, while maintaining intensity? It is nearly impossible. That’s why baseball has a distinct advantage over the other sports. Due to the lack of contact and low-injury risk, players can put forth a level of effort nearly equal to that of any other game. Pitchers don’t throw inside as much, but 98 mph is still really freaking fast. Baserunners won’t try to take out the second baseman (which I believe should be eliminated from the game entirely, but that’s probably because my favorite player, Robinson Cano, is a second baseman) or attempt as many steals. The product is highly watchable and can produce some memorable moments like Torre Hunter robbing Barry Bonds of a home run.
However, baseball also lays claim to one of the most embarrassing All-Star debacles of all time. In 2002 the game ended in a 7-7 tie prompting the rule change stating that the winning league gets home field advantage in the World Series and the annual slogan: “This one counts.” I’m not sure which is worse: the rule or the slogan. Some are suggesting that the NBA should take the same approach. Why? The rule change hasn’t gained the MLB All-Star game any popularity among fans and this past year there was controversy over how many players opted out of the Midsummer Classic. Most notable was Derek Jeter, who had recently returned from injury and collected his 3,000 hit. Baseball was anticipating a higher viewership for a celebration of the milestone, but Jeter decided to stay home in Manhattan and probably sign a few personal autographs for some attractive female fans.
It’s clear that players would rather not play in the game. There was a time when there was such a thing as AL or NL pride and the players had true dislike for
one another and the animosity fueled some classic games. There also was a time before cell phones and the internet. In the NBA there is regular play between East and West, but to see the 10 best on the floor at one time is impressive. Do we really want to watch Blake Griffin take a charge to stop Carmelo from slamming home a windmill? The first three quarters were dedicated to the kinds of plays that make highlight reels. Personal favorite was the James behind the back pass to Wade who went up for the layup, but flipped it back to James, who slammed it home. In the fourth quarter, s**t got real.
I’ve never taken a D-Wade forearm to the face, but I’d have to imagine it isn’t pleasant. The commentators were downplaying the incident calling it a hard foul for the All-Star game. Now it comes out that Kobe Bryant suffered a broken nose and mild concussion. It was a hard foul for a back alley mugging. That play sparked the game back to life and James went on a run to become the game’s MVP. It came down to the final seconds, as all good basketball games should, and LeBron had a chance to go iso on Kobe, but elected to pass the ball off. Now the question of James’ play in the clutch has resurfaced, much to the delight of ESPN. We won’t cover that here other than to say it was extremely anti-climactic. I wanted to see a Lin vs. Jose Calderone type finish, but to quote the Rolling Stones, “You can’t always get what you want.”
I hope David Stern and the NBA don’t mess with the All-Star game too much. I understand as a business they have to keep evolving and search for new ways to engage their audience (like the “new” ball) so I expect something to change. The real problem is the dunk contest. I believe the solution is simple. I don’t actually know what it is, but I know who does: LeBron James. He is the one player anyone wants to see in the dunk contest and he hasn’t done it. David Stern: go straight to the source and find out what it will take to get him to compete.
Does the NBA All-Star game need to be changed? Let us know what you think via our twitter (@seeuinoctober) or leave us a comment. Don’t forget we are still looking for players for our March Madness style tournament of the greatest players in New York and Boston history.