An All-Star Weekend to Mend

2011’s All-Star weekend was an improvement over the last few seasons. The new faces, Bieber fever, dunk props, and an over-all California tone set this year apart from others. I personally think the entire 3 day event could be better, not a little better, but a lot better. Read on, and give us your ideas for a better NBA All-Star weekend.

Starting with Day 1.

The three day event started with the Celebrity game. The game itself isn’t very prestigious and being played in Los Angeles, there was no shortage of celebrities to go in, and humor a few retired players with their awful basketball skills.

First off, East versus West? I didn’t follow on how exactly this worked, other than affiliation to the main event. I mean, come on, you had players that were affiliated with both conferences, celebrities who lived on both sides, and needless to say, when you have a team like Memphis that is clearly east of the Mississippi, the borders just don’t work. I’m not saying it was a BAD idea, but someone has to question the basic organization behind it.

Now I’m not a huge fan of text message voting. It’s passing the accountability. If a panel declares a player as a winner or MVP then you could easily scrutinize just as much. I know no system is perfect, but when you sell out an arena and make a a hefty profit on an introductory event, maybe, just maybe, you should be focused on giving the merit, where merit is due. Michael Rapaport(no, that wasn’t Brian Scalabrine) takes his celebrity games very seriously, why can’t the NBA? Text message and online voting overall, for all of these events is seriously¬† flawed. Most of my rant about the voting process shouldn’t be taken out on the Celebrity game, but since it’s the first event on the agenda, the rant starts here. More to come.

Justin Bieber won, and nobody expected anything else. The kid could have fallen on his face, missed 20 shots, played for the losing team, and sharted in his pants. Doesn’t matter. He wins. All of the Pedo-moms and 12 year old emo-boys would be so crushed, if their super-hero dream boyfriend was ever to lose anything (Note that: suicides increased drastically since last weekend’s Grammy Awards).

I loved seeing Pip on the floor. He looked like he didn’t lose much of anything and just played a toned down game, like it was. But this got me thinking. If there is no shortage of ex-stars who can ball, and there is no shortage on the demand for people who are willing to see that ‘One Last Hurrah”, then let the celebrities have their own game, and have a masters game for the retired players. Yes, you would basically have 4 hours of non-stop charity plugs. Yes, you would add 2-3 more hours of non-important ballin’, but you would add an event that both honors past players, and fill a void in the time slot that isn’t filled with 2-3 poorly planned halftime shows being aired on NBA TV and TNT.
Of course if you just want to watch Brent Barry and Reggie Miller repeat the same things over and over into a play-by-play announcer’s ear, while showing replays of things like, Bieber’s 3-point shot and Ray Allen breaking the 3pt made record, then asking Reggie for his opinion for the 400th time… well you get where this is going. They are flat out REACHING when tryng to entertain the viewers. Some of it is good, great in fact, and I don’t fault the analysts for doing their job, but give a dog a bone, NBA. By the way, yes Brent, we all know you won a Slam Dunk competition, quit fishing for compliments. Yes, good, white guy does free-throw line dunk. Okay, we get it already. Seriously guy, we heard you the first twenty times. Please don’t tell me we have to listen to this again, NEXT YEAR?

The Rookie-Sophomore game.Don’t change it. Well, maybe you could use a rookie and sophomore coach to head the teams. It’s only fitting, and makes for a new mini-accolade. Possibly add some form of actual uniform, because jerseys sell and the NBA needs to use every opportunity to make the most of their cheap labor through whatever sponsor, whether it be Adidas or other future sponsors. Other than that, the 20-minute college periods and exhibition play, it works nicely and might have been the best executed event of the weekend. Not the most exciting event, but best executed from a planning standpoint.

Day 2.

The Shooting Stars competition. Basically there are 4 teams of 3 players. Each team has to shoot on a marked spot in order and they are timed. The teams represented an NBA geographic(Atlanta, Chicago, Los Angeles, and Texas, yes the whole state). Consisting of each team is a former player, a current player and a WNBA player. I know, fascinating stuff.

I’m not a fan. I’ll watch it because I don’t want to miss the rest of the events, but I really wouldn’t miss seeing a team version of around-the-world included in the weekend festivities.

The Skills Challenge. This has become one of my favorite events since it began. I love the drills, and I’m glad the NBA has kept it consistent, because it is a timed event with some sort of ‘record keeping’ in place. Should it be changed? Yes, not the obstacles, but the logistics within the event.

Four players is not enough for the skills challenge. I would literally love for each team to have a legitimate representative. I don’t want to see the Bulls sending Taj Gibson to try it, but have each team send in a guard to run the course. I know it’s easier to say than do, but they seriously need to consider adding a considerable amount of players to test their skills. The event should be editable to fit a one hour time-slot to allow NBA TV to show repeats in the off-season.

I suggest that every player has to have two runs. They keep their best time before advancing. I’m not saying this because I’m bitter that Rose didn’t win. He already won it, even though I was looking forward to this ten-times more, after seeing Taj Gibson build monuments with all of the bricks he laid in both the Rookie-Sophomore and Shooting Stars competition. The bottom line is, times improve as players warm up. There is nothing better than having a legitimate time to measure you’re skills, rather than jump right into qualification without any practice on the course itself. From there, narrow it down to the top 25% and have one last run for the finalists.

The 3-Point Shootout. This event is a staple of the weekend. What basketball player hasn’t had their own 3-point contest of some sort at their favorite court. The NBA has a real winner here, although if anything needs to be overlooked, it’s the criteria for who is picked to participate. Yes, I did want to see Korver here, and I bet a ton of other Bulls fans and even Jazz fans might agree. I didn’t even think it was remotely questionable to whether or not the single-season 3Pt% record holder should get invited, following the season where he broke the record. To avoid sounding like a broken record on the matter, I’ll just leave it at that. I am still peeved about the Korver snub.

The Slam Dunk Contest. I would rank the Dunk Contest as #2 among all-American sports, in terms of an actual all-star exhibition event. Number one is easily Baseball’s Home-Run derby, but the dunk contest is a clear second in my mind.

The NBA can’t keep doing the dunk contest, the way it did the dunk contest in the ABA. The judging and involvement has gotten worse, while putting more pressure on the players to provide the entertainment. If I wanted to see a dunk mix, I do have access to youtube, I don’t need to watch the NBA’s events, so can we please focus on the word ‘contest’? Yes, this is a competition, so NBA planners, quit phoning this one in.

My suggestion, like the skills challenge, widen the playing field. Four players is just not enough. This is the NBA, damn near everyone CAN dunk, and there’s a helluva lot more than 4 players that can make a contest interesting.
Also, the judging criteria needs to change. Maybe take some notes from sports that are 100% based on judging. You have a scale for artistic, technical, difficulty, however the heck you want to split it up. Don’t make the fans suffer, because someone in marketing thought it would be wise to print out 10 trillion copies of Gatorade “10” placards. We know, we know, the player everyone likes will get a 50 on a dunk, that the other guy did better and scored a 46. Seriously NBA, consider it.

Oh, and the props are being over-used. I know players are trying to be original, and we see the wacky props every year, but make one round prop-free.

Day 3, the Main Event.

For some sports, the day of the main event is bundled with other fan events. Although nothing has been consistent in the NBA from season to season.
NFL has done well with video game tournaments. Is it the non-exclusive licensing that prevents the NBA from holding its own tournament? There are just so many opportunities missed here.

The Game itself. I love the All-Star game, and really, there is nothing that should change. The musical entertainment doesn’t really strike up my interests, but I’m not going to worry about something purely subjective. Although I must thank the NBA, for not allowing Justin Bieber to perform the National Anthem.

What about that flawed voting system? The same system that allowed non-existent Yao Ming, Tracy McGrady, Allen Iverson, and a small handful of others to get voted in?
Sure, in the end, the coaches fix all of that anyways. It’s never perfect and I doubt there’s a way to make it perfect, but I do wonder how aware the NBA is on their voting system. You don’t need to be a hacker to vote for your favorite player a few thousand times. Then add a whole country of NBA fans who root for the players who they see a few hundred times a day, while they patch the letters and numbers on those jerseys. Those people who don’t even watch NBA basketball more than a handful of times a year. Yes, I’m talking about the Chinese, the Koreans, the Romanians, the Mexicans… heck, any place that creates a large volume of knock off jerseys. Every fan should be able to vote if a fan-vote exists, but not 100 votes per head. It’s misleading and inaccurate. Fix it NBA, or you could keep watering down the merits of the game. And no, I’m not saying everyone who makes jerseys for a living, is some kind of vote-exploiter.

All-in-all. This was one of the better All-Star games. Sure there were lots of missed opportunities to make it better, but it’s still an outstanding three-day event in comparison to the other main three US sports. I look forward to next season’s break.

And yes, this fan is crying, because she caught sweat-drenched Bieber towel.¬† Her Mom was also in tears after getting one of his stiff socks. Her Dad wasn’t crying after getting a half-eaten pizza from Romeo, and the lady behind them remained jealous for the entire weekend.

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