by Eric Paolini
Of the four major sports all star festivities, the NBA's is the best. Granted, I don't watch whatever hockey puts out. And you can discount football's because of the time of the year it's held. Because of the type of sport football is no team would want to take a break in the middle of the season to play an exhibition game of a very physical sport. And who wants to watch the Pro Bowl a week before the most important NFL game of the season?
This leaves us with basketball and baseball. The actual game doesn't excite me whatsoever. Watching pitchers get trotted out for an inning or alley-oop passes sailing into the third row doesn't make for an entertaining game. But the thing the NBA and MLB have the others don't (again, I don't watch hockey so don't know about them) are the skills contests the night before. The MLB with the home run derby and the NBA with the shooting contest, skills competition, 3 point shootout, and dunk contest. The home run derby is long and dull. NBA's Saturday night always promises for so much entertainment. And every year I get excited about it. And every year it's a disappointment and a tough watch. This year was no exception.
The first two events are jokes. They only need to be watched to say you watched everything. Trotting out retired players who haven't touched a ball in years it appears so they can air ball threes and comically miss half court shots is always a little sad. Add the WNBA players who struggle shooting the bigger ball and the current NBA players who couldn't care less. This is the saddest event of the weekend and nobody cares. Not the players, not the fans in attendance, and nobody watching at home.
Unless you like point guards jogging around a court throwing lazy passes through hula hoops then skills competition isn't for you. But you do get to enjoy players absolutely mailing it in like Tony Parker did this year. So there's always that.
After the first two events it is time for a musical performance performed by a group that isn't the most relevant to basketball fans. My only criteria for judging Phillip Phillips irrelevance to NBA fans this year is that I've never heard of them. I also missed the performance so let's just move on.
But this is where the night is supposed to get good. The three point contest is exciting if you like pretty looking shots from far away the basket. But it's only the appetizer for the main attraction, the dunk contest. Always over-hyped and under-delivered. This year is no exception.
Let be the millionth person to say that every dunk has been executed in the dunk contest. The only thing left is performance and execution. What kind of show can the contestants give? Gerald Green blowing out a cup cake, Serge Ibaka bringing out a child as a prop, and James White bringing out flight attendants to form a runway are all recent examples. Unfortunately what always happens is these guys missing their first dunk. Always a letdown and anticlimactic.
This years was no difference. Add Nick Cannon's horrible MC'ing and a stadium announcer that could be heard giving the fans some of the most unnecessary play by play. And don't forget Reggie Miller's fantastic analyst duties. Nobody says no brainer and sometimes absolutely confusing stuff quite like him. The following exchange actually happened.
Nick Cannon interviewing the winners of the shooting stars contest, "How did you guys win?" Chris Bosh's reply, "We made shots." Who could have lived without that?
Because of the disaster of Saturday night's festivities was only made bearable by Twitter, here are some suggestions on how to improve.
1) Get rid of the shooting stars competition and replace it with a H-O-R-S-E competition. Instead of doing it early in the afternoon un-televised make it P-I-G or C-O-K-E for sponsorship money and do it first. Get three contestants that can shoot. And if time is really that big of an issue get rid of the skills competition as well, but I think that can be tinkered with.
2) For the skills competition do not invite veterans. Nobody wants to see Tony Parker shuffle around the court upset because he had to put his jersey on. The only thing that makes the skills competition watchable is hustling. It creates an opportunity for things to go wrong and makes the weaving part kind of exciting. For the last layup have a defender. Wouldn't it be more exciting to watch Jrue Holiday try to get around Al Horford instead of making an uncontested layup? Have one of the contestants be a power forward. Wouldn't you like to see Brandon Bass dribble it off his foot? You only need one big guy for comedic effect and then include four or five guards.
3) No minimum score in the dunk contest. I was shocked to learn that there was such a thing. James White got 30 minimum points just for showing up. I could do that. Not okay.
4) Penalize the dunkers for missed dunks. This is on the judges. It is unacceptable to receive a perfect 50 score for something you missed 7 times. Reward execution. When somebody succeeds on the first attempt it is much more exciting. They accomplished what they wanted and nobody knew what to expect. Also, better judgement in picking out the judges. Yao Ming shouldn't be a judge. It should be former dunk contestants.
5) Get rid of stupid conference vs. conference rules. This was part of it this year. It made no sense and was constantly explained. According to the NBA's logic it is more valuable to win the first round then the final round. Nobody will remember in five years, or even next week, who won the conference battle. I watched the entire two and a half hour event and I've already forgotten.
5) Get appropriate music guests. It shouldn't be Fall Out Boy (this year) or Kelly Clarkson (five-ish years ago). My personal vote is for someone along the Common, Jay-Z, or Kanye lines. But I'll even settle for someone like Drake or other new school guys even though I don't like them. Basketball and rap/hip-hop go together. Country goes with NASCAR and bull fighting. Whatever Fall Out Boy is they go with teenage girls at a school dance and not for NBA players and fans at All-Star Weekend.
6) No more Nick Cannon. A lot more of Charles Barkley.
Even though the NBA's All-Star festivities are the best of the four sports, they can be improved. Their changes usually center around including the fans to vote which is a waste of time. I can enjoy the dunk contest just as much if I don't have the capability of voting through text message. Actually, since I don't send in my vote, I would prefer no fan vote so I wouldn't have to see them describe how to do a few times. Chances are next year will be no different but I will watch regardless.
Here you can find all of our articles up to 2018.