NBA All-Star Game: Should it Happen?
Updated: Mar 12
The NBA hosted their 71st annual All-Star Weekend last year in Chicago and would introduce a new format to their main event, the NBA All-Star Game. During this star-studded weekend, fans were given a show throughout each event. Ranging from emerging star Bam Adebayo winning the Skills Competition as a center, to one of the most competitive Slam Dunk Contests since 2016 as Derrick Jones Jr. beat Aaron Gordon with the help of some controversial judging. All around, the weekend had gone outstanding and to top it all off the All-Star Game was mesmerizing as team Lebron (West) beat Team Giannis (East). Albeit the last shot being a free-throw, the game prior to that was competitive and the last few minutes were down to the wire. The game was fantastic and left a plethora of fans impatiently waiting for this year’s All-Star Weekend. It has been just over a year since then and the world has experienced a global pandemic, as well as many other social predicaments, that have now made people question whether or not this beloved weekend should even happen.
It took COVID four weeks after the All-Star break to force the league to suspend its season, a season that did not continue until July 30. The remainder of that season was played in the “Orlando Bubble” where only select teams were invited. No fans were allowed and very few media were given access. The Bubble lasted just about two months and the new season would start after the shortest offseason on December 22. Fast forward to present day where the NBA has surprisingly seen a rise in their ratings as stars in the league have not disappointed. Lebron James led the West in All Star votes and Kevin Durant did the same in the East. However, most players have had their opinions regarding if they would participate in this year's All Star Festivities.
The league's best players know the risks they take by participating in this year’s All Star Game. As we are all aware, we are still in a global pandemic that has diminished too many opportunities for a great deal of people, including professional athletes. These athletes have been asked to stay away from family and friends in risk of contracting the virus. They also lack a source of motivation to play: the fans. Lebron James, who on record has said he wouldn’t play without fans, questioned if it was worth it to take part in this year's All Star Game. In a postgame interview, Lebron stated that he would play, but would only be there “physically”, not mentally. He also called the weekend a “slap in the face” as players thought the activities would not take place this year. Lebron’s remarks were backed by last year’s MVP, Giannis Antetokounmpo, as he too has zero energy nor excitement to partake this year. Clippers’ star forward, Kawhi Leonard, suggests that the league may be desperate for money and are only interested in the games to obtain that greed.
As the All Star break approaches, it is quite possible that there will be more complaints about it happening. A few days ago the players for the Slam Dunk Contest, Three-Point Contest, and the Skills Competition were announced. The Three-Point Contest and Skills Competition will mainly have All Star Game participants taking part in them while the Slam Dunk Contest will include three players trying to make a name for themselves. Cassius Stanley, Obi Toppin, and Anfernee Simons, who are all relatively new names to fans, will look to leave the audience in awe. But see that’s the thing, what audience? There won’t be nearly enough people in attendance to acknowledge a worthy dunk. This complication is another example of why people question if these contests should be occurring. The main point in doing a dunk contest is to impress the people watching and get the best reaction out of them. With very few people in attendance the awe of the dunk may not feel the same as previous years. Although it takes a great amount of skill to pull off these spectacular dunks, it sort of feels like it will be all for nothing when there is only crickets heard after. Either way this event will give these players the opportunity to market themselves to the league and the world while also having the chance to put their name in the history books.
The All Star break has its positives and negatives as it will allow people to watch the stars of the NBA showcase their skills at the best of their ability, but those people will be behind a television screen. It also gives the chance for many first-time players to assert themselves amongst the cream of the crop of the league as well. First-timers such as Zach Lavine, Jaylen Brown, Julius Randle, and Zion Williamson will all be able to prove to the world that they deserved their vote to be at the game. It would not be surprising to see them play their hardest to end the night as MVP of the All Star Game. However, the game itself will not feel the same with little - if any fans - in attendance. The energy of the game feeds off the energy the fans give. Without the fans there it will be a game like no other game has been played before.