What Is Wrong With The NBA All-Star Break?
The NBA All-Star events took place this past weekend in Salt Lake City, Utah. Around midseason, the 24 best players in the league are invited to a weekend filled with “fun” events. These events include the Rising Stars game, the Skills challenge, Three Point contest, Slam dunk contest, and of course, the All-Star game.
Traditionally this has been a fun time for the players and fans to watch basketball stress free and still be entertained. But in the last couple of years, the entire All-Star break has been under some scrutiny. Just this past weekend marked the lowest viewership any NBA all star game has ever received with only 4.59 million viewers tuning in. Why is that? It’s due to a lack of star power, repetitiveness, and it just doesn’t mean much.
The event receiving the most hate for a lack of star power is the Dunk Contest. It all started when Aaron Gordon, who was a part of one of the best dunk contests of all time in 2016, said he would never play in a dunk contest again due to the poor judging against him in the 2020 dunk contest. Since then, the contest has been filled with players who aren’t really known by the average basketball fan. The past three winners weren’t even starting on their own teams at the time. The 2023 winner, Mac McClung, has played in two NBA games in his career. Even if superstars did participate in the event, the contest has been going on so long that it’s become repetitive. There have been so many dunks done in the 47 years of this contest, almost everything has been done.
Then there is the all-star game. For as much as offense is appealing to the viewer, it has to be a good offense. The two teams combined 359 points. There’s a line between good offense and horrible defense. And in this game, the defense being horrible would be an understatement.
But why should players try on defense? It risks injury, and the break happens during the middle of the year. Most of these players are still trying to help their teams make the playoffs or even win a championship. NBA superstar LeBron James caught his finger on the rim early in the game. He sat out for the rest of the game to not risk injury.
Three of the other all-stars didn’t even get to play 10 minutes. And Shai Gilgeous Alexander, who got over one million fan votes, only got to play 10 minutes. Many fans were upset that they voted for these players, but they barely get to see them play. Even an NBA coach sounded off about the poor product. Nuggets coach Michael Malone said it was the “worst game of basketball ever played.” There was no defense, a lazy offense (despite scoring so much), and an anti-climatic ending in a format meant for climatic endings. The fans sure agreed with Malone, as ratings declined 29% and viewership down 27% from just last year. That’s the steepest decline for the game since 2000.
So how does this get fixed? Simple — move the All-Star events until after the season, like how the NFL does. Players wouldn’t sit out to save themselves for the rest of the season, since there is no season. Also, require each player to play a certain amount of time so players like Jayson Tatum aren’t playing 35 minutes, while Jrue Holiday and Shai Gilgeous Alexander only get nine and ten minutes.
A way fix the defense issue is by allowing the winning conference to have home court advantage in the NBA finals. This fixes all of three of these issues in one because players wouldn’t sit out to stay healthy for the playoffs if the All-Star game can help their team later on in the playoffs. Another way to fix the defense is to up the incentives for the All-Star game winners. Starters on the winning team get X amount of money, while the reserves on the winning team get a little less. This would bring players’ passion back into participating in the All-Star game.