The 2014 NBA All-Star Weekend reminded us of how great the game of basketball is, but also how boring it can be to see dunks and deep three pointers over and over again. The Celebrity Game, Rising Stars challenge, All-Star Saturday Night and the All-Star game have been a solid but repetitive foundation for a weekend with growing potential. While altering the format of the Dunk Contest in 2014 may have been a disappointment for many fans after seeing the outcome, change can only be good for the future of the festivities.
So the question remains, what can the NBA do to make the All-Star weekend more entertaining for the fans? With the event being held in New York this season, the buzz will be at a peak as the stars of the NBA look to provide entertainment in arguably America’s largest market.
The fans want to see something new and spectacular. There’s a reason John Wall won the dunk contest. His dunk had never been done before and to top it off he celebrated by doing one of the most viral dances on the internet, the “Nae Nae” with Paul George. More than ever, the majority of fans want to see the swagger and unique egos that each of these players have.
Why not encourage players to be as showy as possible?
Some may be sick of some players outlandish antics, but if the NBA is going to encourage players to wear the most outrageous shoes and colorful custom uniforms, why not focus on revitalizing their mid-season masquerade with the players own creativity and combine it with fan nominations? Instead of having a vote for the All-Stars, let the coaches nominate the participants in the actual All-Star game and the Rising Stars challenge while letting the fans pick who they want to see in each contest.
The Celebrity game should certainly stay in its current format but the Rising Stars Challenge feels like a drag. Why not replace the classic full court 5 on 5 Rising Stars Challenge with a 3 on 3 half court tourney? Having two games happening at once on each end of the floor filled with all of the top young talent in the NBA seems too good to be true. Having three full court 5 on 5 games all with the same theme of showing off and playing just a morsel of defense seems like too much of the same.
On the other hand, the Three Point Contest, Skills Challenge and the Shooting Stars Challenge have felt like placeholders in a night that the NBA just doesn’t want to completely fill with dunks. They have some value, but they could be made much more exciting by adding more variety and surprises. How about combining competitions or replacing one with a game of H.O.R.S.E.? Are the Three Point Contest and the Skills Challenge really the most creative competitions the NBA could come up with? The possibilities are endless.
Now, to the Dunk Contest. A slam dunk is arguably the most entertaining way to score in all of sports and only roughly 0.2% of the world’s seven billion people can dunk a basketball on a ten foot hoop. Seeing bigger and more athletic players attempt the same dunks decade to decade has gotten boring and it surely won’t last. How can the contest be fixed so that more than just one or two dunks can be memorable?
One issue has been that too few players have been involved, which makes their dunks feel repetitive. Spreading out the field and adding more than just one dunk each to every newly introduced “battle round” would make the contest more interesting.
My idea is to have ten contestants, rather than six, nominated by fan voting (with the option to decline of course), with each contestant having their own freestyle round scored by judges to compete for a higher seed in a bracket. The tournament would then consist of three dunk “battle rounds.” This format would allow for fans to have a bigger say, as well as make the contest all the more competitive in a tournament style.
Finally, the game. Each of the contests have their own pros and cons but the All-Star game has always been the centerpiece and grand finale of the NBA’s mid-season showcase. To ease the controversy of some of the biggest snubs the past few years, leave the voting to the coaches. Sure there will still be snubs, but Kobe Bryant wouldn’t be a starter in a season where he played in fewer than 10 games.
Ultimately, the NBA All-Star weekend should be something celebrated rather than ridiculed as it has been constantly for the past few disappointing years.