The NBA Fading-Star Weekend

The NBA is a model business. Their business strategy is incredible, their marketing – impeccable. The exposure and shopping of their most famous faces are everywhere. Households names like LeBron, Kobe, and Carmelo are recognized by even non-basketball fans. Shoes, jerseys, and media-wise, they have outdone every other sport and have maximized their popularity in America – as well as internationally with forays into China and India. The NBA has done nearly everything right (as we’ll forget about the lockout last fall) and has turned their enterprise into a money-printing machine.

Nearly everything.

Even the end of the lockout last year worked out perfectly for the Association. The exciting storyline painted LeBron James as a man taking on the entire League and leading his Miami Heat to his first NBA title. LeBron’s reclamation from his egotistical remarks at the beginning of his career in Miami – especially at the event in the America Airlines Arena in which he proclaimed the infamous “Not 1, not 2, not 3…” – marked him leaving his critics speechless and showing that he can play in the clutch. He dismantled the entire Oklahoma City roster and their own star, Kevin Durant, en route.

The 2013 All-Star event in Houston last weekend was an embarrassing pockmark on the Association’s otherwise successful operation.

Let’s start with the dunk contest.

Terrence Ross defeated Jeremy Evans in the 62nd NBA All-Star weekend Saturday night with his slam in which he went over a child while simultaneously through his legs. In the replay, it’s shown that Ross just missed curb-stomping that poor ball-boy’s cranium into the polished hardwood in Houston. While the danger-level may have been high, overall, the dunk was rather anti-climatic to the contest overall and the NBA knew it.

Complaints about the Dunk Contest have surfaced that there isn’t enough star-power. In fact, the contestants from Saturday night aren’t even used to being on the court. James “Flight” White averages six minutes per game with the New York Knicks this season. Speaking of “Flight” – he sure did fly on Saturday…nine times down the court – running the full length of the court for a reason that no one besides White seemed to know – and missing every attempt, including his bonus try. The same went for Gerald Green whose performance was upstaged by the Houston man who supplanted the Pacers Guard in the “Excitement Provider” category when he hung a new net from the rim with expertise (that after Green cut down the first one on his first dunk). Clearly, not dunking in a dunking competition is not a good thing.

Where’s LeBron, where’s Andre Iguodala, where’s Serge Ibaka? The NBA needs to get stars to re-energize the spectacle; they need showman to compete and pump some energy into a crowd that the professional DJs were having trouble igniting. Shouldn’t LeBron & Co. give back to the game that gave them so much?

Through the television, “MAKE NOISE” could be heard, but equally as loud was the silence that greeted the command. It was discomforting.

None of the dunkers in the contest were in the top 5 this season and only one (Kenneth “The Manimal” Faried, 90 dunks) was in the top 50. All other contestants had less than 30 dunks on the year.

Gone are the days of Michael Jordan battling Dominique Wilkins, gone are the days of Vince Carter’s unreal jams and gone are the days of Superman Dwight Howard being defeated by little-man Kryptonite Nate Robinson – there has always been almost a storyline to the dunk contest and whoever can spin a superior story comes out on top.

The one event that was still watcher-worthy was the three-point contest. The contest was close and exciting as second year sensation Kyrie “Uncle Drew” Irving continued to display his array of talents, winning the three-point contest as he drained 23 from behind the arc. Uncle Drew’s sharpshooting edged out the Spurs big-man Matt Bonner, who scored 20. (Bonner had my backing as we both share the red-head trait and we both hail from the beautiful state of the ‘Shire.)

Almost as fantastic was the news that the All-Star game jerseys would not be like the new Golden State Warriors sleeved-unis.

The All-Star game once again featured less than zero defense as for the 12th year in a row, both teams scored more than 110 points. But that’s normal; offense has exploded during the All-Star game as long as it has existed.

Mid-way through the first quarter, LeBron was stripped by the West’s Chris Paul (the eventual MVP) who tossed the ball ahead to Kobe whose softball toss went to an all-alone Kevin Durant for the reverse jam in which there was nary a defender over the half-court line. Or Chris Paul who jogged to a stop and dutifully reported to the space under the basket to wait for the rock to be slammed home on an alley-oop from Carmelo Anthony to LeBron James.

When Kobe Bryant, the Black Mamba, blocked two of King LeBron James shots late, it was the first showing of defense since MJ, Isaiah and others took turns testing Magic Johnson in the final four minutes of the 1992 during his return from HIV/AIDs.

It’s nice to see NBA All-Stars go wild with dunks and threes, but it’s tough to care when the game means nothing.

My proposal is that the NBA All-Star game be treated in the same way the Major League Baseball All-Star game is run, where the winner receives home-court advantage in the playoffs. Players would continue to put forth effort, just on both ends of the floor. It would create a more exciting and more meaningful contest to both fans and players – because 16 out of 30 NBA teams make the playoffs and every fan wants their team to have that home-court advantage. Even players that are out of contention would play at a high level out of respect for their perpetually-contending teammates.

The NBA All-Star Weekend (especially the game itself and the Dunk Contest) are broken – and they need to be fixed. Otherwise, it will be referred to as the NBA Fading-Star Weekend.

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