All-Star Weekend Flop

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February 19, 2014 by NowhereButPop

by Khalid Bennett

Wow!!  What a spectacular dunk!!  Four seconds later…another monstrous dunk.  Five seconds later…it’s the same dunk by a different player.  Add a few uncontested lay-ups and three-pointers and what do you get?

The 63rd NBA All-Star Game.

This past weekend was NBA All-Star Weekend.  It celebrates the achievements of the first half of the NBA season and the players that stood out for their achievements.   How does the NBA do it?  Well, the NBA does it with A LOT of music and some events made to entertain the NBA audience, which at this point is global.  Not only does it celebrate the achievements of current NBA stars and superstars, but it also celebrates the new and upcoming basketball players, who one day may become superstars.  It also celebrates average players with special skills, hence the 3-point shootout.

The 2014 All-Star Weekend went through some major changes and used different formats for every event.  I don’t know if they did this to gather more audience members watching it or because of the new commissioner.  The NBA All-Star Weekend has been noted lately for having poor ratings and a declining viewership especially with the Slam Dunk contest.  I don’t get super excited for the weekend but I do like watching it, being a moderate NBA fan.  This year I wasn’t so sure; I was hearing about the different formats and the participants of each event and I wasn’t really anxious to watch the event.  I had nothing else to do or watch this weekend so I might as well take a deeper look into this weekend, for this, it was probably the first time that I watched almost every minute of the All-Star Weekend.

Friday

The first event kicking off All-Star Weekend is the NBA All-Star Celebrity Game.  This event is still young as this past weekend was the 12th edition of the All-Star Celebrity Game.  It’s an exhibition featuring some of your favorite celebrities, music superstars, former NBA players, and even current WNBA players.  Multiple participants of this game include Terrell Owens, Chris Tucker, Common, Michael Rappaport, Chris Mullin, Rick Fox, Lisa Leslie, just to name a few.  This year, the participants included Nick Cannon, Snoop Dogg, Wale, Skylar Diggins, Bruce Bowen, Terrence Jenkins, Michael B. Jordan, and Kevin Hart.  This was just one of the events that I actually looked forward to watching.  It’s pretty cool seeing these celebrities play basketball, wondering who actually has some skills.  Most of them do, while others can barely run fullcourt without running out of breath.  Others (like Nick Cannon) can’t even shoot the ball well.  The matchup was really good; I never expected the participants to be so competitive.  The East beat the West by four points.  Of course Kevin Hart won MVP but there was a problem with that-He was on the losing team and didn’t too much to in the game.  But what do you expect when MVP is chosen by tweets and texts from the fans?  It shows you that a good amount of fans don’t really know much about basketball.  It’s events like this that try and boost the NBA audience.

There’s nothing wrong with that and the NBA has been doing this since forever, so it’s whatever.  You didn’t expect Kevin Hart to cede the MVP title and give it to Arne Duncan.  If you actually paid attention to the game Arne Duncan scored 20 points (the most in Celebrity Game history) and almost messed around and got a triple-double.  Who is Arne Duncan?  Oh he’s just the United States Secretary of Education, who has an impressive basketball resume.  He knows his basketball.  Overall, I enjoyed it and hope that next year will be just as competitive.  I actually like my exhibition games with some competitiveness and not like the actual All-Star game but I’ll get to that later.

The second event is the Rising Stars Challenge.  This event celebrates the rookies and sophomores of the NBA.  It used to be rookies vs. sophomores, but now each team is chosen based on a draft by “general managers”.  This shows the talent of NBA players that could eventually become All-Stars and superstars of the next generation.  This event has been active since 1994.  Pretty much any All-Star today and future Hall of Famer has participated in this event including LeBron James, Kevin Durant, Kobe Bryant, amongst numerous others.  The one thing about this event is that the participants aren’t guaranteed to be stars and/or superstars within the next few years.  They are just really good up and comers.  Participants in this year’s event include Damian Lillard, Anthony Davis, Bradley Beal, and Andre Drummond.  The game was pretty close at the end with some spectacular perfomances by Dion Waiters and Tim Hardaway Jr.  Andre Drummond won MVP with 29 points and 25 rebounds.  Based on what I saw, there are going to be a few NBA players who will have impressive careers in the future.

Saturday

Saturday is considered the most watched and most entertaining part of the All-Star Weekend. Now this is where things got confusing.  All of the events had an East vs. West format.  I understand that they did this for charity but this new format left the audience confused.  It didn’t make the contest more about team than individual.

The first event is the Shooting Stars Competition. This event is only 11 years old.  The competition consists of a current NBA player, a retired NBA player, and a WNBA player.  It’s pretty simple.  One player makes a 10-ft bank shot, one player makes a free-throw type shot and one player makes a three-point shot from the corner.  Finally, one half-court shot has to be made and the team that makes all of these shots in the fastest time wins.  The team of Chris Bosh, Dominique Wilkins, and Swim Cash won the competition.  I didn’t watch it because I was watching Syracuse BARELY winning their game and staying undefeated.

The second event is the Skills Challenge.  This event has been around for 12 years.  It tests ball-handling and passing skills from some of the best guards in the game.  It used to be one-on-one competition but thanks to the East vs. West format, it now consists of four pairs from each team.  The same obstacles are used but now it’s the combined time of two players.  So the fastest time from each team compete against each other.  This year it was Damian Lillard and Trey Burke of the West against Michael Carter-Williams and Victor Oladipo of the East.  The West won by 0.1 second.  The event was alright but East vs. West format didn’t make it any better.

The third event is the 3-Point Shootout.  This even has been around since 1986.  You have one minute to go through five racks of four basketballs (plus the money ball) around the three-point line.  Past winners include Larry Bird, Steve Kerr, and Dirk Nowitzki.  There are usually eight participants and the top three of the first round would compete in the final round.  That didn’t happen this year.  It was another East vs. West format, where the highest score from each team competed in the final round.  It was Bradley Beal vs. Marco Belinelli.  The game was interesting as both players tied, which then led to a tie-breaker, where Belinelli won the whole thing.  Oh did I mention that they added a rack only with money balls?  So basically, you have four racks of the four balls and the money ball and a fifth rack with all money balls.  And you can put the money ball anywhere.  Based on the player, he can get back into the game because of the money balls because it’s mostly likely going to be at his sweet spot.  Suffice to say, I prefer the old format.

The fourth and final event is the Slam Dunk Contest.  I would love to go into the history of this wonderful event but I can’t.  I have to go into the decline of the Slam Dunk Contest. There has been a lot of flak given to the Dunk Contest in recent years and I have to agree.  There really has been no creativity and most dunkers now use shameless props and antics to accompany their dunks.  And why are all the participants no names.  This year didn’t cut it at all.  The East had Terrence Ross, Paul George, and John Wall.  The West had Harrison Barnes, Damian Lillard, and Ben McLemore.  The first round consisted of each team showing off their dunks collectively to the judge panel.  I feel sorrier for the judges because they had to watch the mediocrity of the Dunk Contest.  Do you really think Dominique Wilkins, Magic Johnson, and Dr. J were impressed by what they saw?  The second round consisted of a one-on-one battle between the East and the West.  Ross defeated Lillard thanks to him using Drake as a prop.  Paul George defeated Harrison Barnes easily.  Wall vs. McLemore was a little bit more entertaining, but corny at the same time.  McLemore came out as a prince with Shaq (since he owns the Kings) and McLemore ended up dunking over Shaq sitting in a chair.  And to add to the antics, Shaq puts a crown on McLemore.  But he was beaten by Wall, who jumped over the Wizards’ mascot with a reverse dunk.  So the East won and now there would be a battle between the three players and then the contest was over without realizing it was over.  The East won the competition and John Wall “won” the Dunk Contest based on votes via text message.  I understand what the NBA was trying to do, but it didn’t work.  I understand that fans were complaining about the old format but it’s the same fans that complained about this format.  There is no way of pleasing these fans when it comes to the Dunk Contest.  They might as well be done with it and never bring it back.  If you think about it, how can you make the contest any better if everyone is going to use meaningless props and antics?  Basketball players nowadays are too athletic to perform the dunks that seemed so spectacular when Wilkins, Jordan, Webb, and even Carter did it.  Overall, I wasn’t impressed with the new format.  And no I’m not the typical “fan” that says “LeBron should be in the contest”.

Sunday

Sunday is the final event of the NBA All-Star Weekend and it concludes with the All-Star Game.  There’s something about this game that gets more boring each year.  First of all, every sports analyst was talking about how it could’ve been a LeBron James vs. Kevin Durant showdown in the 4th quarter.  That wasn’t gonna happen.  Secondly, it took forever for the game to start and finish.  The only thing that kept me going were the musical performances.  Thank you Pharrell Williams for a pretty awesome performance.

Anyway, the game featured All-Stars such as James, Durant, Blake Griffin, Dwyane Wade, Carmelo Anthony, Chris Paul, and others.  I understand that this is an exhibition game and most NBA players wouldn’t play that hard but has any of them heard the word “defense”?  What a ridiculous game.  All this game was about dunks and dunks and dunks and dunks and dunks; with an alley-oop, easy lay up, and wide open three-point shots.  It was the highest scoring game.  And guess what?  There were NO blocks.  It wasn’t competitive at all.

It was interesting how the East made a huge comeback after trailing the West by 18 points and win by eight.  Like I said, there was no defense and it was so boring.  I don’t mind the superstars doing their dunks but for every possession every five seconds?  I mean, all the other All-Star games in the other major sports are just a little competitive.  I guess defense wasn’t in their minds at all.

 Overall, I wasn’t impressed with this All-Star Weekend.  To me, the best events to watch were the Celebrity All-Star Game, Rising Star Challenge, and the Three-Point Shootout.  Everything else was just boring and confusing.  I hope the new commissioner, Adam Silver, will make some moves and decisions to bring back the audience they probably lost for the next year’s All-Star Weekend, which is in Brooklyn.  This East vs. West concept needs to go…now.

Well, on to the “second half” of the NBA season. Ugh, how many more days ’till the playoffs? Or rather how many days ’till Opening Day?

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