By: Matt Dery
I try to take a vacation over NBA All Star Weekend. It is February and it is cold and I am a little tired, to be honest. My wife and I want to get away and this past weekend was no different. We took a vacation and I am now just catching up on what went down in Houston Friday, Saturday, and Sunday.
It sounds like I did not miss much.
NBA All Star Weekend used to be one of my hobbies. I used to watch the Slam Dunk Contest and the Three Point Shootout religiously. The Sunday game was also a must-watch, especially during the Michael Jordan era. The NBA could do no wrong in my eyes and the events and the presentation were something to behold. But now I have to be honest, I don’t miss it and there needs to be some changes made to win me over as a viewer once again.
The contests seem too disorganized and hard to follow. It apparently now has become an Eastern Conference versus Western Conference format and I am confused. Back in the day, the Three Point Contest had drama and stars taking part and Bob Neal would read off the standings and I could follow it. Larry Bird and Dale Ellis have the highest scores and would advance to the finals. I get it. Now, a guy ties for second place in the first round, but because he represents the Eastern Conference, he advances to the finals. Huh? What happened to the three round format and some drama and even a 24 second shoot-off?
Kyrie Irving is a stud and one of the NBA’s true rising stars, but how did he get to the finals? I’m still confused. I shouldn’t be. I hope he defends his title next year because the event needs him. I hope one of Irving’s agents or friends doesn’t whisper in his ear to “sit this one out” next February.
That leads me to my next issue which is the roster for the Slam Dunk Contest. Many experts believe it is time to scrap that event altogether, I disagree. The Dunk Contest needs to stay, but with a twist: REAL NBA PLAYERS need to participate (yes I know Eric Bledsoe is a real NBA player). There are season ticket holders all over the country who could not tell you who James White or Jeremy Evans are.
The league has to step in and deliver some stars to the event once again. LeBron James keeps teasing us that maybe he would enter the contest, so do it. Michael Jordan did. Dominique Wilkins did. What is the harm? Kobe Bryant won it in 1997. Dwight Howard participated and won it in 2008. Blake Griffin was very good in 2011. You get my point. The TNT crew didn’t even know who the dunkers were this year and were basically laughing at them. I love Kenneth Faried as a player and boy would he look great in a Pistons uniform, but he should not be the most well-known dunker of the group. I understand that the stars would rather party and show off their wardrobes and yuck it up on the sidelines, but I think they are doing a disservice to the event and to the fans by not taking part.
I also question just whom the events of the weekend are catered to. I brought up season ticket holders before and I am not so sure that All Star Weekend is something the paying customer understands. I try and talk to the fans at the Palace a lot to get a gauge on how they feel about the team and their fan experience. My job working for the radio network is to interact with them so I have a better understanding when I go on the air. They are forking over the cash to help pay a lot of people’s salaries. The fans have helped make the NBA one of the giants in the sports industry. All of the fans, not just the paying customers. With that being said, I am no dummy. I know that All Star Weekend is a show and a corporate three-day overnight camp. I understand that. But I also think that those same fans at home should have an idea of what is going on. I know who Ke$ha is, but do the every-day paying customers? If you tuned in to the TNT halftime show with the crew and comedian Kevin Hart, I apologize. It was five minutes of inside jokes and a total turn-off for a lot of viewers.
The hottest story of the weekend was the fact that rapper, Lil Wayne, got allegedly banned from the arena. He says it is because he slept with Chris Bosh’s wife. I’m sure the NBA is thrilled with that sidebar. Do you think Ken from Waterford who attends 20 games a year is discussing “Weezy” with his wife this morning? Heck, there are writers who cover the league that are boasting about hanging out with Worldwide Wes at the club this weekend. I know I will get at least 10 tweets after this article posts asking me who Wes is? You get my point.
NBA Deputy Commissioner Adam Silver said on Saturday that the league is looking into “refreshing” All Star Saturday night. I think he is on to something.