I loathe the All-Star Weekend. I won't watch it. And it has nothing to do with the theft of the Sonics. I used to look forward to the NBA All-Star festivities every year. All the big names under the lights on the court all at once for one great weekend. I remember All-Star games that pre-date Jordan. Gus Williams, Malone, Dr. J, Kareem, Bird, Magic, The Chief, and Sikma. Then came the Jordan years, when the game itself was overshadowed by the Dunk Contest. Jordan, Kemp, Dominque, Larry Nance, Spud Webb, and Dee Brown's no-look. Incredible. How did Shawn Kemp not win in 1991? Robbed.
While there were ups and downs for the All-Star Game over the next decade (the lockout in 1999 was the low point), slowly but surely it began to lose momentum. To combat the decline, the NBA began to add new elements. Rookies were added in 1994. Skills Challenge and Celebrity Game in 2003. D-League 2007. H-O-R-S-E in 2009-10. Shooting Stars in 2013. The NBA started to have big name musical performances as well. All to try to bring back to life a slowly fading event. Outside of H-O-R-S-E, which they didn't keep, none of these things begin to interest me. In fact, the celebrity game is motivation for me to NOT watch.
It didn't help that players started to turn down invites to the competition. Then they started to get "injured" so they couldn't play in the games. It all adds up to a slow but steady decline in my view. What was once a highlight of the year has nearly become unwatchable in my book. And it doesn't have to be this way.
So here's my solution(s).
First, the schedule needs to change. Play a full slate of games on Thursday, give the players and coaches Friday to travel, with practices late Friday night. These guys are used to night games anyhow, so this would work fine. Saturday is the day for all the special events. Sunday is the All-Star Game. Then no games until the following Sunday, with no practices until Saturday. A week off for the NBA mid-season. Work with the NCAA so they schedule some big rivalry games during this period. The best conference grudge matches. Highlight them on TV. Let the NBA players rest and recover.
This lets the players give their all for the All-Star Weekend knowing they'll get a recovery period. This eliminates lame injuries to get out of playing. This takes away a key excuse for the best players to not participate in the Saturday events. And it helps get their bodies ready for the second half of the season. Got an ankle that keeps hurting? Here's your chance to get well. Get that toe looked at. A week of therapy and then let's hit the second half of the season hard. Additionally, if you played in a game within 10 days of the All-Star Game and you're selected to the team, you're required to be at the event (even if injured) for press purposes. Exemptions at the league's discretion for extreme circumstances (mom dies, major surgery, etc.)
Where would this time come from? A little massaging of the preseason and postseason schedules for the NBA could readily make up for most of this week off without stretching the season out further.
My second suggestion to improve the All-Star Weekend comes in the voting process. Personally, I really dislike the fan vote for who gets to start in the game. I think a better starting lineup would come from a 50/50 split where players from the league get to vote and coaches get to vote. Nobody is allowed to vote for players from their own team. Each player and coach gets to submit three ranked player names for each position (player & coach votes worth 50% each). Rank average used to determine who gets what portion of the votes. Fifteen players selected for each team - top three from each floor position - so three PGs, three SGs, etc. In the event of replacement for a player, the next top vote-getter becomes the replacement regardless of floor position. Coaches continue to be determined by team record.
I don't want to eliminate fan contribution altogether. Just from the roster for the All-Star Game. Where I want 100% fan participation is in the determination of who participates in all other events. So fans vote for Dunk Contest, 3-Point Contest, etc. I would require that the top four vote-getters are required to participate in the event. If a player is selected to more than one event, the player will be allowed to choose which event to play in, with the option retained to play in up to two events beyond the All-Star Game itself. Example: Klay Thompson could be in the Dunk Contest, 3-Point Contest, and All-Star Game if he was selected to all three, or he could opt out of one of either the Dunk Contest or 3-Point Contest.
My third and final improvement is that the top three events need to be packaged and shown on network TV - the game, dunks and 3's. I don't care where they show the other events, but the big three need to be available as widely as possible. Stream them on the internet too. If I'm at the mall while my wife is shoe shopping I should be able to stream it on my phone. Build the brand. Build some excitement. Make it accessible.
What do you think? Would this make it better? How would you improve it?