Is there room for improvement in the All-star game?
I had high hopes this year for All-Star when they announced that captains would be picking teams. The star driven NBA is as transparent as ever, and just as present on the internet as it is on the court. And in a game that lacks the usual on court aspects, we focus more on who’s playing with and against who. Unfortunately, the step forward that the league made was followed by two steps back, choosing not to televise the draft.
First of all, this inaugural All-Star draft has shown that it was done far too early. Since the picks were made, four big time injuries have happened, and the replacement players were forced onto the team without having been picked, each chosen by NBA commissioner Adam Silver. Ultimately though, this conflicts the whole point of the draft in the first place. Four players is a third of the roster, and that’s enough to cause concern
So the easy solution is to push back the draft. Have it done after the last regular season games before the break. Whether or not they’re conscious of it, the league has already done some of the work for a later draft. As soon as the All-Stars are announced, the league begins jersey sales, but this season they made it possible to customize the color of jersey for every player (White for Team Lebron & Black for Team Stephen). While the fans may not know exactly which team the player is on, the personal preference route is still a great option.
Now comes the part that the league was so timid towards, having the draft and draft order televised. If they wanted to do it right, it would take place during the All-star practice. This is typically broadcasted on NBA TV and shows each team conducting a loosely structured practice, but it’s really for the fans to watch. If they made the practice on TNT and preface the draft, the captains could then pick their teams in a “pick up ball” atmosphere. It would be the peak of why the fans love the NBA. Seeing players snub close friends. Watching the thought process and theorize potential recruitments. It would make for 24 hours of excitement, and build anticipation of the game for both the players and fans.
I do credit the NBA though. They increased the prize money for the winning team from $50,000 to $100,000. But with teams full of star players, it doesn’t amount to that much in the aggregate. I think that a monetary prize would have to hit at least $1 million to really build competitiveness. But of course, that amount of money is a pipe dream. The NBA wants to make as much money as they can.
Ultimately I think making the All-star game more competitive is a tough task, and for good reason. But at the core of the game, competing against peers is what makes for real fun. It may be that modeling the All-star game after pick-up ball successfully brings the fire out of the players, but with players of such magnitude, it might just begin and end with their own motivation.