How To Fix The NBA All-Star Game

How to bring back the luster of a shining event.

By Jarrod Castillo Staff Writer & Francisco Valladares Athletics Editor

Graphic by Francisco Valladares Athletics Editor

It’s 2003 in Atlanta, Georgia. In his final All-Star game, Michael Jordan receives a pass from Allen Iverson with 9.5 seconds left in overtime. Jordan backs down Shawn Marion and with 6.9 seconds left, rises and hits a fadeaway to give the East the 138–136 lead with only 4.8 seconds left on the clock.

Although the East would eventually lose the game, 155–145 in double overtime, moments like that are what make the NBA All-Star game shine.

Fast forward to 2018 and it’s clear that the NBA All-Star Game has lost its luster. This has never been more evident than during the 2017 NBA All-Star Game.

In a farce, the West defeated the East, 192–182. Immediately following the game, NBA Players Association President Chris Paul met with NBA Commissioner Adam Silver to discuss improving the game; players didn’t take it seriously, as evidenced by the result, and the fans lost interest.

This year, the NBA has implemented a new system in hopes of luring fans back. The league opted to return to a playground-style player selection, with team captains choosing teams in a non-televised event. With the All-Star Game in Los Angeles, 2018 would be the perfect year to reel in fans that have strayed.

Except it didn’t quite work. Watching the broadcast on TNT, it appeared that fans were not enjoying the game; cheers were few and far between.

The in-arena atmosphere painted a bleaker picture; according to Bill Plaschke of the Los Angeles Times on Twitter, Staples Center was “so quiet,” with a few people cheering the occasional dunk. Furthermore, Plaschke noted that the renewed emphasis on defense didn’t work — the arena was quiet regardless.

So what can be done to fix the All-Star game? Jarrod Castillo and Francisco Valladares discuss four ways to make the game interesting to the fans again.

Removing Pregame Gimmick

J: Removing all pregame gimmicks should help, since more often than not, said gimmicks tend to be cringy. This year’s attempt to liven up the crowd with comedian Kevin Hart doing player introductions and joking about them was more of an airball than a three.

F: Kevin Hart had his moments, but ultimately didn’t hype the crowd up enough. In past years, musical performances and stadium announcers have been enough to keep the crowd entertained, which is why they should just bring that aspect back. In addition, allowing the players to naturally do quirky and funny things is a lot more entertaining than having someone there that is really trying to be funny. It makes the experience a lot more organic and gives fans good insight into player personalities.

Give Fans Incentives to Care

J: Having the game actually mean something to the fans can drastically improve fan interaction. If a particular team scores a certain amount of points or holds their opponent below a determined amount, all fans in attendance have a chance to win a prize or all fans get tacos. This is similar to what the Los Angeles Lakers have done in recent years, as fans get two free tacos if the team keeps their opponents under 100 points.

F: I’d love free tacos. This a great idea. I have nothing else to add.

Hold the Event in New Cities

J: The All-Star game should be held in cities with strong fan bases such as Seattle and more recently, Toronto. When Toronto hosted the All-Star game in 2016, the fans were lively, excited and more importantly, engaged in the game, especially NBA superfan Drake.

Last year, New Orleans hosted for the third time in 10 years, and it appeared that fans were burned out by the frequency of the event, as they seemed less energetic. That’s not to say that New Orleans is a bad city — it just appeared that the city and the fans weren’t as excited or engaged as the fans in prior years.

F: Having new teams host the event would make fan interaction a lot better because it’s a lot easier to get fans excited when they scarcely get to experience All-Star Weekend. I feel like the Los Angeles crowd really took the event for granted, which is why the fan reactions in the stadium weren’t anything too crazy. I’d like to see it in Oklahoma, or even San Francisco, once the Warriors move away from Oakland.

Let Captains Choose Their Teams at Center Court

J: It needs to be right before tipoff and televised. This can take the place of the aforementioned gimmicks before the game, creating drama and tension, something that has been lacking in the previous games.

Silver and the two captains of this year’s game, LeBron James and Stephen Curry, have already discussed the possibility of televising the event next year to attract more fans. Even though the team selection wasn’t televised this year, there was renewed buzz around the game as fans and personalities alike discussed who was picked when and which team would win.

F: As much as I love the drama that comes along with literally choosing players beforehand, it would probably just take too long. There’s too many players and hard decisions that go along with choosing a good and balanced team. Also, having the teams chosen right before the game would basically make media day obsolete, which sucks because we would miss out on great quotes and interviews. Nonetheless, the choosing of players should be televised. Twitter should be allowed to ridicule and roast the last players chosen — it’s only right.

By implementing these changes, the All-Star game should return to being the gold standard it once was. If the NBA ignores them, then it probably won’t matter because we’re just stupid college writers. No biggie.