The participants are all locked in for the mainstream NBA All-Star events as the league prepares to descend on Atlanta this weekend and showcase the talents of some of the best basketballers alive. With another All-Star weekend just around the corner, I couldn’t help but think how the league could generate more interest in their annual festivities. The simple answer is to include more events for more participants (of course, in a hypothetical COVID-safe world) and there are some innovations the NBA should seriously consider to make All-Star weekend a can’t miss affair!
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Given the supreme offensive talents of the modern NBA superstar, pairing players up to square off in a one-on-one tournament would be epic to watch. Of course, elite shot makers like Damian Lillard and Kevin Durant would make life hard for their opponent, but throwing the likes of Jimmy Butler in their face would make that game of 1-v-1 an intense encounter. You could expand the field to 3-on-3, but watching the stars of the league duke it out mano a mano with their pride on the line would be something every hoops fan would want to see.
Pop A Shot
An arcade-style event at All-Star weekend would certainly help level out the playing field. There are no guarantees the professionals would come out on top in this category with the possibility of celebrities or pop-a-shot champions entering the field to make for a more interesting event. I’d be lying if I said I didn’t want to see tiny basketballs in the giant hands of Boban Marjanovic or Giannis Antetokoumpo and either a knockout style tournament or shooting for the highest score could be a nice addition to the field of events.
Bring back H.O.R.S.E.! The league trialled this idea a decade ago with Kevin Durant ruling supreme in the shot-making showcase, but there’s no reason why the NBA shouldn’t reboot the concept. While the idea worked before, the league would probably need to improvise and get more creative if this contest was going to gain legs and become a staple of the All-Star entertainment. With that being said, I’m sure if you chose some candidates and gave them time to practice/prepare (much like the dunk contestants) then we could see some very unique trick shots.
Another past event that lasted for over a decade was the ‘Shooting Stars’ showcase that featured current players, past greats and WNBA stars. Shining a light on former legends of the game and seeing players join forces to rep their state or franchise was a smart idea, but more innovation was probably needed for the event to survive. Perhaps even combining the shooting stars with H.O.R.S.E. could be a new variation that helps reignite the event.
You can’t tell me that Russell Westbrook, Serge Ibaka and some of the other fashion icons in the league wouldn’t relish the opportunity to dominate a catwalk. Style and creativity have become an integral part of pre-game arrivals, with some players going above and beyond to impress with their outfits. Each year when the All-Star players are introduced there are theatrics involved, so why not go one step further and turn their intro’s into a runway?
Open Slam Dunk Contest
I’m still baffled that the Dunk Contest only has three participants right now, but if you believe a lot of recent rumours we could see a surprise Zach LaVine appearance above the rim in Atlanta. Regardless, the answer for future contests isn’t to reduce the number of dunkers, rather they should explore the idea of increasing the field. Instead of going down to three, there should be six or even eight participants in what is stereotypically viewed as the most popular event during the weekend.
The first round of the event could even feature non-NBA participants with the winner of that bracket earning the right to compete against some of the league’s finest. There are plenty of tweaks and changes the NBA could make to add more intrigue to the dunk comp and they’d be wise to get thinking before fans lose interest.
Image from espn.co.uk
We know all 450-500ish players in the league can hoop, but just how athletically talented are off the hardwood? A decathlon comprised purely of non-basketball events would surely make for interesting viewing and may help us finally envision what LeBron James would have looked like in another sport. Scoring a goal in hockey, taking a baseball at-bat, catching a touchdown, sprinting 100 metres and executing a penalty kick in soccer are some sporting skills that instantly spring to mind as possible inclusions for such an event.
NBA 2K Tournament
With the continued exposure and growth of e-sports and the NBA 2K scene, getting a pair of players to sit down at a console is something the NBA should bring to life at All-Star Weekend. Players don’t even need to be in town to take part in the event with the league adapting during the COVID-19 lockdown to host a players-only event that was won by Devin Booker. He got to donate $100K to the charity of his choosing and a similar idea could gain legs with pro gamers and even teammates joining forces to make the event a worthwhile one.
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