The NBA All-Star Weekend isn't what it used to be in the past, and it's not just because legitimate superstars like LeBron James, Dwight Howard and Blake Griffin aren't taking place in the Sprite Slam Dunk Contests.
NBA All-Star Weekend isn't the same as in the past, because it lacks a "buy-in" and creativity that has plagued other All-Star games like the NFL Pro Bowl.
While the 2012 Rising Stars Challenge "draft" by Shaquille O'Neal and Charles Barkley was a nice addition to an otherwise lackluster NBA All-Star Weekend, it isn't enough to make up for what the NBA All-Star Weekend lacks—serious creativity and innovation.
Fans will always tune into the the NBA All-Star festivities like the Sprite Slam Dunk Contest and the Foot Locker Three-Point Challenge, but there are undoubtedly foundational ways that the NBA can improve its All-Star Weekend, and I'm here to tell you how.
The first way the NBA needs to improve its All-Star Weekend is by moving away from stale events like the Shooting Stars Challenge and the All-Star Skills Competition, and replace them with fresh, exciting events.
Create New Competitions like "Knock-Out" or "21"
If you've played basketball in your life, you've undoubtedly played the game of "knockout," which consists of players attempting to eliminate other players ahead of them by hitting shots before the player in front makes theirs. If you're not familiar with the rules, check out the rules here.
Just imagine every NBA All-Star lined up at half court, jacking up shot after shot trying to eliminate the next NBA All-Star. It sounds like a simple game, but anyone who's ever played it knows how addicting and competitive it can be, so just imagine what happens when NBA egos get involved.
In addition to adding "knock-out" to the list of NBA All-Star Weekend events, the NBA could also add a "21" tournament, which would undoubtedly be more interesting than watching what the NBA has going on currently.
The rules of "21" are simple. There are five players on the court at one time, and the first person to score 21 points wins. Anyone who's played the game of "21" knows just how intense and competitive the game can get. Imagine what a "21" game consisting of LeBron James, Dwyane Wade, Dwight Howard, Kobe Bryant and Blake Griffin would be like to watch. Yeah, it would be epic.
Another way that the NBA All-Star Weekend can improve is by bringing together the youth of the NBA and the legitimate superstars of the NBA in some sort of three-on-three tournament.
Integrate NBA youth with NBA Superstars in three-on-three tournament
The NBA's never done a good job of bringing together the youth of the NBA with the solidified talent in the NBA, but they could change that by bringing them together in a three-on-three tournament during the NBA All-Star Weekend. Here's how the tournament would be set up.
Ten teams would be involved in the tournament, consisting of the captain of the team, who would be an NBA All-Star starter, and two additional players pulled from a pool of rookie and sophomore talent. For example, LeBron James would be the captain of Team LeBron, then, in typical "pick-up" fashion, LeBron would choose one rookie and one sophomore player to finish out his three-man roster.
A first-round matchup could look like this: Team LeBron, consisting of LeBron James, Ricky Rubio and Landry Fields vs. Team Kobe, consisting of Kobe Bryant, Kyrie Irving and Blake Griffin. I'm sure you can see how amazing a tournament like that would be.
On a more important level, that kind of tournament would work towards bringing together the youth of the NBA and the solidified All-Stars of the NBA, which would be positive movement towards the NBA improving its "big brother/big sister" image.
One final way the NBA can improve its All-Star Weekend is by making some creative changes to the Sprite Slam Dunk Contest that is fading into obscurity rather quickly.
Make creative changes to Sprite Slam Dunk Contest
No matter what your opinion on the dunk contest is, there's no debating the fact that it's not the same contest it was when guys like Julius Irving, Michael Jordan, Dominique Wilkins and Vince Carter took part in the event. Instead of debating ways to get superstars like LeBron James and Blake Griffin to take part in the dunk contest, let's talk about ways the dunk contest can improve with the talent they currently have.
The first way the dunk contest can improve is by involving more players who aren't usually considered high-flying dunkers. The way the NBA can do this is by lowering the rim to nine feet for a somewhat comical dunk competition that features the non-high-flyers of the NBA.
I know it sounds stupid, but just take a minute and think about all the players who now could be involved in at least a portion of the dunk contest. Guys like Ricky Rubio, Rajon Rondo, James Harden, Monta Ellis and Eric Gordon, and the list goes on.
The nine-foot dunk contest could consist of crafty point guards and athletic shooting guards who wouldn't usually be involved in a traditional dunk contest. If you're not jiving with that concept, the dunk contest could move towards a position-based contest that breaks the participants into groupings based on the positions that they play.
We might never see a dunk contest again that features superstar talent, but that doesn't mean we have to scrap the event. Making creative adjustments to the NBA Sprite Slam Dunk Contest, like including position-based dunk groupings or changing the format all together by including a lowered rim to include smaller guards, might be just what the NBA needs to spruce up its All-Star events.
The NBA All-Star Weekend definitely has room for improvement. If you agree with the changes I've proposed, great. If you don't, then please weigh in with changes you think the NBA can make to spruce up an otherwise underwhelming NBA All-Star Weekend.
Thanks for checking out the article. Don't forget to follow me on Twitter @peteremerick.