4 Ways to Increase the Popularity of NBA All-Star Weekend
In an era when television ratings are a premium source of income for sports, all-star games are failing to draw Americans to their living rooms.
NFL commissioner Roger Goodell, according to ESPN.com, talked about the possibility of canceling the Pro Bowl after the 2012 event. Baseball Almanac showed that MLB's All-Star Game ratings are declining. The NHL failed to produce an All-Star Game this year due to the league's lockout.
Even though the NBA All-Star Game went up against the television ratings of the Academy Awards in 2012, Ira Boudway of Businessweek.com reported that approximately only seven million American viewers watched the 2012 NBA All-Star Game in comparison to the nine million in 2011.
Eventually, rather than make some minor adjustments to the product, one league needs to make a bold move and make a few major changes to the entire all-star weekend.
These four significant modifications will recharge the interest in NBA All-Star Weekend.
Change the Entire Format
The NBA All-Star Game is similar to the Pro Bowl. The entire contest is a flashy act of athleticism on offense, but if the game is close in the final minutes, the players actually compete to win.
However, the NBA can do something to prevent people from changing the channel in a dull performance.
Shorten the game and increase the number of games.
Starting from scratch, the East and West will have their usual 12-man rosters, but each conference will divide into two separate six-man teams. Let's call them Team A and Team B.
The fans can vote for five guards and seven forwards in the East and West, but it's up to the coach of each conference to decide who plays on Team A and Team B.
When it's game time, the East will play the West like usual but with a few new wrinkles.
In a best-of-three series involving 10-minute games, Team A from the East will play Team A from the West in Game 1, followed by Team B from the East playing Team B from the West in Game 2. If one conference wins the first two games, the All-Star Game is over.
If Game 3 is needed, players on both teams can be used. This way certain players who just participated in Game 2 can rest before coming back in for the final showdown.
This format is effective for multiple reasons.
First, the chances of the game being close in the end increase dramatically, which is ultimately what the fans want.
Second, the competitiveness stays at a high level for each game, especially if it goes to Game 3.
Third, strategy is crucial for the head coach.
Take the rosters in 2013, for example.
In the East, how would a coach combine all the players from the Heat, Bulls, Knicks and Celtics (if Rajon Rondo were healthy)? Would he split everyone up?
In the West, would a coach assemble a Lob City team by taking Chris Paul and Blake Griffin from the Clippers and adding Dwight Howard as another threat above the rim? Then would he include more traditional and fundamental power forwards like Tim Duncan and Zach Randolph?
How does a coach use the sixth man in the rotation on both squads? Should one team be designed to play up-tempo and the other play at a slower pace? There are a lot of different tactics a coach can use.
The NBA All-Star Game would now be called the NBA All-Star Series.
Winner Gets Home-Court Advantage in the NBA Finals
It's time for the NBA to take a page out of MLB's playbook. The winning conference of the All-Star Game should earn home-court advantage in the NBA Finals.
Even if the NBA didn't change the format of the All-Star Game, this game would be more important if the winning conference earned an extra game in front of the home fans in June.
Unlike in MLB where at least one member of all 30 teams must be in the All-Star Game, most NBA All-Stars play for playoff teams. Only four out of the 24 players in the 2012 All-Star Game didn't make the postseason.
Adding this incentive to the winner of the game might also increase the competitiveness of the top NBA teams before the All-Star break.
Imagine if home court was on the line in the 2013 All-Star Game.
As we near the selections for the coaches in the All-Star Game, the Miami Heat have a 1.5 game lead on the New York Knicks for the top spot in the East. LeBron James, Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh will represent the Heat, while Carmelo Anthony and Tyson Chandler will represent the Knicks.
Since the head coach of the top-seeded team in each conference is on the sideline for the All-Star Game, why wouldn't an All-Star want his coach calling the shots? Furthermore, as competitive as these players are, someone like LeBron could discuss a more in-depth game plan with Erik Spoelstra before the conferences square off.
Add 3-on-3 Games
Since NBA All-Star Weekend is an event for the fans, let's fulfill their interests.
As Bradford Doolittle of ESPN.com breaks down the idea of the big three, debates between NBA fans happen on a regular basis regarding teams have the best combination of players. The NBA should let these debates be decided on the court.
The format is simple. The first round will have two Eastern Conference teams play each other, followed by two from the Western Conference. The winners will then play each other in the finals.
The NBA would have several options to choose from,and this is the perfect year to have two intercity battles.
In the East, J.R. Smith, Carmelo Anthony and Tyson Chandler of the New York Knicks could go up against Deron Williams, Joe Johnson and Brook Lopez of the Brooklyn Nets.
The West could then have Chris Paul, Jamal Crawford and Blake Griffin of the Los Angeles Clippers face Steve Nash, Kobe Bryant and Dwight Howard of the Los Angeles Lakers.
If the NBA wanted to broaden the competition from a city perspective, there are plenty of other choices.
In the East, the possible contrast in style between Miami's Dwyane Wade, LeBron James and Chris Bosh and Indiana's George Hill, Paul George and David West would be a huge hit.
Or in the West, the speed and athleticism in a matchup of Oklahoma City's Russell Westbrook, Kevin Durant and Serge Ibaka vs. Ty Lawson, Andre Iguodala and Kenneth Faried would make for a must-see game.
The buzz surrounding the big three is too big to ignore. Let the trios duel.
Go Back to 6 Participants in the Dunk Contest
Remember when you thought a dunk from the free-throw line or one that went between the legs was the coolest thing you had ever seen? Those were the days.
The Dunk Contest today is more than just a compilation of jams. Players must dunk in two hoops at once, jump over a car or blow out a candle on top of the rim.
Creativity is needed more than ever for the event to be successful.
The NBA has plenty of candidates who are athletic and skilled enough to perform dunks that make us wish we could do the same thing on a six-foot hoop.
What the Dunk Contest needs is more brain power to keep the originality coming. Only seeing 12 dunks (if all are successful) has the potential to leave NBA fans unsatisfied.
If the NBA goes back to having six players in the opening round with the top-half dunkers advancing to the finals, the fans will have a better chance of seeing something original.
Each round should have two dunks in an alternating format.
To clarify, all six players will perform a dunk, receive a score and see where everyone stands. Then players will add the necessary risk to their second attempt to ensure they have a high enough total score to make the final round.
The final round will be in the same format with the remaining three contestants.
If all players convert on their attempts, NBA fans will get to see 18 dunks instead of 12.
While this isn't a huge change to the layout of the Dunk Contest, it's imperative for the finale of Saturday night to leave fans in awe of the athletic ability and imaginative minds of NBA stars.