Five Ways the NBA Can Improve All-Star Weekend
With an abundance of All-Star forwards in the West, will Amare be a shoe-in?
I can't be the only one that feels this way.
All-Star weekend has felt like a joke for the past few years. So much, in fact that I have really only watched the All-Star game for probably the last five years. Even I like taking a break from the regular season (and all defense what-so-ever) to see what kind of plays these superstar players can put up against one-another. However, in a league ran by a man that drools on the floor every time an elite player joins another one, he certainly doesn't help himself by putting people like Shannon Brown/Gerald Wallace in the dunk contest (the lowest scores since 2005).
Although the All-Star game was record breaking last year, it was still the only thing I watched out of the entire weekend.
In my opinion, here are a few ways to they could improve All-Star Weekend.
Put Some Stars Back in the Slam Dunk Contest
Remember the days when MJ, Clyde Drexler, Dominique Wilkins, and Dr. J were all in the contest? How about in the 90's when Shawn Kemp, Nick Anderson, Larry Johnson, and Cedric Ceballos participated? We all can't forget in 2000 when Vince Carter obliterated the contest, but still went up against Tracy McGrady, Steve Francis, and Jerry Stackhouse. Hell, I would even be satisfied with the 2003 roster of Amare Stoudemire, Richard Jefferson, and Jason Richardson.
But now, most of the contestants are just awful. I caught a glimpse of last year's dunk contest, and it seemed like they gave the award to Nate because he's short. The dunks for all the contestants were absolutely God awful, and put a shame in the name of the great dunks that have taken place for All-Star weekend.
I mean really, the last few years have been plagued with no-names in the NBA, and have continued to prove why they are no-names in the contest. Desmond Mason? Ricky Davis? Chris Anderson? Who wants to see these guys dunk?
Tell me you wouldn't watch the contest this year if it was Kevin Durant, Lebron James, Dwight Howard, and a couple of moderate players that can still throw it down like JR Smith, and Josh Smith.
Mr. Stern, if you want ratings, you have to provide what people want to see. No one wants to see Nate Robinson win his third Slam Dunk Contest with a less than stellar dunk.
Granted, I'm sure it is ultimately the player's decision, how hard can it be to get these players to show up?
Let the Shooting Stars Shine
Now I'll give the NBA credit where it is due. Last year they decided to add some star power back into the 3-Point shootout by adding in Chauncey Billups and Paul Pierce. I even liked the addition of Stephen Curry...and of course they had to bring back defending champ Dequan Cook. But why Channing Frye? Because he's tall and can hit three's sometimes? Last year was better than it has been...but as with the slam dunk contest, the star power must be brought back to the 3-point shootout to get people back into it.
I recall the 2000 3-point shootout having the likes of Ray Allen, Mike Bibby, Allen Iverson, Dirk Nowitski, Jeff Hornacek, and Terry Porter. That is a hell of a shooting line-up.
Think of it this year if we put in Ray Allen, J.J. Reidek, Ben Gorden, Joe Johnson, Mike Miller, and Steve Nash?
Plenty of veteran star power, and still some young, but more importantly, known talent.
More Contestants in the Skills Challenge
As a relatively new addition to the All-Star break, the skills challenge has been something I actually really like. I honestly don't have many issues with the way it has been run. But I believe there needs to be at least one or two more contestants. I would also try and encourage a lot of the younger players that claim they've got what it takes to be the best floor-runners in the league.
I'd like to see a skills challenge with Rose, Rondo, Williams, Paul, Westbrook, and Tyreke Evans. Or possibly throw in some more older veterans that think they've still got it and can show these youngsters how it's done. Throw Steve Nash, Chauncey Billups, Jason Kidd, and Derek Fisher in the mix. It can't be too hard to convince these guys to come get in the spotlight for a few hours, can it?
Tweak the Fan Voting Just a Tad
I don't have many issues with the All-Star game itself. However, the one big one I would like to bring up is the fact that the fan voting needs to be tweaked. I like the fact that the coaches are picking the bench roster, but I also like the fact that the fans actually have a say in the matter as well. Last year we ran into the issues of Allen Iverson (who was injured, had family issues, and jumping from team to team), who was nowhere near an all-star level player, and Tracy McGrady(who had yet to even play in a game by this point), both being selected as starting positions in their conferences. Now granted, both of these players ended up not playing, it's still the fact of the matter that those two players should not have even been able to be selected on the ballot...and they both knew it...well...McGrady knew it. Iverson was very "me, me, me" about it.If a player is popular, but hasn't even played in the season, or has been too vain to even play for certain teams, there is no way they should be given the chance to have another all-star game go on their NBA achievement list.
Also, I think there needs to be an adjustment in the position voting. In previous year, the voting basically lets you pick from two guards, two forwards, and center...but not specifying which guard or forward. Fans can basically pick two power forwards, or two shooting guards. Yeah, maybe fans are in the right to pick their favorite players, but how fair is it to have two shooting guards and two power forwards in the starting rotation, when there is obviously a point guard or small forward that deserves a chance. For instance, next year, there is a good possibility that Carmelo Anthony (being that he's still a nugget), and Kevin Durant will have the top two forward spots. Those two players are both 3 positions and have no experience playing the 4. What if Pau Gasol, Tim Duncan, and Dirk Nowitski all have monster years? Now there is a chance that one or two of them may not be selected at all.
Not that this would happen, but what if Amare Stoudemire gets an insane amount of votes from NYC, but so does Kevin Garnett...where do Eastern SF (not named Lebron) even have a chance to start?
Try To Add an Old-Timers Game
Now hear me out. How awesome would it be to watch say a 20-30 minute game of 5on5 with retired NBA players. Imagine how fun, hilarious, and just plain exciting that would be to watch. You can't tell me there aren't 10 retired all-stars out there that wouldn't jump at the chance to play in front of an all-star crowd, out of shape or not. How cool would it be to see Glen Rice and Scottie Pippen put on the shoes again? How about Patrick Ewing and Hakeem OIajuwon? We might even be able to get Michael Jordan, Magic Johnson, and Charles Barkley to step down from their high-horses and play in a game or two. You've even got players like Shawn Kemp that still want to come back to the NBA! You know they would want to give it a try. I think this would ultimately be a savior for the All-Star weekend, and I would be the first one to turn on my TV.
I think all of these things I've listed could help David Stern and his ratings...but more importantly, I believe it can give us true basketball fans something we've been longing for in the past few years. It will bring back that sense of love for the superstar game, and bring back that sense of retro heroism we all felt while watching MJ fly from the free-throw line, Ray Allen and Peja nailing 3 after 3, Having the best of the best in each position show up for the all-star game, Jason Kidd showing rookies how you're supposed to handle the ball, and that age of question of whether Larry Bird and Michael Jordan still have it, and if they can still shoot.
Thanks for reading.