We stand at a crossroads. Despite the incredible talent, the NBA All-Star Weekend is boring.
As a kid (in the 80s and early 90s), I remember sitting transfixed to the television for the entire weekend. On Friday night, you'd have the opening festivities, followed on Saturday by the Slam Dunk Contest and the Three-Point Shootout.
The Dunk Contests were the stuff of legend, with Jordan and Dominique battling for aerial supremacy. The Three-Point Shootout featured all-time great shooters like Larry Bird, Craig Hodges and Mark Price.
All this was followed on Sunday with an All-Star Game that featured the likes of Magic Johnson, Michael Jordan, Larry Bird, Scottie Pippen, Charles Barkley, Patrick Ewing, et al. Like Earvin Johnson, it was magic.
Fast forward to "modern times" and the NBA All-Star Weekend has grown stale. Most times, I don't even watch it anymore. Sure, the dunk contest between Dwight and Nate was entertaining, but does anyone even care about the Three-Point Shootout anymore? Now they've even introduced H.O.R.S.E. in an effort to spice things up. Really? H.O.R.S.E.? The Rookie Challenge and the Skills Challenge are similarly uninteresting and the game itself has descended into a laid back pickup game.
What, then, can we do to save All-Star Weekend? Surprising, the NHL may have the answer. Last weekend, the NHL held it's first All-Star Fantasy Draft. From a group of 100 players on the ballot, fans selected their top six players (by position) regardless of conference, for a total of 42 players. These 42 players will then choose two captains, who will select the remainder of their teams in a live televised fantasy draft.
Players can be chosen regardless of conference so that some players end up playing against their own teammates during the game. It's a fantastic idea and one I think would shake up the NBA All-Star Game. With the explosion of interest in fantasy sports in the last decade, it's something I think the fans would enjoy.
Each team will have 12 players (five starters and seven reserves). The fans will vote for a player pool of 24 players (regardless of conference and subject to position requirements). The players selected will be seated in an audience at the fantasy draft.
The player pool will select two captains to represent the two teams. Those captains will alternatively select players (similar to the NBA Draft) who will then come up to the podium and join the captain's team. Players can be selected from any conference so you could have LeBron and Kobe or Dwight and Chris Paul playing together. With the explosion of interest in fantasy sports in the last decade, this is something the fans should enjoy.
Part Two: The Extras
Get rid of the skills challenge. It doesn't really illustrate a player's skill. The rookie/sophomore game should go too. Instead, a team of the NBA's first and second year players should play an exhibition match against the And-1 players. All the young NBA fans love the And-1 guys, and it would be a chance to see a highly entertaining, trick-filled game of the best young players around. It would certainly be more entertaining then the rookie game or the skills challenge.
I would add the And-1 guys to the Dunk Contest as well. You don't have to be a professional basketball player to be a great dunker. All of the great dunkers like LeBron are afraid of getting hurt, and we never see all the best dunkers in any competition. How great would it be to see a contest with Kobe, LeBron, and Vince?! Of course, Kobe and Vince are a bit older now but you get the point.
These are just proposals for your consideration. I love the NBA, but we need to do something to shake things up. I think the NHL made a bold and exciting move by trying this. The NBA should consider something similar.