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NBA Rookie Challenge: Nothing But Bad Basketball

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NBA Rookie Challenge: Nothing But Bad Basketball
Jeff Gross/Getty Images
John Wall has 22 assists in Friday's game.

Every Friday of NBA All-Star Weekend, festivities tip off with the NBA Rookie Challenge, a 40-minute (two 20-minute halves) game between the league’s top first- and second-year players.

And every year since its inception in 1995 (second-year players, AKA “sophomores,” weren’t added to the game until 2000), the game has been a total joke.

If you are a parent, coach or any type of authority figure, the worst thing you could do to a child who’s interested in basketball is let them watch this event.

Complete with bad passes, stupid shot attempts and pointless theatrical ball handling that form the illusion that yes, Jimmer Fredette indeed does not travel every other time he touches the ball, the NBA Rookie Challenge is a disgrace to the game of basketball.

This game is simply a medium for talented, young players to showcase how flashy they can be when no one is defending them. And when I say “no one,” I am barely exaggerating.

Since sophomores were added in 2000, only once has neither team broken 100 points — that being the inaugural game between rookies and sophomores. On four occasions, the sophomores broke 140 points (2011: 140; 2010: 140; 2007: 155; 2004: 142).

And yes, I realize that the actual NBA All-Star game is very high scoring as well, but consider this: From 2001 to 2010, in a combined 90 more total minutes played (2003 ASG went to double overtime), the winner of the NBA All-Star Game only outscored the winner of the Rookie Challenge by a score of 1358-1290.

This game is bad for your eyes.

That’s only 68 points—and at half time of today’s Rookie Challenge (again, only 20 minutes), both teams had broken that as the rookies led by a score of 71-69, with a combined 22 slam dunks.

It makes me sick.

Now don’t get me wrong, I’m not some extreme basketball purist who hates to see flashy plays, but all this game does is teach young athletes everything their coaches advised them against.

To be honest, you’d find better basketball at a local college intramural game or even random guys playing pickup at the park.

The only—and I mean only—positive thing to watch in the NBA Rookie Challenge is the passing skills of select guards (definitely not all of them). Occasionally, you’ll see some truly great passes by guys like John Wall, who has 22 assists in this year's game, that add a little value to this otherwise worthless event. Then again, they usually blow it with a behind-the-back pass that sails out of bounds only minutes later.

Look, I understand this game is just for fun and I’m probably overreacting. I’m sorry.

But truth be told, this game makes me sick. We’re not trying to make an And 1 Mix Tape here, we’re trying to play real basketball.

This story was originally published on Matt L. Stephens Online.

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