All Star Weekend: How to Improve the Game, the Selection Process & a Fond Look Back

NBA All Star Weekend

Intro: By Rory Goulding

We’re gonna pretend, for a second, that you care about NBA All Star Weekend.[1] What would make it better?  How could it be improved? Here are a few ideas from the fellas at Back of the Jersey, who are ready to pump some fresh thoughts into a weekend that’s gotten pretty stale lately. Are you ready, Adam Silver?

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By: Tyler Michels

Other than the NBA All-Star game, where can you find 24 of the world’s greatest athletes play against each other? The NBA All-Star game has the potential to be the best All-Star game in all of the four major sports. Unlike football, basketball lends itself to playing a “pick-up game” style. Although the players are not technically familiar with each other as teammates, drawn up plays aren’t necessary in basketball.  When you consider the collection of talent on the court at one time, it is indisputable that players such as LeBron James and Kevin Durant are smart enough to alter their games to complement superstar teammates’ abilities. So, instead of a game full of lackluster defense and high-flying dunks, it should be a game of great basketball. But it’s not. Right now, it is just 48-minutes of entertainment. I offer up three ways we can make the NBA All-Star weekend, and the game itself, a more worthwhile event.

>>> Create an incentive to play defense. In my opinion, this has always been the biggest knock on the game itself. This is how I currently view the NBA All-Star game: it is essentially a pick-up game at your local park, but instead of 8 scrubs and two decent players who played in high-school 7 years ago on the court, you have freakish athletes showcasing their basketball skills. As basketball fans, we should be looking forward to the game. I would venture out on a limb to say most of us are not. If we found a way for these guys to play defense for all 48-minutes and really care about who wins the game, we’d see the great basketball I emphasized in the opening paragraph.

So the question is how does the NBA create this incentive? It’s a tricky question. I think adopting the MLB’s idea would do the job. Whoever wins, East or West, the team that represents the winning league should host the NBA Finals. This might make the game too meaningful, but man, it would be great to watch, wouldn’t it?

>>> Eliminate every All-Star weekend event except for the 3-point shooting contest & Dunk contest.  I believe all the other events are boring and a waste of time. Instead, the NBA should focus on getting the best available players for the 3-point and dunk contest. They made a great stride this year by including some of the NBA’s best players in these two events. With the likes of Paul George and John Wall competing in the dunk contest, and Kevin Love and Joe Johnson in the 3-point contest, it should make for two of the better competitions in recent memory. Let’s be honest, no one cares about the other events. For example, the skills challenge is more representative of an obstacle course in someone’s backyard than on-court, vital basketball skills. And the other ridiculous events on the slate do not even deserve a mention.

>>> Invite the MVP of the “Rising Stars” game to play in next year’s All-Star game. I think this would make perfect sense, and give fans a reason to watch the “Rising Stars” game (previously known as the “Rookie-Sophomore” game. Now that I am typing this, they should’ve stuck with this name. Let’s blame David Stern). This would give an opportunity to a young and upcoming player to make his first all-star appearance, and would encourage these guys to play their absolute hardest, knowing that if they win MVP, they get to play in the 2015 All-Star game. The voting system for the All-Star game is already a joke, so it’s not like the NBA should be concerned with the possibility of an undeserving player getting a crack at next year’s All-Star game. The key would be making it a requirement that the MVP’s team won the game. That way, we would also be rewarding the player for leading his team to victory, instead of just going for personal statistics.

No matter what, the NBA hands down has the best All-Star weekend. Maybe, just maybe, if they listened to me, it could be even better.

By: Rory Goulding

Let’s set the table with a few quick ideas before delving into the major changes.

25 players are selected, not 24

One bonus player is added to the All-Star roster. We’ll get back to this.

Coaches and GMs select the players for the All-Star game, not fans

Fans are morons.

Keep the 3-point & dunk contests, but only NBA All-Stars can participate

We don’t need any more random dudes; keep it All-Stars only. Sorry, Steve Novak.

Now, on to a few more in-depth ideas…

>>>The “Legends” Game

As raw skills fade over time and our bodies deteriorate, we find ourselves more prone to injury, less quick than in our youth, and our once great leaping ability finds itself getting lower by the year. However, one thing that stays with us is (hopefully) our basketball IQ.[2]

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So here’s the idea: Assemble sixteen to 24 former NBA players, each of whom has at least one All-Star game selection, for a “Legends” game. The high-flying, above the rim action can be saved for the weekend’s other events, but in our “Legends” game we can watch a slower-paced game that actually features guys who know how to play basketball. It may just be me, but it feels like as I’ve grown the league has evolved from a place where an understanding of the game has been replaced by overpowering raw skill. That’s not necessarily a bad thing, it’s just that guys that I remember watching when I was younger seemed to be a little more court savvy, and played the game harder.[3] Maybe they just cared more. Maybe I’m just thinking of Gary Payton.

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Similarly to the way that the Rising Stars game is now, the fans get to pick two of the players as captains. Again, here’s where the competition enters into the scene. The two players pick sides in a live draft, with all “Legends” present. In person. As each player is chosen, one at a time, the guys who haven’t yet been picked start feeling snubbed. Can you imagine how pissed Michael Jordan would get if a younger Michael Finley or Grant Hill is selected ahead of him?

We’ll keep our “Rising Stars” game and use this “Legends” game to replace the repulsive exhibition that calls itself the “Celebrity” game.[4]

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>>> All-Star 3-on-3 Tournament

A 3-on-3, half court tournament with our 25 NBA All-Stars (selected by the coaches and GMs). The event consists of eight teams of three, set up in a bracket style tournament. Games are to fifteen, best of three. The All-Stars make their own teams with players of any position and from any conference in the field of 25. Who wouldn’t want to see that? Think about those teams. Lebron, Wade and Carmelo. Chris Bosh being upset that he wasn’t picked to play with his Heat teammates. Roy Hibbert, Chris Paul and Blake Griffin. Kevin Love, Paul George and James Harden. An underdog team of Damian Lillard, Anthony Davis and Paul Millsap somehow making it through their side of the bracket after getting hot? Now there’s something I can root for.

One wrinkle: The players only choose their teams-of-three 10-15 minutes before the tournament starts. Remember our new 25th player idea? That means one guy is excluded from the tournament. And he’s going to find out only minutes before it starts. Talk about being blindsided. Our last man standing will play in the actual All-Star game, but he’s excluded, last minute, from the 3-on-3 tournament. Remember back in grade school, when the teacher would say you could make your own groups? I can still feel that full blind panic as you scanned the room for your buddies in the hopes of not being the loner once the dust settled. Let’s bring that to the NBA level.

I love this idea so much, mainly for the hope that Dwight Howard is the one left out. Suck it, Dwight.

>>> Old Blood vs. New Blood

Who’s better for a one day All-Star game? Grizzled NBA veterans, guys with years of regular season and playoff experience, or young guys with fresh legs, just getting their first taste of the NBA spotlight? Creating competition in the NBA All-Star Game doesn’t necessarily require the addition of something with monetary value. Put reputations on the line. In the NBA, where does respect begin and where does it end?

Where do we make the cutoff? Anyone in the league for five or more years on one side against anyone with any less experience on the other? 25 and under vs. 26 and older? The actual number of the cutoff doesn’t really matter. What matters is what’s at stake, and that’s respect and reputation. The old guys think anyone younger than them is a punk with no experience. The young guys think anyone older than them is on the way out. Varsity vs. JV. Juniors vs. Seniors. Veterans vs. Young guys. The formula is bulletproof, and it’s basically the plot of every ‘80s and ‘90s movie. Heck, even the Mighty Ducks made a movie about it, and they can’t do anything wrong.[5]

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And hey, remember our guy who was left out of the 3-on-3 tourney? He gets to choose which team he plays for in our newly formatted All-Star game.

You want to up the competition? There it is.[6]

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By: Jim Armstrong

Last year Kevin Garnett was selected by the fans as an all-star for the 15th time in his decorated and Hall of Fame career. Garnett rattled off 12 consecutive all-star game appearances (’00-’11), before being passed over in 2012 and being selected for last year’s Eastern conference team. Funny thing is that although Garnett put up outstanding numbers during his age 36/37 season (14.8 PPG, 7.8 RPG, 2.0 STOCKS) this all-star game appearance was merely padding on his illustrious total. Garnett ended up playing only a few minutes in last year’s game and was merely there to enjoy what many felt would be his last appearance in this “prestigious” event.

The fans, many of whom have but an elementary understanding of the game, voted KG in based on some combination of his overall career resume and on his popularity. Although KG had a wonderful season last year, fans passed over Brook Lopez of the Nets, who at the time was averaging 18.6 PPG and 7.4 RPG. Lopez ended up finishing the season averaging 19.4 PPG, 6.9 RPG and 2.5 STOCKS, all besting KG outside of having nearly one less rebound per game. Every expert who understands basketball agrees with me, Lopez was the more prolific player last year and more deserving of this all-star selection than KG.

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Bottomline: fans should not hold the sole vote of the Eastern and Western Conference starters in their hands. As the NBA all-star selection process is currently constituted today, the fans select the starters for both conferences, while the head coaches select the reserves.

Fans don’t have the time, insight or knowledge to fully understand the intricacies of how valuable certain basketball players are to their respective teams. Do you think the average fan understands Player Efficiency Rating (PER)? I didn’t think so.

Given the popularity contest that has emerged as the fans’ vote, I believe the fans have lost their ability to retain their vote (sorry the NBA is a business, not a general election). In the fans’ stead, every player and head coach in the league should vote for the all-stars for each conference. The top 12 vote getters for each conference get selected as all-stars. The top five vote getters are starters. It’s as simple as that. Here’s a basic illustration of what I envision:

  • Players – 1 vote each (Eastern Conference players vote for a player in their conference, can’t be a teammate and same applies to Western Conference players). Players’ votes are not weighted.
  • Head coaches – 1 vote each (same methodology applies to coaches as to players). Coaches’ votes weighted by 50%, since there are less coaches than players.

I’ll give you a sample of what Chris Paul’s votes would look like this year (sample data, not actual coaches, fan and player votes):

  • Players: 110 votes = 110
  • Coaches: 16 x 5 = 80
  • Total votes= 190

Alright, now on to more fun stuff. Here’s my top three moments during all-star weekend.

Vince Carter 2000 Slam Dunk Contest  – “It’s Over” Dunk

Desmond Mason 2003 Slam Dunk Contest

Michael Jordan OT Game-Winner 2003 All-Star Game (Final Appearance)

What other player gets away with taking 26 shots in an all-star game (maybe Kobe or LeBron). Not only that, the dude was 40 years old and schooling Shawn Marion, who was 24 years old at the time. Vintage Jordan. I particularly loved this game (outside of the fact that this was Jordan’s last all-star game) because the East was a huge underdog and both teams actually competed and played some semblance of defense.

Remember this was the early 2000’s when the East was diluted and the West had been the power conference since Jordan retired for the 2nd time following the ’97-’98 season.

Enjoy the all-star festivities this weekend, folks.

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