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NBA All-Star Game Has Turned into the AND1 Mixtape Tour

Should be All-Dunk.
Should be All-Dunk.

Why not just make it a three-on-three tournament or a trick shot competition? Why even bother trotting out the "All-Stars" and making them jog up and down the court? The All-Star game in New Orleans Sunday night wasn't even a pick up game because guys in those games actually care about playing a smidgen of defense.

There was some laughable talk about the defense played in the fourth quarter Sunday night to at least make the game close at the end, but who are we kidding? This 163-155 abomination was the antithesis of everything that made the game great.

No one should be advocating going back to the thug ball of the late '70s and early '80s or even the "Uglyball" of the mid '90s, but is it too much to ask for someone on the floor to give it a shot? All I am saying is give defense a chance.

I am not suggesting this game suddenly become competitive, but Sunday night was reminiscent of the NFL Pro Bowl two years ago when lineman actually just stood there and didn't block, erasing even the slightest hint of sincerity from their play and legitimacy from the game.

Even if deciding the home field advantage may be one of the dumbest things baseball ever decided to do with its Midsummer Classic, at least it gave the game a bit of gravitas and players a reason to try.

Maybe I'm old school, but nothing bores me more than watching a bunch of grown men move out of the way so other grown men can perform uncontested dunks. This kind of scintillating action is right up there with pregame layup drills. Hell, the three-man weave would have offered more excitement than this snooze fest.

For all the years of complaints over the slam dunk competition -- the team contest at least spiced it up a bit, though if they really wanted to make it interesting they would disqualify any player who missed a dunk -- the game itself has really slipped.

Listening to former UH great and NBA legend Otis Birdsong on the radio Sunday afternoon while running errands was a fascinating look into what All-Star weekend once was. During his era, players on the winning team got $2,500 and those on the losing squad got $1,000. That $1,500 was a big deal to guys at the time, so they played hard.

 

With the millions upon millions being paid to today's players, it is hard to imagine a monetary incentive that would pique their interest enough to illicit some defense. Perhaps the losing team would not get paid a dime and instead have to shell out the bonuses for the winning players.

I'm guessing if Blake Griffin had to hand Kyrie Irving a check for $250,000 at the end of the game he might skip the dunks and try to block a few shots.

Whatever the case, the NBA needs to do something because what happened in New Orleans on Sunday night was not what the league wants. Over the last decade the subtle rule changes have increased scoring and pushed the tempo of the game. But, teams still play defense. Most, anyway. It has brought about a bit of a league-wide renaissance with offenses looking more like they did in the '80s, while still retaining a modicum of defense.

Sunday night was a free for all, a cartoon version of the NBA. It was like a highlight reel, only boring. Instead of dunks in the face of defenders when it really mattered we had alley-oop reverse dunks from LeBron James with four of the other team's five defenders standing at the opposite end of the floor gawking.

Before the All-Star game becomes a bigger laughingstock than it already is, it's time for the league's new commish to find a way to bring it back to relevance. Maybe then I'll be able to make it through a whole game awake again.


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