The 69th NBA All-Star game was played yesterday. As there is normally excitement around this time of the season, anticipation for many was somewhat muted due to the loss of former commissioner David Stern and the unexpected tragic death of Kobe Bryant ( it must be said that the NBA did an exemplary job honouring Kobe). This was particularly true surrounding the game , after last year’s exhibition that featured an effort level that would make Homer Simpson blush. In the ensuing aftermath of Kobe’s fatal helicopter crash, and to try to spur the players to, actually not sleepwalk for 48 minutes, the NBA decided to shake up the All-Star game. Each team would be playing for a different charity and whichever team won the quarter, that charity would get some money. The final outcome would be determined by which team reached a target score in an untimed fourth quarter.
Did it work?
Well, sort of.
The players started off playing pretty intensely for about three minutes of the first quarter and then they seemed to remember it was an All-Star game and throttled it WAY down for the better part of the next two quarters. Business definitely picked up in the fourth and I can honestly say I’ve never seen multiple charges being taken or vociferous arguing with officials in an All-Star game (which was awesome).
The 2020 game is being touted by some as the best ASG ever, but this is a clear case of being a prisoner of the moment and being intoxicated by a few tantalizing minutes of actual competitive play in an All-Star Game. The game was entertaining, particularly the fourth quarter was very enthralling , but the fact that it is being celebrated because players put forth actual effort is indicative of a larger issue. The NBA season is a grind, no doubt about it, but the league and the players will spout ad nauseam before during and after the game how it is about “putting on a show for the fans.” What they either fail to realize or do not care about is that their is nothing entertaining about watching a basketball game played at quarter-assed effort.
It must be clarified that the cruise control issue of the ASG did not start in 2019; this is something that has plagued the game for several seasons, nor am I saying that every mid-season Classic was played at a high level. It merely came to a head in 2019. While the band-aid worked this year , the concern should be that they will have coming up with new angles to induce an effort above that of a walkthrough when playing the game against the best should be all the “gimmicks” needed. The NBA must be keenly aware of the popularity of their All-Star game( which is somewhat waning) but if those on the court mail it in for three and half quarters, the NBA All-Star game could find itself in Pro Bowl territory.