In 1951 the NBA hosted its first All-Star Weekend. The game brought together the best players from each conference to take part in an ultra-competitive matchup, providing the fans with lots of entertainment while also giving the players much needed rest at the halfway point of the season.
As time went on, the league added more events to the weekend like the dunk contest (1976), 3-point contest (1986) and skills challenge (2002) to keep the fans interested, but the crowd pleaser was always Sunday’s game between the league’s brightest and best.
As of late, however, the All-Star Game has lost its footing a bit, and the game that was once incredibly competitive has become a game of errant shots and lackadaisical defense that has made it borderline boring to watch. Adding the All-Star draft in the 2017-18 season helped a little by adding a bit more of a personal agenda to the game, but even then, it did not bring it back to what it once was.
Fast forward a couple more years and Adam Silver has completely rewritten the All-Star script in an attempt to return it to its former glory. After just one round, fans and players alike are thrilled with the changes. Star athletes like Kawhi Leonard, Giannis Antetokounmpo and Anthony Davis went on record saying how great they thought the new game was, and it appears the changes Silver made will have a lasting impact.
— LA Clippers (@LAClippers) February 15, 2020
The new rules for the All-Star Game are as follows: Instead of following the format of a regular NBA game, there is a winning team at the end of each respective quarter who earns $100,000 for the charity of their choice, with their scores being set back to zero after each quarter. Heading into the fourth, the teams’ scores will be totaled, and whichever team was in the lead at the start would need 24 more points to reach the “target score” and win the game.
To add to the drama, the clock gets turned off in the fourth quarter to ensure that there will be a game-winning shot. When the final buzzer metaphorically sounds, the winning side goes home with another $200,000 dollars for the charity of their choosing. All this together made for the hyper-competitive environment fans had been craving for the past several years, as there was much more on the line for the players, and it absolutely showed.
Never in my time watching the All-Star Game had I seen players giving 100% from beginning to end, especially in the final quarter. With $200,000, the game and most importantly their pride on the line, each team picked up their play to another level with the target score nearing, so much so that people said there was a playoff-type atmosphere. And I couldn’t agree more.
Both sides looked hungry on defense and moved the ball on offense, doing whatever it took to ensure they’d come out on top. Antetokounmpo was rejecting shots from all sides, including in a nice one-on-one exchange with LeBron. Players were arguing with the refs on missed calls. Even Kyle Lowry got involved, drawing two huge charges in crunch time in an attempt to help his team out. You just got the feeling that these guys really wanted to win, which is the biggest thing that’s been missing from the contest in recent years.
— SportsCenter (@SportsCenter) February 17, 2020
Sure it was a disappointing end to the game with Anthony Davis hitting a free throw to earn Team LeBron the win, but even with the mediocre finish fans and players left the game feeling good about the game and, more significantly, the upcoming second half of the season. The new format of the All-Star Game brought more energy, more intensity and a sense of competition that it was missing, and it will hopefully inspire teams to find a second gear as the season nears a close.
This past weekend got me even more excited for the playoffs than I already was and looking forward to next year’s All-Star Weekend. Kudos to Adam Silver for the changes.