Chief Sports Editor
Over this past weekend, the NBA achieved something it had failed to accomplish in decades: hold a competitive All-Star Game. For years, the contest—though, true to its word, filled with the league’s best and brightest players—was devoid of drama, defense, and relevance. The game was essentially 48 minutes of players putting on an “offensive exhibition,” which is fun to watch for a quarter before it becomes repetitive and tiresome. The 2017 All-Star Game had a final score of 192-182, with the Western Conference taking the victory. The game was never close, and saw New Orleans’ Anthony Davis score 52 points—a stat I didn’t even remember, even though it’s an All-Star record. This year, though, NBA Commissioner Adam Silver, along with the NBA Players Association, had a better idea. Instead of pitting the Eastern Conference against the Western Conference, why not select two captains and have them draft their own teams, regardless of conference, like a pickup game? So, Silver took the two leading vote-getters from each conference (LeBron James and Stephen Curry) and had them pick their own teams two weeks before the actual game. And, even though the draft wasn’t televised (thanks, Steph), the NBA finally figured out how to make a meaningless game feel meaningful.
Ever since Major League Baseball disbanded its rule that the winning league of the All-Star Game got home field advantage in the World Series, all of the major four sports’ All-Star games have been essentially meaningless. Of course, they can be fun to watch—they match up players on certain teams that one would never see in regular season play—but at the end of the day, they don’t hold any real weight. It would be unfair not to mention, though, the next best reason to watch an All-Star Game: entertainment. It’s objectively entertaining to have the all of a sport’s greatest players and have them play a game together—but, just because that’s true, doesn’t mean it always works (the old NBA All-Star Game format being an obvious example).
But, it worked last weekend. It’s an added bonus that LeBron and Steph have met in the NBA Finals for three consecutive seasons and have become “rivals” (I put that in quotations because LeBron is a much better player than Curry, but Curry’s team is much better than LeBron’s). Of course, this game still meant nothing—it always will—but at least it felt like something. I’m not writing that this game was filled with Game 7-like energy for 48 straight minutes; that’s certainly not the case. All I’m saying was that at least in the fourth quarter, it seemed as if the players really cared about the outcome. Whether or not this is true is irrelevant; all that matters is that we, as spectators, believed it to be an intense game—which it was, with Team LeBron narrowly beating Team Stephen 148-145, with LeBron taking home MVP honors. The NBA fixed their All-Star Game problem by being completely unconventional (though, a pickup-style draft is pretty conventional in basketball standards) and mixing up their two conferences. Nowhere else will you see Westbrook throw an alley-oop to LeBron, or James Harden dish a dime to the Greek Freak. It’s a simple solution to a looming problem that’s still very relevant in the MLB, NFL, and NHL—here’s hoping they follow in step. Or maybe just let LeBron and Steph draft their All-Star rosters, too.