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Posted at 12:15 PM ET, 02/17/2011

Reinventing All-Star Weekend

By Lee Friedman

I think we can all agree the All-Star Weekend ain’t what it used to be. With the rise in the number of national NBA broadcasts on cable, seeing the NBA’s biggest stars all in one place is no longer the big deal it once was. In the ‘80s and ‘90s, if you lived in D.C. and you wanted to see stars on other teams, you either had to wait for that one game per year that Magic or Hakeem swung through Landover, or hope their team was on one of NBC’s weekly national broadcasts. The good news is that the NBA is currently the second-best all-star game out there. The NFL’s Pro Bowl is a joke and has only slightly more contact than my summer camp’s flag football games (although they never halted the Pro Bowl to look for someone’s retainer). The NHL All-Star game is like a night with Charlie Sheen -- lots of scoring with people who only a small group of fans have ever heard of. So how do we fix the NBA All-Star Weekend?

Skills Challenge/Shooting Stars

Trash them both, they can't be fixed. For the Skills Challenge no one wants to watch people compete in an obstacle course unless it involves them sliding into a giant sundae with Marc Summers announcing. For the Shooting Stars, I give credit to TNT trying to be creative in adding on-air "talent" to the competition, but unless it involves Charles Barkley and competitive eating, it doesn't sound very compelling.

Rookie/Sophomore Game

Let’s be honest, this game plays out like a less high-profile version of the big kids game the next day. The way to improve this is to inject some competition in the game.  Solution: Have the rookies play the NBDL All-Star team (for you older readers, this is the current version of the CBA which Isiah Thomas gently guided in to a death spiral culminating in bankruptcy). It could be a great storyline, the upstarts fighting to get noticed against a mix of budding stars and possible draft busts.

Three-Point Contest

First, the NBA needs to actually include the best three point shooters on this list. Two of this year’s competitors are not among the top 30 three point shooters, neither Kevin Durant (69th ranked/34 percent) nor Paul Pierce (33rd/38 percent) are highly ranked among players who average at least three three-point attempts per game. Dorrell Write (25th/39 percent) made the competition over Matt Bonner (1st/50 percent) and Chauncey Billups (4th/44 percent)? Maybe the NBA needs to think outside the box. Take a WNBA player, Euro star or just have a competition to select an amateur to include. There’s precedent: Craig Hodges was brought back to defend his title in 1993 despite having been cut by the Bulls.

Slam Dunk Contest

I’d say it’s the best of all of contests, although every year I think they are going to run out of new and interesting dunks to do, but the competitors always seem to find something creative. I’m rooting for JaVale this weekend.

The All-Star Game

- Selection: I’m all for fans voting, but Yao Ming being selected as a starter this year by the fans is a travesty. One way to fix this is to count votes cast at games more than ones on-line so that Yao’s supporters in China can’t stuff the ballot box. Is that undemocratic? Sure, but it’s not like the Chinese are used to democracy anyways.

- Choosing Sides: One of the few things that you could steal from the NHL is the way they pick teams for the All-Star game. This year the NHL used playground rules, each captain alternates picks for his team until there is no one left. The reason the NHL’s attempt didn’t get a great response is that no one knows who the hell those guys are. Did anyone care if Jeff Skinner got picked before Martin Havlat or that Sven Gustafsson got picked before Anze Kopitar? I made up one of those players and I guarantee you don’t know which one without looking it up.

- The Stakes: Baseball had the right idea when it decided to give the winning league home-field advantage in the playoffs. I’m not advocating that for the NBA, it would devalue the regular season performance. But take a page from Jeopardy (no not putting computers into the game) every player on the winning team gets $100,000 donated to the charity of their choice (an even better twist, losers have to pay). I can see it now “If LeBron James hits these free throws then The Cleveland Clinic gets $100,000. If he misses, then Stephen Jackson’s charity, the NRA gets it.” 

By Lee Friedman  | February 17, 2011; 12:15 PM ET
Categories:  Lee Friedman, Wizards  | Tags:  Lee Friedman, Wizards  
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