All-Star Games have devolved over the years in importance, notoriety and fan interest. Ratings for these exhibitions across pretty much every one of the major four North American professional sports have gradually fallen year after year. Perhaps the novelty of the concept has faded over the decades, maybe players and coaches have wised up to the fact that it’s silly to risk any real injury playing a showcase for fans. And it seems like almost every league has tried to come up with some kind of goofy gimmick to revive interest.
The NFL has tried everything from fantasy drafts to weird experimental rules to moving the date and everything short of just canceling the darn thing.
The NHL has transformed their “All-Star Game” into a series of 3-on-3 contests between the four respective divisions, which was entertaining but nothing like a traditional hockey game at all.
Major League Baseball bizarrely decided that its All-Star Game would determine home field advantage for the World Series. For the past several years, the mantra of “This Time it Counts” would have meant something if the game still wasn’t actually played and managed like the exhibition it is.
Then there’s the NBA All-Star Game. It’s actually the one that has remained the most consistent over the years as a showcase for the game’s best players, but one that isn’t really taken seriously until the final quarter. And the reputation of the game being light on defense reached absurd heights last year when the West beat the East by the video game score of 196-173.
If there was an All-Star Game right now that I’d favor to preserve, it might be the NBA’s version. At least it knows what it is — an offensive showcase for the game’s elite — unlike the illogical MLB concept or the NFL Pro Bowl that no Pro Bowlers actually want to participate in. However, this year’s version of the NBA All-Star Game has some very intriguing storylines that might up the ante of the competition.
I hesitate to say this on the internet with my name attached to it… but *gulp* here goes nothing. This year’s NBA All-Star Game may just be must-see-TV. Yes, this sounds a little crazy, but let’s look at the reasons why.
Durant and Westbrook on the same team again
It’s no secret that things have been icy between the former Oklahoma City Thunder teammates. Westbrook has been playing like a man possessed this season, single-handedly carrying the Thunder. Amazingly, he is still on pace to average a triple-double over the course of a full season for only the second time in NBA history.
When Durant returned to Oklahoma City last week for his first game with the Warriors, the current state of their relationship was clear. Calling it “icy” would be an understatement because it’s closer to absolute zero.
With Durant and Westbrook reuniting for this All-Star Game, the possibilities are all fascinating. Will we see fences mended? Will Steve Kerr dare to play them together? If so, will Russ try to freeze out KD or vice versa? Will Westbrook go on a one-man mission to try to win his third straight MVP award and send a message to KD?
The Cavs and Warriors renew their rivalry
After splitting the last two NBA Finals, there’s no love lost between the Golden State Warriors and Cleveland Cavaliers. You think if LeBron James is coming down the middle of the floor that Draymond Green is just going to let him waltz in for a highlight-reel dunk? Please.
These two teams only play each other twice during the regular season and after each team won on their home floor this is the last opportunity they’ll get to see each other before a potential third straight Finals matchup. The Warriors will have their full complement of four All-Stars (Durant, Curry, Thompson, Green) while the Cavs will be represented by James and Kyrie Irving.
This will be the last statement these All-Stars will be able to make before June, which could lead to some captivating moments on Sunday.
What About Carmelo?
There was juuuuuuuuuust a bit of irony in Carmelo Anthony replacing Kevin Love in this year’s All-Star Game due to Love’s injury. With the two being linked together in trade reports (including one LeBron called “trash” for suggesting he was politicking to swap Anthony for Love), it’s only appropriate that they’d be linked together here.
The decision to add Melo over Bradley Beal may be a controversial one, but it does give us some additional intrigue. Will we see a sneak preview of what it’d look like with Melo playing alongside LeBron and Kyrie? Will other potential trade suitors over the weekend emerge? Or will this be only a brief mid-season retreat for Carmelo before he has to trudge back to Phil Jackson’s personal purgatory?
There are plenty of other reasons to watch as well it’s the first All-Star Game for young superstars like Isaiah Thomas and Giannis Antetokounmpo and there’s even a question of whether or not someone like Green or DeMarcus Cousins could pick up the first technical foul in ASG history.
With all these storylines in play, this is an All-Star Game that’s actually worth watching. And if worse comes to worse and nothing interesting happens, a team may score 200 points! That’d be something too!