There’s no question most of us at some point get bored with the same old All-Star Weekend showcase year in, year out. We all understand that the NBA has to promote its product and its players in the best way possible and that means lots of dunks, 3-pointers, rookies, celebrities who think they got game, Kardashian cleavage and TNT squabbling in the commentary box. All thumbs up at the end of the day.
On the flip side every year we hear snarls about how the headline event ‘The Slam Dunk Contest’ is losing its luster or edginess etc etc. To its credit the NBA several years back tried installing a wheel-of-fortune type theme to it- and as expected it FAILED miserably. After all, who would want to see some ridiculous gameshow gimmick decide on what dunk a player should do as opposed to letting his creativity exploits fly? This year, we’ll see the contest utilize dunk coaches.
L-M-A-O… Really? Isn’t Blake Griffin’s appearance enough? Will having Kenny Smith as coach drastically improve his chances of winning the contest? Griffin could have Freddy Roach or President Obama in his corner and it still wouldn’t make a difference. That’s just one example of poor execution on offense by the league marketers which should otherwise call a technical foul on itself and NOT have it rescinded. The SDC is one such event which agreed, needs a makeover, but not to the point of seeing an incursion of irrelevant figures (with apologies to KD) making the contestants come off as a bunch of mindless puppets. That being the said, it’s not the only event during All-Star weekend which could use an adrenaline shot.
The first List of 2011 looks at some whacky adjustments to the events of All-Star Friday and Saturday night based against the current ones. Yes, some ideas will have already been mentioned, but why not still consider them now? Why not have them one-off? Why not tweak a few? Let’s hear your thoughts…
All-Star Friday (Saturday Aussie time)
The Celebrity Game- Replaced by new and improved “LEGENDS GAME”:
OK, so the Legends Game got the boot almost 20 years ago because of frequent injuries to the old-timers. Then again what do you expect when you have guys like a then-50-something-year-old Hot Rod Hundley prancing his wrinkly balls on the court? We get it. So why not have a one-off contest and turn the game into two halves? Only invite players who were at the peak during the 90’s and early 2000’s. Players’ modern day fans can relate to. Who wouldn’t love to see an East v West matchup that would have MJ, Scottie Pippen, Patrick Ewing, Reggie Miller and Penny Hardaway throw it down against the Mailman, Hakeem, Shawn Kemp, Clyde the Glyde and Roly-poly Barkley? Lower the hoop to 9-foot if its means seeing more out-of-shape has-beens stuff it. It would pay homage to the Golden Era and to point out the obvious, deep down we’d all love to see Jordan on the hardwood again. It could be entertaining. It could definitely work and would be a far better alternative than seeing Justin Bieber run point?? Hopefully somebody decks him and doesn’t pay the fine.
The Rookie Challenge- Replaced by the “ROOKIES/SOPHMORES versus The INTERNATIONAL ALL-STARS CHALLENGE”:
Since 2000, the Rookie game has featured a team of first-year players against a team of second-years (Sophomores). You’ve heard the phrase ‘familiarity breeds contempt’. This contest is no different, so why not the NBA throw up a different challenge? So many times we hear the league talk on and on about its global popularity and the fact so many foreign players are in it. Why not put that on display? Fans around the world would benefit more from seeing the international stars most of whom we only get to see play in sporadic minutes. The idea of seeing the young guys play would not be lost either. The ruling here is players selected for the All-Star Game would sit this one out. In essence, this is so you don’t get establish international stars like Dirk, Nash, Manu and Gasol who would otherwise dominate the youth. On paper for example, you could take this year’s and last year’s crop on both sides- Blake Griffin, Landry Fields, John Wall, Tyreke Evans, Wesley Matthews and co. and evenly (for the most part) match them up against a foreign crew featuring Andrea Bargnani, JJ Barea, Danilo Gallinari, Nene and Luol Deng etc. That is one seriously competitive game that could blow up.
All-Star Saturday (Sunday Aussie time)
Adding more ‘pressure’ to the THREE-POINT SHOOTOUT:
The foundations of the shootout would remain in effect: having the NBA’s best three point shooters shooting five shots from five different spots around the three point line, with each shot is worth one point except the two-point money ball.
- The first change here would be removing the ‘racks’ and replacing them with either the shooter’s teammate, or a designated passer the league selects, to pass the balls out to the shooter. This would add a sense of realism to the shootout- ‘kick’, ‘catch’ & ‘shoot’- thus putting more onus on the passer and the player to receive and knock down the trifecta.
- The second change would be adding more value to the money ball; have someone run in front of or putting a hand in the shooters face as he releases the shot. Perhaps bringing Shawn Bradley out of retirement to be used in this instance would validate his career. Not. The point here is you get the very best shooters in the league making the biggest shots under immense pressure.
- The third change, if necessary (although all of these changes are pipe-dreaming like a Josh Howard blunt), would be to make use of the entire court, keep the same 25 shots and have the shooter run from one baseline to the other, plus the straight-on 3-balls at each end and shoot. Again, this would add more pressure, but it would without a doubt separate the best shooters from the decent ones. It wouldn’t hurt to also add maybe 10 seconds more, or not.
Have the fans judge ALL ROUNDS of the SLAM DUNK CONTEST:
It’s not so much the Slam Dunk Contest itself, it’s the process on how the dunkers are picked and how winners are voted that need to change. We already know by now that original dunks are hard to come by. Having nearly 100 players participate in it (and doing every dunk conceivable from throwing balls, jumping from the foul line, lobbing off backboards, going through legs midair, doing 360’s, using teammates, stickers, cupcakes and blindfolds etc) over the last 27 years will do that. This year, they’ll have an online video series where players will have a dunk coach.
Is this really necessary?
If getting closer to the fans is what the NBA is preaching, then keep the contest simple- use the same format as picking the All-Stars; 1) Have a ballot of 20 of the NBA’s best dunkers and let the fans choose the best 4, and 2) Let the fans vote through online and texting from ‘the first round until the final round’ with having maybe a percentage of it decided by the stadium’s decibel level from the crowd in attendance. Surely this can’t be too difficult. The Dunk Contest is just too sacred and too recognizable to have it constantly tampered with. Does this basketball showcase need a rest? Or does it need to bench itself entirely in place of this next juicy proposal…?
The Skills Challenge or Dunk Contest- Replaced by “THE ONE ON ONE CHALLENGE”:
Let’s make this very clear! This contest would be the ULTIMATE if not the ABSOLUTE MONEY-GRUBBING BONANZA for not just the NBA, but a viable cash pot for sponsors and television networks worldwide.
There’s so many ways the league could spin this- The obvious one being ‘Who is the best player in the league?’ eg, LeBron v Kobe, LeBron v Wade, Wade v Kobe. That right there would put many arguments to rest and the hype in the lead up would be out of this world. Then there’s the categorical way the NBA could spin the idea off: ‘The Best Big Man’ eg Dwight v Duncan, Pau v Dirk, Pau v Duncan, OR, ‘The Best PG’ eg CP3 v Deron, D-Rose v Rondo, Westbrook v CP3. The challenge would be held halfcourt of course, with a target winning score of 3, and winning margin by 2 in the event of a tie. This contest would use a top 8 playoff format to determine the undisputed winner.
All diehard fans, casual fans, critics, mothers, fathers and your cocker spanial Lucy would have all their questions answered and opinions vindicated. The contest again, would be best served one-off. The gravity of the showcase would be so great in fact the league could turn it into a Pay-Per-View telecast. If only Commissioner Stern were as greedy as Don King.