The NBA All-Star weekend, on a normal year, is a big event. Every city that hosts the annual showcase is flooded by tourists, celebrities, and other basketball fans.
It’s a celebration of the game’s best players, and a chance for the fans to get a glimpse of their heroes take to the court against each other.
Last year’s contest was the most memorable in decades, especially because of how competitive it was. There was also the added excitement from the fact that the two teams were playing against each other for a good reason: to help raise money for charity. This led to an unbelievable fourth quarter that saw just about everything.
However, 2021 is a different time. We’re living in the COVID era, and hosting the All-Star Game feels like a tone-deaf corporate move.
This came after the NBA originally hinted that All-Star teams would be made, but in a move that upset its biggest stars, the NBA announced in February that the actual game would be played.
The list of reasons for holding the game is short. It’s all about the Benjamins. Stars like Kawhi Leonard were not shy to call it out, either.
The reasons against holding the event are numerous. Let’s go through a couple of the most important.
Money over health
As Leonard said in the clip above, it felt that the NBA prioritised money over health. The most glaring evidence that points in agreement to this idea is how Joel Embiid and Ben Simmons were pulled out of the game less than a day before tipoff because of coronavirus contact tracing.
With all of the games already being postponed in the regular season due to COVID-19, it’s come to a surprise to no one that at least one of the All-Stars got pulled out for potential infection.
Additionally, even though the season’s been shortened to 72 games, players are taking part in a ludicrous amount of back-to-back games, which greatly adds to wear and tear.
If there was ever a good time to give the players a chance to rest and relax for a weekend, it would have been this year. Many teams are already dealing with numerous injuries, and in a star-driven league, its best and brightest stars should have been allowed to preserve their bodies.
Setting an example
The NBA has tried to set good examples in the past in a lot of areas, from charity, to social justice, and inclusivity.
That’s why it’s so perplexing that they decided to hold the All-Star weekend during a global pandemic that has shut down most of the world. The fans were also limited to invited guests, and with no additional festivities tied around the weekend, the advantages for local tourism and businesses didn’t exist.
This year’s may set the tone for future behavior from the NBA front office, and that doesn’t bode well for the players.
This isn’t the players’ fault
Let me be clear. I’m placing the responsibility for the weekend solely on Adam Silver and his team.
I’m not saying that the players should have boycotted, because they’re being professionals and doing their jobs. This is very different from last year’s bubble, where some players and teams were taking games off to protest the unjust deaths of their countrymen.
The players, to their credit, put up great performances for the fans tuning in. Steph Curry won himself another three-point contest, Domantas Sabonis became the first Pacer to win a skills challenge, and Anfernee Simons won the dunk contest for the Blazers. It’s worth noting that the Slam Dunk contest was held at halftime of the game, which took away a lot of its lustre.
The game itself, which followed last year’s format, didn’t seem to have as much of a sense of urgency as 2020. That’s not to say that the players didn’t try, because there were certainly still exciting displays of athleticism and long-range shooting. The players definitely put on a show.
It was a relatively one-sided affair, too. Team LeBron won the first three quarters, and were ahead 146-125 entering the final quarter. That gave team Durant a nigh-insurmountable task of having to score 45 points before their opponents could score 24 to win.
The final result ended predictably with a win for Team Lebron, with the game ending 170-150 thanks to a Damian Lillard three from the half-court line.
I’m not saying that there were no positives to come out of the game, because the weekend still raised a lot of money for charity. They also celebrated frontline workers, a number of whom were among the invited guests.
However, looking at how things have been going around the world and in the USA, it would have been better to skip the event this year.