Jayson Tatum had a well-deserved All-Star game MVP thanks to a record-breaking 55 points, 10 rebounds and six assists. He shot 22 of 31 from the field and 10 of 18 from three. He hit shots from everywhere, which helped team Giannis take the 184-175 win. That performance also included the most points in a quarter for an All-Star after Tatum dropped 27 points in the third quarter.
Unfortunately, Tatum’s big game also happened in what may have been the most boring All-Star game I’ve ever seen. While defense has, for a long time, become less and less of a focus for participants, this year it really felt like no one gave much of a shit.
Hell, there was one sequence in the fourth quarter where Tatum and teammate Jaylen Brown literally just played one on one while everyone stood up straight and watched them on two consecutive possessions. That makes for a bizarre experience for people watching both in the arena and on TV.
Much of the rest of the game also involved a ton of open layups and dunks because few people were running back after a missed shot, as evidenced by the two teams combining for a total of seven fouls in the game. Sure, you don’t want to slow down the game, but I mean it really just felt like a glorified layup line half of the time.
I mean, I get it. The All-Star game isn’t supposed to be a super serious affair, but it would be nice if it looked like players gave half a shit about it. At the risk of sounding grumpy and old, I remember times in the past where people took winning the game a bit more seriously. Even last year’s game had a more interesting finish. Sure, they whiffed a lot of shots because they were trying to feed Steph Curry the ball, but players looked a bit more engaged on defense.
I also remember other times like 2003, where Michael Jordan almost had a storybook ending to his final All-Star game after giving the East the lead before Jermaine O’Neal decided to foul a three-point shooter in overtime. You could tell MJ wanted to win that game and was unhappy about the ending, and the celebrations from those who idolized him like Allen Iverson were telling of how much they wanted him to get that W.
That’s not to say that there weren’t some fun moments this year, like Damian Lillard going off from distance, including a long bomb from behind the half court line that looked like a warmup shot for him.
LeBron James also had a self alley-oop that will be on replay reels for eternity.
Sadly, there were also plenty of other moments where players looked disengaged. For example, De’Aaron Fox looked like he really didn’t want to be out there today, especially with the recent birth of his child, and his body language showed it. He whiffed on a dunk that he makes with his eyes closed in the regular season, and it looked like he barely even tried to jump.
What also hurt this year’s game was how three marquee stars didn’t play much of a part due to injury. Luka Doncic put in 19 minutes and scored four points, while Giannis Antetokounmpo scored the first bucket of the game and then checked himself out for good to prevent himself from further hurting his recovering wrist. James played the first half and had 13 points and four assists but then did not return in the second after his hand hit the rim.
Personally, I’d like to see the game go back to the traditional East vs. West kind of matchup. I feel like that might inspire players to try a little harder. I do like the charity angle that they have, though, but think it would be more interesting if it was a situation where a winning team might win $1 million for their chosen charity while the losers only win $250,000 or something like that. Maybe that would re-light the competitive fire, because something certainly needs to be done.