I think all basketball fans would agree that NBA all-star weekend has lost some of its luster over the past several years. There are some obvious ways to improve the festivities, like adding incentive for the players to play hard in the all-star game and requiring participation by those selected for the three point shootout and slam dunk contest. I’ve come up a few additional ways to add a little sizzle to the show.
I realize there are several obstacles to this proposal, but how great would it be if the all-star game were played like a pick-up game, outside, on a playground? Instead of the game being East vs. West, they can do what the NHL did this year, select two captains and have them choose sides. Make it the two elder statesmen in the game or leading vote getters.
In order to give the game an authentic playground feel the players could wear whatever clothes they want. There’s no need for names on the back of jerseys. These are all-stars we’re talking about. Everybody knows who they are. Plus the announcers profile the competitors throughout the game. This ghetto game shouldn’t have any refs either. The players could call their own fouls. They did it as kids, so we know they’re capable, and it would add intensity to the game. Every player should be miced up too. The playground will bring out the trash talking and the fans will want to hear it.
Rucker Park would be the ideal location for such a game, but the weather in New York is prohibitive. Realistically, the playground game would have to be restricted to all-star weekends in warm climates, like this year in Los Angeles. The game can be moved to an indoor arena if rain is in the forecast.
Temporary seating can be installed and the owner of the local arena will be compensated with the profits from the tickets and concessions. The decrease in ticket sales with be compensated by an increase in advertising dollars due to a spike in viewership. Think about how successful the NHL’s Winter Classic has been.
Part of what made the dunk contest so exciting in the 80’s was that the best dunkers, who also happened to be among the best players in the game participated. The 1987 showdown between Jordan and Dominique was legendary. Dr. J competed in the first NBA dunk contest and he was about to turn 34 at the time.
The participants in this year’s contest are Blake Griffin, Serge Ibake, JaVale McGee and DeMar DeRozen. Not very intriguing is it? What if we returned the contest to a field of eight, kept Griffin, and replaced the other three with LeBron James, Dwyane Wade, Derrick Rose, Kobe Bryant and previous winners Nate Robinson, Dwight Howard and Josh Smith? Now that’s a dunk contest. It’s within the league’s ability to make participation mandatory for players who are selected.
As suggested by ESPN’s Bill Simmons a few years ago, the NBA should add a different type of dunk-off to determine which player can leap the highest. The way it would work is they would raise the rim a couple of inches every round until there’s only one guy remaining who can throw it down. It would require a different talent than the dunk contest. Height, wingspan and vertical leap would be the key factors. JaVale McGee and Kevin Durant would be two of the early favorites.
I also have a suggestion for an additional skills competition event: a dribble-off. Let’s see some of today’s best ball handlers put on a show. Choose four contestants, maybe Jason Kidd, Steve Nash, Chris Paul and Deron Williams, and give them each 30 seconds to do their best Curly Neal impression. Two players advance to the finals and then a winner is chosen.
NBA Hall of Fame
This is really an article unto itself; the NBA should start its own hall of fame. Unlike the Baseball Hall of Fame and Pro Football Hall of Fame, the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame includes amateur and international players and coaches. The hall employs four screening committees to identify prospective nominees: one each for American candidates, female candidates, international candidates, and veterans candidates. As a result, the hall has inducted too many high school and college coaches and obscure foreign players, while neglecting former great NBA players in recent years.
In 2005, college coaches Jim Boeheim, Jim Calhoun, NBA coach Hubie Brown, female Brazilian player Hortencia Marcari and female college coach Sue Gunter were inducted, while Joe Dumars and Dominique Wilkins were denied admission (They did get in the following year). Bob Hurley Sr. is a great high school coach, but should he really be in the Hall of Fame over Chris Mullin or Bernard King. If you have any doubt that the Naismith Hall’s system is flawed, consider the fact that Reggie Miller wasn’t even selected to be among the 12 finalists up for induction this year.
The NBA should start its own Hall of Fame for NBA participants only, in a location more accessible to fans than Springfield, Massachusetts, where the Naismith Hall is located. The NBA could announce the inductees or host the actual induction ceremony Sunday afternoon of all-star weekend. More old-time greats would attend the festivities and it would add another level of intrigue and excitement to the weekend.
I have a couple of ideas to entertain the crowd during Saturday afternoon of all-star weekend. Remember those WWF battle royals you used to love watching as a kid? How about a battle royal with all of the NBA mascots? Can you imagine the ratings for something like that? Who wouldn’t love to see Hugo the Hornet exchange blows with Benny the Bull? How about the Phoenix gorilla piledriving the San Antonio Coyote? On a side note, does anybody know why the Suns mascot is a gorilla and the Spurs a coyote?
These days every NBA team has a cheerleading/dance squad that performs at their home games during breaks in the action. Let’s see which crew is the hottest… I mean best. Have a dance-off with former NBA players as judges (current players would be biased towards their own girls). The Laker Girls would probably be the early favorites, but I’m willing to bet the Knick City Dancers would put up quite a fight.