O'Donnell: Droopy NBA All-Star Weekend in Chicago will be must-flee TV

  • Yeasayers will tell you this all-star weekend is a possible "coming out party" for Milwaukee's Giannis Antetokounmpo -- who pretty much already owns the game's global marquee and needs no coming out party.

    Yeasayers will tell you this all-star weekend is a possible "coming out party" for Milwaukee's Giannis Antetokounmpo -- who pretty much already owns the game's global marquee and needs no coming out party. Associated Press

Updated 2/12/2020 4:50 PM

WHAT IF THE NBA held an All-Star Weekend and no one cared?

Would that be like major American cinema finding out it has to look to South Korea for its sharpest dark comedies?


Whatever the case, NBA ASW '20 slinks into Chicago this weekend with all the zing of an Andrew Yang campaign retrospective.

Most informed Bulls classicists place the blame squarely where it belongs -- on ongoing residuals from "The Curse of the Breakup."

That was the 1998 civic gift that just keeps giving by Jerry Reinsdorf and serfs when Michael Jordan and Phil Jackson were kicked to the curb and hearts were broken from West Madison Street to West Mumbai.

The gratuitous breakup also started an open-ended run of bad karma that remains weighing down the rims below one of the most competitively dysfunctional operations in sports.

All the likely media players -- Turner, Disney/ESPN, the NBA Network -- will be here in bodies and feigned spirit for a lame event certain to prompt an uptick in alternative activities.

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Yeasayers will note that the weekend will feature:

• An All-Star Game (Sunday, TNT/TBS, 7 p.m.);

• A dismissible quiver of snoozy talent "showcases" beginning Friday night; and,

• The perception of a possible "coming out party" for Milwaukee's Giannis Antetokounmpo, who pretty much already owns the game's global marquee and needs no coming out party.

The truth is, the NBA's All-Star Weekend is a fading event with slumping TV viewership herded into a city that simply wishes the Reinsdorf ownership group would sell and go away.

The weekend's spiritless mood is a "Sirius" cry away from the previous two times the ASG played Chicago.

The first was a Tuesday night in January, 1973, when America had much more to celebrate than elite bouncing balls.


That afternoon, word trickled out of Washington, D.C., that peace -- at least a cease fire and American troop withdrawal -- was finally at hand in Vietnam.

Chris Schenkel and Bill Russell were interrupted on ABC's telecast of the game shortly before halftime so Richard Nixon could deliver an address from the White House detailing the news.

Chet Walker and Bob Love represented the Bulls. Dave Cowens won MVP and the East prevailed in a reasonably serious attempt at conventional NBA basketball, 104-94.

Fifteen years later, Michael Jordan ruled land, air and all to see when he won The Slam-Dunk Contest on Saturday and captured the ASG's MVP on Sunday.

That was much more of a coming-out party, even if his dunk victory over Dominique Wilkins was homered to a point of ritual astonishment unknown to even Bridgeport Democrats.

The Bulls were in ascent. Nike's international ad campaign centered on Jordan and his overpriced gym shoes was leaving earth's gravitational pull and actually getting clever.

M.J. Himself was on his third head coach in four seasons in Chicago, a looming hint of all of the Reinsdorf-Jerry Krause impediments to come.

But all the basketball world got to see full-swoosh Michael, even if his career postseason record at the time was a more Bulls-common 1-9.

This weekend, don't expect peace accords or celestial breakthroughs.

Instead, ASW '20 will be bling-bang trash, fleeting flash and must-flee TV.

In other words, so perfectly representative of the state of NBA basketball in Jerry Reinsdorf's Chicago.

STREET-BEATIN': Quite a surprise that Joe Maddon was pro-active and Theo Epstein was predictably deflective in their perspectives on why the Cubs world championship manager left. The Q. isn't why Maddon is gone; the Q. is why is Epstein is still here? Does he think his second act at Wrigley is going to top his first? ...

Mark Grace is the latest part-timer to join the Cubs' upstreaming Marquee web. Still lacking a distribution deal with Comcast, maybe the network plans to send its growing flock of missionaries door-to-door to keep fans informed about what's happening ...

Marcus Fruchter, chief administrator of the Illinois Gaming Board, reports that the casinos in Des Plaines, Elgin and Alton are expected to have sportsbooks up and humming in time for the NCAA men's basketball tournament. (Baffling Arlington Park continues to spin out of the churn.) ...

Nielsen found an extra 11M "out of home" viewers for Super Bowl 54, giving "The Kyle Shanahan Showcase Meltdown" a total reported audience of 113M. (Could Nielsen also find 12 more points for Jimmy Garoppolo and SF?) ...

Since Craig Karmazin and his Good Karma Brands passively took over Chicago's AM 1000 last fall, the beam beggar has lost more than 25 percent of its audience. (Some might suggest a first step is to stop the bleeding and not have P.D. Mike Thomas accentuate the nothingness.) ...

Kenny Albert and Eddie Olczyk will be puck and center when the NHL's Stadium Series presents the Avalanche-Kings from the U.S. Air Force Academy Saturday (NBC, 7 p.m.; Even the wild blue yonder probably isn't going to help Anze Kopitar and gasping L.A.) ...

And New Orleans rookie Jaxson Hayes -- who could be headed for a post with the U.S. State Department -- on not being selected for All-Star Weekend's Rising Stars game, summoned rare viral eloquence when he lamented: "The NBA is a bunch of (bleep-bleep). And the NBA can really (bleep) my (bleep) for all I care. It is was it is."

• Jim O'Donnell's Sports & Media column appears Thursday and Sunday. Reach him at jimodonnelldh@yahoo.com.

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