Why play an NBA All-Star Game? Maybe there's a twist that makes sense

                                                                                                                                                                                                   
  • Giannis Antetokounmpo of the Milwaukee Bucks dunks in the NBA All-Star Game Sunday, Feb. 16, 2020, in Chicago. If this year's game were switched to an under-26 All-Star Game, Antetokounmpo could still play if he wanted to, but it would give players who had a short hiatus a break.

    Giannis Antetokounmpo of the Milwaukee Bucks dunks in the NBA All-Star Game Sunday, Feb. 16, 2020, in Chicago. If this year's game were switched to an under-26 All-Star Game, Antetokounmpo could still play if he wanted to, but it would give players who had a short hiatus a break. Associated Press

  • LeBron James of the Los Angeles Lakers dunks in the NBA All-Star Game Sunday, Feb. 16, 2020, in Chicago. James is less than enthused about a pandemic-era repeat: "I have zero energy and zero excitement about an All-Star Game this year. I don't even understand why we're having an All-Star Game. ... So, um, pretty much kind of a slap in the face."

    LeBron James of the Los Angeles Lakers dunks in the NBA All-Star Game Sunday, Feb. 16, 2020, in Chicago. James is less than enthused about a pandemic-era repeat: "I have zero energy and zero excitement about an All-Star Game this year. I don't even understand why we're having an All-Star Game. ... So, um, pretty much kind of a slap in the face." Associated Press

  • Chris Paul of the Oklahoma City Thunder dunks in the NBA All-Star basketball game Sunday, Feb. 16, 2020, in Chicago. Paul, the players union president, tried to explain the logic of having an All-Star Game this year on a Zoom call. "Yeah, I mean, guys are entitled to their feelings, decisions, and everything," he said. "I think the job for the union has been to try to make sure our players are healthy and safe.

    Chris Paul of the Oklahoma City Thunder dunks in the NBA All-Star basketball game Sunday, Feb. 16, 2020, in Chicago. Paul, the players union president, tried to explain the logic of having an All-Star Game this year on a Zoom call. "Yeah, I mean, guys are entitled to their feelings, decisions, and everything," he said. "I think the job for the union has been to try to make sure our players are healthy and safe. Associated Press

 
 
Updated 2/7/2021 8:09 PM

A year ago at the United Center, the NBA All-Star Game was brought back to life.

Then the pandemic buried it. But now apparently, it's still breathing.

 

There has been no official announcement, but according to reports, the league and players association reached an agreement to play an All-Star Game sometime in March during the extended midseason break.

The game would reportedly be played in Atlanta and benefit historically black colleges and universities. This season's game was originally set for Indianapolis, but that version was canceled months ago. Indy's consolation prize was the entire NCAA Tournament, so no big deal.

Reaction was swift and mostly negative. Why would the NBA even try to play an All-Star Game when it's having a hard enough time playing the regular games. As of Sunday, there have been 24 total games canceled and more are likely on the way.

Everyone knows the answer. It's because the league's television partners really want an All-Star Game to help recoup their huge investments.

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Here's a sample of the initial player reaction:

LeBron James: "I have zero energy and zero excitement about an All-Star Game this year. I don't even understand why we're having an All-Star Game. ... So, um, pretty much kind of a slap in the face."

Giannis Antetokounmpo: "If we have the All-Star Game, I hope fans can be there and we can give back to them. At the end of the day, if we have the All-Star Game just to have the All-Star Game and have no fans, I don't see the point of having the All-Star Game."

Kawhi Leonard: "We all know why we're playing it. It's money on the line. It's opportunity to make more money. Just putting money over health right now, pretty much."

De'Aaron Fox: "If I'm going to be brutally honest, I think it's stupid. If we have to wear a mask and do all of this for a regular game, then what's the point of bringing the All-Star Game back? Obviously, money makes the world go round, so it is what it is."

                                                                                                                                                                                                                       
 

The player most responsible for approval of the game was union President Chris Paul. He tried to explain the situation on a Zoom call this week.

"Yeah, I mean, guys are entitled to their feelings, decisions, and everything," Paul said. "I think the job for the union has been to try to make sure our players are healthy and safe.

"You try to over-communicate as much as possible. I talked to Bron maybe a week or two ago, talked to (Steph Curry), a few guys. Our executive committee, we get on calls, we try to figure it out. There's different situations, guys who've been playing a lot of games who haven't really had much of breaks."

James mentioned the fact that he had a short offseason since the Lakers made it all the way to the end of the Orlando bubble and won the NBA title in October, then had to start a new season in December.

Bulls guard Zach LaVine was off for nine months in 2020 because not every team was invited to the bubble. LaVine has a chance to fulfill a longtime goal and make the all-star team for the first time this year. So he's ready to embrace the idea.

"I'm always up for it. More than fine with me," LaVine said this week. "I think the NBA knows what they're doing. I think they'll obviously make everything safe. I don't think they would do the game if it wasn't safe for the players or the fans, so I mean I'm always up for that."

With that in mind here's an idea -- an under-26 All-Star Game, which could feature guys who are more excited about being there.

The key is to make it a competitive game like the one last year at the United Center, where they played to a set score. If they're just going to run up and down the floor and play no defense, what's the point?

But this way guys like James, Jimmy Butler and Anthony Davis, who played deep into the bubble, can get the break they deserve. An under-26 All-Star Game could give a boost to the new wave of stars, and there are plenty of them.

Such a game could include LaVine, Fox, Luka Doncic. Trae Young, Nikola Jokic, Joel Embiid, Jayson Tatum, Jaylen Brown, Donovan Mitchell, Devin Booker, Domantas Sabonis, Brandon Ingram, Zion Williamson, Julius Randle, Jerami Grant, Collin Sexton, Shai Gilgeous-Alexander and even Giannis if he feels like playing. Half those guys would be all-stars anyway.

Would such a game draw acceptable TV ratings? Probably, if it was a competitive game.

The league has already started all-star voting with every player. But so what? Change the rules.

Twitter: @McGrawDHBulls

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