When I was a kid playing NBA Live, I would always use the All-Star teams as soon as I ripped the video game out of the package. Some of the best days of my childhood were spent playing the All-Star events, including the Rookie-Sophomore game, the Three-Point shootout and the Dunk Contest when NBA Live 2005 introduced these features.
At the time, there was just something so exciting about being able to use your favorite players in a dunk contest or being able to play with and against a team full of star power.
That faded quickly. Because behind the show, it’s meaningless.
The best comparison I can give is when delving deep into those video games’ franchise modes where you could take over a team, the All-Star break would come very abruptly in the middle of simulated seasons. It consistently seemed to hit me that while, yes, it’s a fun event, the weekend is just a distraction from a long, focused and physically taxing season.
But if my childhood gaming experience isn’t particularly convincing, just ask Jimmy Butler.
Butler, the league’s minutes per game leader was allegedly feeling tired ─ or had maybe enjoyed the LA nightlife too much after All-Star Saturday Night ─ so he asked to stay on the bench for the entirety of the game. Sorry for your hardship, Jimmy, that your 37.3 minutes a game were too much, while five of the other top-10 players in minutes per game played anyway.
But it wasn’t just Butler who didn’t seem to care. Around the start of the second half of the game Sunday night, memes started circulating on Twitter of Stephen Curry, the captain of Team Stephen, eating a huge bag of popcorn.
Eventually, the game turned into Team LeBron vs. Team Popcorn, with one team led by its captain on a fourth-quarter rally to win, and the other team showing just how unimportant the game really was.
Despite the absurd lack of defense typical to All-Star games ─ kudos to the NBA for making this year better than years past, I guess ─ Curry and MVP frontrunner James Harden combined to shoot 9-33 from the field and 5-24 from three.
On top of this subpar showing, the game was even less meaningful when Mike D’Antoni, the head coach of Team Stephen, sat his team’s best performer, Damian Lillard, with a little more than six minutes remaining in the game for his two underperforming but more popular starters.
Lillard had just hit a jumper to put Team Curry up 133-120, but without him and against a motivated LeBron, Kevin Durant, Russell Westbrook, Paul George and Kyrie Irving lineup, Team Stephen surrendered a 28-12 run to close the game.
This game is all for show and it’s no wonder many players just don’t care. The NBA sold tickets to this game for an average of $1,900, yet aside from the sheer star power on the court, the value of the product wasn’t worth anything close to that amount.
But I will give the NBA the mild credit it is due. Under the framework that this game is a waste of time, I admit that the NBA did a much better job this season. They designed the game so that the fans who were interested in this event could enjoy it. The league had the leading vote-getters draft two teams, and it also increased the payout for players on the winning team.
Interestingly enough, LeBron and Durant did comment before the game that they needed to play better defense. Maybe the next step in making this more interesting is to motivate all the other players to want to compete in the All-Star game, not just a select few.
At least in the NBA, the game isn’t dangerous enough that players get injured frequently, but the question still remains if this year’s changes signal better games in years ahead.
As for other All-Star games like the NFL’s Pro Bowl, don’t even get me started.