The NBA All-Star Game has always been a talking point in basketball. The fans, the media, and even the players have expressed displeasure with the format and other aspects of the game. Due to this displeasure, I went on my first podcast yesterday and talked about how the whole weekend is a waste of time. Well I am ready to admit I was wrong. After stating on my podcast that I would not watch the game, I have gone back on my word and watched it this morning.
All-Star Game Format
In the past the All-Star game has been a traditional format. The only problem was nobody actually cared. You went from the traditional East-West game a couple of years ago to captains choosing the teams. The change seemed to be minimal. Most players were playing not to get hurt and there was little to no real effort on the part of the players.
This year was the first real change to the format, and boy was it a good one. Earlier in the month it was announced that the game would follow this format:
- Each of the first three quarters would be played individually with the score resetting at the end of each quarter
- The winning team of each quarter would have $100,000 donated to a Chicago based charity of their choice
- The score for the first 3 quarters would still be tracked and combined to determine the final target score in the 4th quarter
- The 4th quarter would be an untimed quarter with the target score being 24 points added onto whatever the leading team’s combined score after the 3rd quarter (Team Giannis led 133-124 after the 3rd; target score is 133+24=157)
The first two quarters went almost exactly as I though it would. It was a low effort half with little to no interest being shown by the players. Well that all changed somewhere in the third quarter. The players came to life, defense started getting played, and for the first time in a long time, it seemed like the players actually gave a shit about winning this game.
Then the fourth quarter came and I think it’s safe to say that everyone was shocked at how that played out.
The fourth quarter played out like the fourth quarter of a playoff game. Guys were locking up and I saw the most shocking stat from an all-star game that I have ever seen.
There were ZERO fast break points allowed in the fourth quarter. ZERO! After there were 50 total in the first 3 quarters there was not a single fast break point in the final frame.
You can also tell that it was a big deal because the 5 best guys from each team were on the court:
Team Lebron: Lebron, Kawhi, AD, Chris Paul, James Harden (who was ass tonight by the way)
Team Giannis: Giannis, Embiid, Kemba, Siakam, Lowry
Guys were going after loose balls, being active on defense, and they were playing basketball the way it is supposed to be played. They were even arguing with refs when it really came down to crunch time. It was just a great game a of pickup basketball between the best basketball players on the planet.
Another eye popping stat for this game was the shooting percentages. Through the first 3 quarters the combined shooting percentage from both teams was 56%. In the fourth quarter that plummeted all the way down to 36%. It was just great to finally see the all-stars play like all-stars.
Down to the Wire
Team Lebron headed into the fourth quarter down by 9 points. Giannis looked like he was well on his way to winning to the very first Kobe Bryant All-Star Game MVP award. Team Giannis looked like they would waltz to an easy victory in the first game with this new format. Well let me tell you, that is why they play the game.
Chris Paul led the comeback with 9 fourth quarter points. A few early threes got Team Lebron right back in the game and Lebron and AD eventually made sure that they would come out on top. AD finished the fourth with 7 points including the game ending free throw to seal it for Team Lebron.
The final score was 157-155 and this seemed like the beginning of a new All-Star Tradition. Kawhi wound up finishing with 30 points on 8-14 from the three point line to take home the first ever Kobe Bryant ASG MVP Trophy.
The target score is a great concept, and it really seemed to bring out the best in everyone. I can now confidently say that I will absolutely watch this game next year.
Rest of the Weekend
Lost in the excitement of the All-Star Game was how fucking awful Saturday night was. The 3-Point Contest, the Skills Challenge, and the Dunk Contest, all continue to underwhelm for me.
Fixing the Dunk Contest
Look, the concept of the Dunk Contest is great. Having the best athletes in the world show their skills is a great idea and under certain circumstances, it could be really successful. Aaron Gordon and Derrick Jones Jr. are both great dunkers, but the Dunk Contest this weekend and the last couple of years was complete ass.
Dunks are not original anymore and there is really nothing to get excited about like there was in the past. The lack of star power definitely doesn’t help, but there are a few ways to fix it without guys like Lebron and Zion actually participating.
- All judges should be former dunk contest winners
- Invite non-NBA players/professional dunkers to participate
Those two fixes right there can change everything! Vince Carter should absolutely be judging every single dunk contest. Who knows great dunks better than that guy?! Then, getting guys like Jordan Kilganon and Guy Dupuy to participate in the contest every year would definitely create some buzz. The creativity that these guys have would add some much needed originality to this contest.
The Dunk Contest used to be must watch television, but until they change something, it is must miss for me!