I’m not one of those guys who thinks the NBA All-Star Game needs “fixing.” It is what it is – an exhibition featuring some of the best basketball players in the world. But it lacks juice. It lacks fire. It lacks purpose.
Back in the day, there was a bit more pride in the East v. West thing. It was another chance to see Magic v. Bird, Olajuwon v. Ewing, The Ice Man (George Gervin for you newbies) v. ‘Nique, Gus Williams v. Sidney Moncrief. Sure they had fun. But they players also looked at it as a unique opportunity to do more than showcase their individual skills. Charles Barkley once told me one reason great players were, well, great was that they saw the game differently that other players. That they saw two or three passes ahead of the others. He said the challenge of any great player is adjusting his skills to those of his teammates and, hopefully, lifting their own game in the process.
In an all-star game, he said, there’s no adjustment needed, which allowed them to reach a level of creativity with their all-star teammates that was almost unfathomable during the regular season. That, combined with the desire for East/West braggin’ rights, led to some pretty entertaining afternoons.
Now, quite simply, no one seems to care who wins?
My solution: Change the format. Make it USA v The World.
The influx of international players has been the source of much discussion since the first foreign players joined the NBA decades ago. Today, players from around the world are among the best in the world. This year’s All-Star teams, in fact, feature six foreign-born players (some of whom are injured and not playing): Tim Duncan, Yao Ming, Tony Parker, Mehmet Okur, Dirk Nowitzki and Steve Nash.
Pit them against our best: LeBron, Kobe, DWade, Carmelo, Shaq, Chris Bosh, KG, Amarie, Tracy McGrady, Chauncey B., Gilbert A., A.I….
Now THAT I’d watch. I’m sure others would, too.
More important, I believe the players would LOVE it. They’d play hard. They’d play with pride. And they’d play well. Sure, they’ll have fun, too. But the energy would be special.
Of coruse it is not perfect. It’s been pointed out to me that the four-to-one disparity in the number of American players (340) relative to international players (82) means an international player has a mathematically better chance of making the AllStar team than an American player. Point taken. In truth, however, that ratio diminishes when you consider the number of players on both sides who have a realistic chance of being chosen (whether by fans or coaches) as an All-Star.
Maybe you don’t use this format now and forever. But maybe every few years, perhaps prior to Olympic years. Just a thought.
David, think about it.
Here’s a complete list of International players in the NBA.