An NBA All-Star Proposal: U.S.A. v The World

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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.

Take that quartet and add these names: Mano Ginobili, Boris Diaw, Leandro Barbosa, Luol Deng, Andrei Kirilenko and Pau Gasol. (There may be others more deserving, but you get my point.)

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.


18 thoughts on “An NBA All-Star Proposal: U.S.A. v The World

  1. wyclefdoug says:

    If you do that, you might end up letting less US players into the game. I’d rather watch American’s get the spotlight then some foreigners. I mean if the foreigners earn in the traditional sense of the all-star team…cool. But if it’s people like Boris Diaw and Barbosa getting all-star nods over someone like Gilbert Arenas or something, that I’m not cool with.

  2. I certainly see your point, and that is the biggest downside. But check out the teams I chose. Is there someone missing from the U.S. team you feel would be left out of the game due to this format?

  3. wyclefdoug says:

    The teams for this season would probably work out fine. But from year to year, who knows how the teams would look.

  4. Juan says:

    I’d love to see the game. That would be cool.

    Some other foreigners or foreign-born players: Ben Gordon (British born), Raja Bell (USVI), Garbajosa (Spaniard and now plays for Toronto and playing like ROY if not for Roy of PDX), Bogut,…

    who would coach Team Int’t? D’Antoni? (coached in Italy)

    I think the U.S. would be afraid to get that going as the world has got some hot players.

    Precedent has been set and US dominance is slipping, if not gone.

    World Baseball Classic, well, the US was the third best team in the North American continent, depsite having that thing stacked in their favor (all US venues and umps). (Mexico and Canada beat them)

  5. Juan says:

    I’m saying from herein, the Int’l team will be competitive. This league is going to have consistently good foreigners from now on.

    It’s a shame that this did not happen during Cold War era. I would have loved to seen a young Sabonis with his USSR team out there.

    Apparently, the guy could do it all.
    Man, he had like a size 9 1/8 lid. He had a huge head!
    And apparently an incredible game when he was young.
    I know he was a helluva passer when he was with the Blazers. One of best bigs with touch on passes.

    Now we get to see young studs like Dirk, Parker, Manu, etc. Nice to see this game blow up everywhere.

  6. Mark says:

    When USA can medal at the Worlds this might be a good idea. Maybe the best way to spice up the All-Star game would be to control the voting so that players that have played 13 games or injured are off the ballot. If you look at the line-ups, Stern picked 20% of the rosters because of injury anyway.

  7. Brian says:

    Ideally, this would be a great revised format of the All Star Game but realistically, this would have to involve a lot more of development with the spurt of international players in the past years, honestly; if this were to happen right now, the US team would clearly dominate the international roster, not out of star qualities of each team, but rather by the depth of players.

    Not only that, the quality of guards for American players clearly outnumber international guards. Through your list of international players, only four could be really considered all stars (carlos arroyo? come on…)

    If it were to happen right now this is how it would look like (in the way i see it, so no carlos):

    Steve Nash/Tony Parker/Leandro Barbosa
    Mano Ginobili/Raja Bell
    Boris Diaw/Luol Deng
    Yao Ming/Gasol/Okur



    I don’t even see how that’s fair…

  8. Juan says:

    You can only play 5 at a time. I think the int’l team is far better than we give them credit for.

  9. Daryl says:

    Not a bad idea. Although, the U.S.A. will have the advantage in depth.

  10. Bad Becks says:

    Roy, its bad enough watching our boys get their brains beat in every two years at the Olympics and the Worlds! NOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOO!!!

  11. wyclefdoug says:

    International bball and NBA bball are two different things. Team USA would win easily.

  12. gzino says:

    Think it is a great idea – anything that could potentially make the game competitive should be tried.

  13. Juan says:

    I don’t know… I think this game can really make it interesting again.

    And while the US seems stacked, the Int’l team will trot out some good players.

    MLS did something similar with their All-Star game and it is a lot more entertaining than the East-West thing.

  14. SJH says:

    I like the format of the All Star game the way it is now. The only thing I’d change is the voting system. I’d either take voting away from the fans completely (as I’d like to see done in MLB and NFL) or take inactive players off the ballot. Lemme digress for a minute: It’s ridiculous how a few years ago Grant Hill and Alonzo Mourning were among the top Eastern Conference vote-getters…when they weren’t even playing. A lot of fans don’t really know the game, just the big names, and they’re stuck in 1995. It’s a joke that Shaq got voted in to start. When the voting ended, he’d only played 4 games. It cheats deserving players out of spots and cheapens the term “All Star.”

    I like that the All Star game is a meaningless exhibition. I don’t need it to be competitive. I like seeing the players just go out there, show cameraderie, break out some of the tricks and have fun. I enjoy the laughter, the half-court alley oops and the 145-135 final scores. To me, the players there earned the right to chill and have fun by being uber-comepetitive and damn good throughout the season. The last thing I’d want to see in an All Star game is everyone mean muggin’ and the final score looking like Detroit @ San Antonio.

    I think the best thing that would come of the Americans vs. Fer’ners would be the people who berate the league and say, “American players are all thugs and they don’t know how to play real basketball like them Europeans” getting shut up. Team USA, barring Team EverywhereElse drilling 20 3-pointers, would stomp a mudhole in their asses. I’d like that, but I don’t think it would be as entertaining as watching Nash throw up a behind-the-back lob to Garnett.

  15. Juan says:

    And I agree with SJH about the reset of the tired take of “Americans are thugs” and foreigners know how to play the game, etc.

    Everyone opined about the US failures in the World Championships this year.

    No one I know watched, but I did. Yet, everyone had an opinion.

    I watched EVERY game. They played well, but it was not the player’s fault. Coach K, the man that invented basketball had NO answer for stopping the pick and roll. It was ridiculous. They never swtiched up, gave the Greek team different look, etc. It was coaching malpractice… it had nothing to do with tatted up dudes, cornrows, guns, etc. as the media would like to think it is.

    I would hate to hear all the pundits talking about how thuggish the NBA is, etc.

    I love the new foreign influx of foreigners in the NBA, because really it adds to the game… it added some flair to the game. I love seeing like Nash, Ginobli, Parker, the hustle of Eduardo Najera and the on-ball D skills of Raja Bell.

    I like the foreigners because it gets to that gushy part about me that thinks the world is getting closer and where boundaries, while they still matter, mean less.

  16. wyclefdoug says:

    The US doesn’t lose in international competition because they aren’t better basketball players. They ARE better basketball players then any other team from any other country. They lose because the style of play is totally different from what they’re used to in the NBA.

    If the Olympics (or World ‘ships) were played with NBA rules, Team USA would still crush teams on the regular. It’s hard to get 12 guys used to a style of basketball in two months, especially when the other teams play that style every single day of their basketball life.

  17. Juan says:

    I agree with Wyclef’s point on the style of play and different rules being a major handicap to the US teams. No quetion that’s the case. That being said…FIBA isn;t going to accomodate for NBA guys, so we better get used to it.

    If anything, I’d like to see the FIBA key in the NBA… would force the bigs to be good shooters.

    However, I disagree that the US has the better players. I don’t think the international scene has better players either. I got to think everyone is pretty much even now.

    Ten years ago, I could say the US would dominate.. I don’t know that now.

  18. Sports Illustrated

    I couldn’t understand some parts of this article, but it sounds interesting

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