I found myself watching the entire NBA All Star Game last night. That was kind of a surprise because that’s not something I’ve done very often in, oh, 20 years or so. Plus the Olympics were on, with some decent live coverage that didn’t revolve around four hours of figure skating for once. But L was excited to see Steph and Victor Oladipo, so we started watching and then I kept it on after she went to bed.
It was a pretty solid way to waste two and a half hours.
Well, except for the half of Fergie’s singing of the National Anthem that we caught. There’s been enough piling on this morning, so I’ll just say that even L said, “Whoo, that’s pretty bad!”
This year’s game came with the novelty of trying to de-noveltilze the game, if that’s the right word. Yeah, it was a still going to be an All Star Game with some inherent looseness compared to a “real” game. But the players and league were trying to reduce the silliness that had taken over in recent years. No more threatening 200 points or basically turning the game into a dunk contest with defenders rarely venturing inside the lane.
I think it was a pretty decent success.
I loved the concept of picking teams. And LeBron is right: if they keep this concept in place, they have to do the draft during All Star Saturday and televise it. That would be so awesome! Especially given how the dunk contest is so meh these days. But a televised draft would be amazing. Especially if you had a green room with all the potential draftees lined up and we could see the looks on their faces as they get passed over or are forced to play with someone they have a beef with. Un-drafted guys could lobby to end up on one team or the other. This would be great and really must happen.
The game? Solid. No All Star Game in any sport should be played with maximum intensity. It is an exhibition designed for the fans. Baseball tends to do a good job splitting the difference between fun and competitiveness. I think the NBA re-discovered that midpoint last night. The game was entertaining, the players seemed to be having fun and getting along and were interested in putting on a show. But it still resembled a game of basketball.
Oh, and we got a really good last four minutes or so. The intensity picked up. Defense got played. Teams were trying to get switches to good matchups not just for show, but to try to get a bucket. The last possession, when LBJ and Kevin Durant trapped Steph Curry and chased him around so he couldn’t get a shot off was just the best. It reminded me of another play I saw 10 years ago.
The big winner of the weekend was LeBron. More than any recent superstar in any sport, he has willingly taken on the role of being THE spokesman for the sport. Every word he said this weekend was perfect. Every action he made during the game was perfect. I’ve always liked LeBron. But this weekend was the first time I’ve probably ever loved him. I believe his love for the game and interest in making it better is genuine, and his efforts to use his platform to help others is equally genuine. The Jordan vs. LBJ conversation has gotten louder over the past couple years. I’m always been firmly Team MJ. But I will say, if LeBron keeps going a few more years and turns the on-the-court debate into a tie, the things he’s doing off-the-court seem like more than enough to break that tie.
Oh, and I’m not even talking about the political angle that was thrust upon LeBron this week by an idiot TV commentator. You know I’m down with LBJ there.
All this – including conversations between players and referees to try to improve on-court relations between those groups – are more signs that the NBA is the best pro league going right now. Football is a mess. Baseball seems to be tired of its labor peace as several small disputes and a few larger ones appear poised to turn ugly quickly. Meanwhile the NBA has the most exciting game to offer, puts its players out front, embraces rather than runs from making political and social stands, and is actively engaged in finding ways to make the game and game experience better.