Embodying the National Basketball Association’s (NBA) slogan, “Where amazing happens”, the NBA All-Star weekend is a three-day spectacle during mid-February complied with different skill based events where celebrities and fans gather from around the United States to watch the best NBA players of the season. The weekend plays host to a celebrity game, a 3-point shot contest, a dunk contest, a skills challenge, a rising stars game, and the most popular, All-Star Game. Known for its memorable and heartwarming moments, the All-Star weekend is especially popular for bringing fans’ fantasy to reality. Magic Johnson’s return to play in the 1992 All-Star Game after being told to retire due to contracting human immunodeficiency virus (HIV), Vince Carter’s spectacular performance in the 2000 dunk contest, and Shaquille O’Neal and Kobe Bryant reuniting after 5 years apart to win All-Star Game co-most valuable players (MVP) in 2009. On the other hand, the 2017 All-Star weekend was far from iconic.
One of the most anticipated events is the dunk contest. The favorite, Orlando Magic Forward Aaron Gordon, Los Angeles Clippers Center Deandre Jordan, Phoenix Suns Forward Derrick Jones Jr, and the clear filler participant, Indiana Pacers Guard Glenn Robinson III all participated this year. NBA fanatics expected Gordon to put on an amazing performance as he was involved in one of the greatest dunk contest, last year, when he battled Minnesota Timberwolves guard Zach LaVine in an entertaining matchup with iconic dunks that LaVine eventually won.
This year, Gordon arrived with confidence and the crowd was excited to see some never-before-seen dunks. He began using a drone as a prop, and immediate disappointment came, as he missed the first and second attempt. After multiple misses, he was in dead last, with no real chance of winning. For his second dunk, he attempted a dunk similar to his famous ‘under both legs’ dunk, but wasn’t able to even get an attempt in. The eventual winner, Robinson provided a mediocre win with safe dunks performed by past competitors rather than risky, showstopping dunks. With LaVine declining the invitation to compete and Gordon falling to the pressure, the dunk contest was a major disappointment compared to past performances.
After a long weekend of festivities, meetings and contests, the All-Star game was approaching. Many were anticipating this game due to Oklahoma City Thunder Guard Russell Westbrook and Golden State Warriors Forward Kevin Durant playing on the same team after half a year of serious tension. While there were many great, memorable moments such as multiple players gaining their first All-Star appearance, Durant’s alley-oop to Westbrook, or Golden State Warriors Guard Stephen Curry dropping to the floor as Milwaukee Bucks Forward Giannis Antetokounmpo came running in full steam for a dunk, this year, more than ever, the game was boring.
As the weekend took place in New Orleans, Pelicans Forward Anthony Davis was the center of attention in this game. His goal at the beginning of the game was to break the famous record of 42 points by former Los Angeles Lakers Center Wilt Chamberlain. Many stars have come close to this record such as Indiana Pacers Forward Paul George in 2016 and Westbrook in 2015 and 2017, both scoring 41 recognizing the record, but Davis obliterated this record scoring 52 points. The increased amount of scoring and lack of defense led to an uninteresting event. Both teams nearly scored 200 points, break many scoring records along the way. While Antetokounmpo and Cleveland Cavaliers Forward LeBron James provided a spark for the East, it wasn’t enough to cover up the lack of eagerness to win.
Whether it be the unentertaining style of play, the unwillingness to compete, or the lifeless dunk contest, the 2017 NBA All-Star weekend in New Orleans will go down as one of the worst of all time.Two major changes to All-Star weekend could shift the focus away from the boring style of play, towards a motivational game which could affect others greatly off the court. Each All-Star should choose a charity and if their team wins, the winning team wins money to donate to their respective charities. This would provide motivation for the players and a heightening of defense creates a more intense game for the fans.
Lastly, for the dunk contest, instead of having four spots for NBA players, there should be two spots for NBA players and two for professional dunkers. This would enhance the level of competition and let professionals have a larger stage to show off their talent. These small inclusions could revive the All-Star weekend for everyone involved. For fans and teams, they can watch an exhilarating contest and cheer on their players, whereas for players, they can play for pride instead of money.
Written by Staff Writer Amaan Zafar (’18)