Why the NBA should change their All-Star game format


Jonathan Clapper

“NBA All-Star Weekend Inspired Dunk” by clappstar is licensed under CC BY-NC-ND 2.0.

Caden Gorin

Let’s face it. The NBA All-Star game is not as compelling as it once was. It hasn’t been must-see TV in years. The days of Jordan, Stockton, Malone, and Payton are long over. The All-Star game hit its peak with TV viewership and attendance in the 1990s and has slowly trickled down since then, especially since 2010. The record for attendance at an NBA All-Star game was set in 2010 with a crowd of 108,713. The past couple years, this matchup has been nothing but a glorified exhibition of offensive prowess with little to no defense. Yes, everybody wants to see their favorite players pitted against each other to show off all their offensive tricks like Steph Curry does as the all-time leader in three-point shots. This is what motivates fans, the news media, and even players to vote the way they do on who’s named an All-Star. But the All-Star game offense is essentially players passing each other the ball in cool ways and setting each other up for a slam dunk. They don’t even call plays! Meanwhile, opponents on the defensive side of the ball barely jog down the court, letting the ball fly by without even going man-to-man.  

In my opinion, the NBA in general is just not as strong as it used to be when it comes to player performance. When I was growing up, I watched Lebron, Kobe, Shaq, and so many others make the All-Star game competitive – a very defensive game on both sides of the ball. Unlike many NBA fans—especially casual viewers, attendees, or those hopping on a bandwagon during playoffs—I enjoy watching the defensive aspect of the game, as it obviously makes it harder for the player to score. In addition to physical skills, a skilled defender must literally think on his feet and outthink his opponent in a split second.  

The NBA has ushered in strategies in recent years to try to make the All-Star game competitive again. They raised the prize money for the winning team. Mimicking the style of a playground, they have two captains pick their respective teams instead of having players represent their conference. And, they now have these superstars play for charity. I personally think that this has helped because it requires a game plan and time management. But the score is still ridiculously high, as some teams score almost 200 points. I mean, come on, these are the best players in the league and perhaps the world. The game’s final scores are sometimes almost twice those of a regular season matchup where defenders fight for rebounds and go airborne to block a shot. 

Another change the NBA introduced was renaming its All-Star MVP trophy in honor of Kobe Bryant after the Los Angeles Lakers superstar died in a 2020 helicopter crash. This also allows for a little more motivation as many of the current players in the NBA have either played with or grown up watching and idolizing Black Mamba – undeniably one of the league’s greatest players ever.  

Yes, the NBA All-Star game has seen success with these changes, with TV viewership on the rise. But I personally think the NBA should follow what the NFL is doing. The NFL All-Star game—known as the Pro Bowl—was perceived by fans and the public as anti-climactic, partly because it historically has followed the Super Bowl, a mega-event. So this year, the NFL decided to shake things up by making the event strictly a skills challenge for Pro Bowlers, who are picked by coaches, players, and fans. The NBA skills challenge always has more hype than the actual game itself. The slam dunk contest and the three-point challenge are always the two most watched and most hyped events during All-Star weekend.