Legacy vs. Exhibition: Why NBA All-Stars Play Half-Heartedly
I never want to dwell too much in the pool of nostalgia when it comes to how things used to be. As much as I'm accustomed to how many aspects of the game of basketball have changed since I grew up, there are some aspects that I wish had remained the same. One of them is the NBA All-Star Game. While NBA All-Star Weekend is my favorite All-Star Weekend in any of the major sports, the All-Star Game itself is well on its way to becoming as bad as the Pro Bowl.
It was a good idea to add intrigue to the game by having the players selected for each team before the game. Unfortunately, the All-Star Game in Utah was very hard to get into. It was full-court basketball played at half-speed with no intensity or defense whatsoever. Players were just going through the motions hoping not to end up on the injured list like Kevin Durant, Stephen Curry, and Zion Williamson. Given that both All-Star team captains, LeBron James and Giannis Antetokounmpo, ended up dealing with injuries, it seemed like nobody wanted to take a chance to do anything. Unfortunately, the quality of the game took a major hit. As a whole, the All-Star Game has been on a downward trend in recent years.
1992 NBA All-Star Game, Magic Johnson holding trophy | Image Credit: NBA.com
We have become conditioned to seeing half-hearted play in the first three quarters and intense play in the fourth quarter. However, this year's game reached a new low as we witnessed half-hearted play from beginning to end. One of the first All-Star Games that I remember was the 1992 All-Star Game and the memorable return of Magic Johnson in the midst of his battle with HIV. Players such as Michael Jordan and Patrick Ewing were in the prime of their careers. During that time, a high level of intensity and competitiveness was more than acceptable. In fact, it was expected.
The NBA All-Star Game appears to be overwhelmed by a collective paranoia in the NBA community regarding players getting injured. While guest-hosting for Colin Cowherd on "The Herd" this week, Fox Sports analyst Nick Wright also reasoned that it could be an overwhelming need for today's superstars to preserve their legacy. Reporters, analysts, and armchair keyboard warriors on Twitter are always analyzing a player's legacy every five minutes. Of course, the best way to do that is to win an NBA Championship. Thus, superstars may be aiming to preserve their ultimate goal of an NBA title at all costs by making little to no effort in this game. However, it is coming at the gross expense of the NBA All-Star Game's legacy.
Denver Nuggets coach Michael Malone stated it was the "worst basketball game ever played." The NBA All-Star Game is on the decline. The league needs to do something about this before it becomes irrelevant.
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