All Star Weekend needs a serious makeover, and it has needed one for a while now. The dunk contest is underwhelming, the skills challenge is a joke, the game itself isn’t much of a game at all, and the 3 point contest, well… we’ll keep the 3 point contest. I’ll also propose an event that, if added, would be perhaps the most exciting event of the NBA season and would change All Star Weekend as we know it!
For a while I couldn’t really put my finger on why I didn’t like the dunk contest. I would tune in every year only to be let down by the dunks I was seeing. But why? These are some of the best leapers in the NBA showing off their baffling jumping ability. What’s not to like? And then, all of a sudden it occured to me, and I immediately understood why the contest is a disappointment year after year. I have one word for you: Youtube. You can go on Youtube and find hundreds of videos - literally hundreds - of amateur dunkers throwing down dunks that Anfernee Simons could only dream of doing. There are people who literally get paid to dunk for a living and that jump higher than NBA players and throw down cooler/crazier dunks.
How about we invite some of these professional dunkers to the NBA dunk contest and see how they match up with NBA dunkers? It just feels weird to me that there are dunkers out there that would make these players look like laypeople, and instead of showing off their skills they’re probably sitting on their couches at home laughing at the dunks that score a 50 on All Star Weekend. The format of the dunk contest could be something like: a professional dunker throws down a crazy dunk, and the 3 dunk contestants (or however many contestants are chosen to participate) each get a few chances to replicate the dunk. Oh, and one more point. Let’s get some short guys in the dunk contest again. I don’t want to see a 6’8 dude dunk like I dunk on the mini hoop in my room. I want to see the Nate Robinson’s of the world dunk.
The skills challenge is an absolute joke and it has been for years now. First of all, the challenge itself is far too easy; it consists of dribbling through a few cones (which are spaced quite far apart), a layup, a three pointer, and a chest pass through a cylinder. Your local YMCA pickup players would probably have a decent chance against these NBA guys. I say that - truthfully - to make the point that the Skills Challenge is a terrible indicator of any actual skill. That’s in addition to the fact that the guys put virtually no effort into the competition, which only further limits its ability to show anything meaningful. All you have to do is look at who won it this year - Sabonis. Is he more skilled than Doncic? What about CP3? No, and it’s not close. So, let’s strive to make the contest something that is at least somewhat of an indicator of skill. That is to say, something that your local YMCA team’s best player doesn’t have a chance at beating an NBA star in.
Close your eyes and imagine a bunch of cylinders lined up, and at each one, the player has to do a different type of pass; strong hand chest and bounce pass, weak hand chest and bounce pass, behind the back chest and bounce pass, overhead pass, baseball pass (!), etc. The possibilities are honestly endless, and it’s not like the players are going to not try when passing the ball into these cylinders; it’s hard to not put maximum effort when you’re in a stationary position, passing a ball into a hoop. As far as the dribbling section, that takes a little bit more thought due to the fact that it’s hard to craft something up that involves little effort. The only thing that I can think of is some stationary ball handling drills; perhaps they have to crossover in front of them, between the legs, and then behind the back (similar to Steph Curry’s pregame routine which can be found on Youtube) ~50 times in order to go onto the passing section of the competition. I’m just spitballing here, but there has to be a way to get players to put some effort into the dribbling portion of this event. The 3 point shot and the layup can be kept in the conversation, but I don’t see much point. There’s virtually no skill in making a singular layup or 3 point shot, not to mention there’s already a 3 point contest. How about instead of the three pointer and layup, the contestant has to make a variety of finishes around the rim from certain distances (floater off the glass with strong/weak hand, floater that must swish, high arcing floater, etc). Again, I’m just brainstorming ideas, but there are truly unlimited possibilities to improve the Skills Challenge.
3 Point Contest
Note: I don’t propose any solutions to the 3 point contest. It’s already GREAT.
I don’t see any glaring flaws in the 3 point contest. In fact, I think it’s an excellent contest that holds a lot of value (or at least as much value as an all star weekend contest can) when it comes to determining who the best 3 point shooters in the league are. I REALLY like the addition of the money ball rack and the Mountain Dew deep shots; it’s fun to see where the players decide to place their money ball rack and it’s even more fun to see who is consistent with the very deep three, a shot that has become a staple of many NBA player’s games.
King Of The Court
BOY OH BOY am I excited to write about how much it pains me that 1 vs. 1 king of the court is not already a fixture at All Star Weekend. I’ve heard a few commentators and ex-players softly propose it, but it doesn’t seem like there has been any serious thought given to it by the NBA higher ups.
So, NBA, Adam Silver, or whoever needs to hear this... King of the Court needs to be added to all star weekend and here’s why:
Who is the best 1 on 1 player in the NBA? It’s a question that virtually every NBA fan (and probably player) wants to know, but will likely never find out. That’s why I propose that during All Star Weekend, the NBA should put together a king of the court event with the top 20 ppg scorers in the NBA. It’s as simple as this: check the ball up at the top of the key, 3 dribble limit, no rebounds (only 1 shot attempt). 10 players would start in line at 1 hoop and 10 players in line at the other. Once either a shot is scored or missed, the player who scores/gets a stop stays on and the next player in line checks it up and tries to get a stop. The player who gets kicked off the court goes to the end of the line at THE OTHER HOOP; this allows for the contestants to hopefully go against a bunch of other guys as opposed to a select few. To say that this event would be an immediate hit at All Star Weekend is a massive understatement, and it doesn’t take being a rocket scientist to figure that out. Fans love to debate all things NBA, and it’s been my experience, proven by nothing other than anecdotal evidence (a lot of it, that is), that “Who is the best 1 on 1 player in the NBA?” and “Who is the best scorer in the NBA?” are two of the most common NBA discussions/arguments among fans. In today’s NBA, where there are more 20 ppg scorers than in any other year, fans have become more and more enthralled at the consistency and variety with which the NBA’s best scorers put the ball in the hoop. It would therefore be logical that during All Star Weekend, when all the best players in the NBA come together, we should hold a contest where we watch the best scorers in the NBA do what they do best: score.
What About Effort Level?
I anticipate the effort level would be quite high in a contest like this. Perhaps part of the reason the effort level is so low in the Skills Contest is because players know that the event has no bearing on which player actually is the most skilled. Conversely, players try quite hard in the 3 point contest, an event that intuitively seems to better determine a player’s shooting ability than the Skills Challenge does for skill. So, I think that because the players would be able to recognize the credibility of the event - that it does have some predictability when it comes to determining one on one ability - they would bring their A games!
Another reason I think the players would bring intensity is the fact that they have pride in their scoring abilities. Any top 20 scorer in the league is going to have confidence that they can score at a level unmatched by others; these guys are the best of the best, and that doesn’t happen without supreme confidence in one’s work. After all, we’ve seen the videos of the NBA’s top players going at each other during their Team USA practices. They sure seem to bring it then, so why not during all star weekend?
What About Injuries?
Okay, there is an understandable concern about injuries. It’s why players don’t go all out in the All Star Game; nobody is willing to risk their season, and for that matter their career, for a game that doesn’t count for anything. And that makes sense, I don’t blame them at all. But, we have to recognize that 1 on 1 is A LOT safer than 5 on 5. If you really think about it, or start to pay attention to the ways that players get injured, you’ll see that the majority of injuries happen either a) in transition or b) once the help defense is involved. If a player doesn’t have to worry about any other players on the court besides the player they are defending/trying to score against, and there are no transition situations where players are moving at a full sprint, the risk of injury is DRAMATICALLY decreased.
Here’s what the event would look like this year if the top 20 ppg scorers all participated:
What If Players Choose Not To Play?
Obviously there would be players that wouldn’t want to participate in the All Star Weekend King of the Court event. However, that wouldn’t come without some backlash (healthy backlash, of course) from fans and commentators. Something like: “Lebron doesn’t want to play in the KOTC event? He must not be confident in his scoring ability”. In order to back up their games, players will be incentivized to participate in the event. Conversely, lesser known players could have an opportunity to put their names on the map by taking out some of the big dogs.
Even if every single top 20 ppg scorer decided not to play, though (which I highly doubt would happen because there’s a lot of COMPETITORS in there), here are the next 20 ppg scorers in the NBA:
Moral of the story: Even if a lot of people don’t compete in this event (which I don’t envision happening in the first place), there are a plethora of incredible scorers in the NBA, and the event would be fun regardless.