Column: NBA All-Star Weekend needs improvement

NBA All-Star Weekend has become a shell of its former self. This is an opinion becoming increasingly popular among NBA fans, evident by lessened interest on social media and relatively low ratings for the All-Star game itself. Each event could drastically be improved with changes both large and small to restore this once-cherished weekend to its former glory.

First, let’s go over what the NBA did right this year. For Friday night’s Rising Stars Challenge, the NBA opted for a four team mini-tournament format. In addition to this, one of the teams, coached by Detlef Schrempf, consisted entirely of G-League players. This latter element adds an interesting twist to this game, and I love the idea of watching a team trying to prove themselves among NBA talent during All-Star weekend. I think this format is a step in the right direction for the Rising Stars game, and I hope the NBA continues to experiment with it.

All-Star Weekend 2024 also introduced a new special event: a three-point shootout between Stephen Curry and the WNBA’s Sabrina Ionescu. I absolutely loved watching this contest, as did many fans considering it was the moment that the night’s ratings peaked

I hope the NBA continues to incorporate new special events like this, maybe offering unique ones each year. Perhaps two NBA players that have beef with each other could play a one-on-one game for bragging rights. The possibilities are endless.

I also found the 3-Point Contest was up to its usual high standard. This competition transformed into one of the most buzzworthy events throughout the 2010s, and I don’t think much needs to be done in terms of improvements. While the duration of the contest could be shortened a little, the core format still remains strong.

The rest of All-Star Saturday Night could use some work, however. For starters, I’m not sure that the NBA knows what to do about the Skills Challenge. This event’s format has been changed countless times in recent memory, and this hasn’t always been for the better.

The general idea — a challenge testing the passing, shooting, agility and dexterity of its participants — has always stayed the same. What seems to vary is the structure and format of the competition with the NBA choosing to divide the participants into teams this year. Team Pacers — who hosted All-Star Weekend — faced off against Team Top Picks and Team All-Stars, consisting of top NBA Draft picks and some of the league’s All-Star players, respectively.

While I’m not opposed to breaking the competition into teams and I love the idea of the host city’s team defending their home court, I’m confused as to why the NBA can’t settle on a solid format for this challenge. While it isn’t inherently the most exciting competition, I think sticking with simplicity is the right move going forward. 

The Slam Dunk Contest has perhaps seen the biggest fall from grace. Long gone are the gravity-defying dunks of Vince Carter and the theatrics of Blake Griffin jumping over a car. The biggest issue with the competition, which has been brought up frequently by fans and analysts alike, relates to the lack of superstar talent present. 

Commentator Stephen A. Smith recently described his disappointment that LeBron James has never participated, which is a sentiment I share. Seeing stars like Ja Morant and Anthony Edwards would instantly elevate the competition into must-watch TV for NBA fans.

Finally, Sunday night’s All-Star game has grown to be another low-point. While the NBA has done well to make the game meaningful by having a charity element, many complain that the players simply don’t care about the game anymore. Many pointed to Mavericks star Luka Dončić chucking up a half court heave and then posting about it on social media at halftime as an example.

Many suggestions have been thrown around to try to make the game more interesting, such as making the game decide which conference will secure a game seven home court advantage in the NBA Finals, which the MLB used to do for its All-Star Game. The downside to having players go all out is the risk of injury, which should be taken seriously. Ultimately, the NBA will have to find a balance between preserving their stars’ stamina and making the game worth watching.

All-Star Weekend is far from a lost cause, but I hope the NBA will continue to evaluate the positives and negatives in order to improve it.


Featured photo courtesy of @OrlandoMagic, X