Despite star power, enthusiasm for NBA’s All-Star weekend continues to wane

Sports Editor Aaron Rigby didn’t even watch the whole thing


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LeBron James at the 2022 All-Star Weekend game

Aaron Rigby, Sports Editor

NBA’s All-Star Weekend is a fun and exciting tradition that has been ongoing for decades, and everybody would hate to see it go. However, there may be no other option, as the interest in the weekend’s festivities has been on a major decline over the last few years. With fans, TV personalities and even coaches taking issue with the weekend, there are obviously changes that need to be made immediately. 

Heading into the weekend, fans were calling for the three point competition to be the final, or “main event” of the Saturday night festivities, which also included the skills competition and the dunk contest. This is due to the lack of entertainment and competition in the dunk contest in the previous two years, including a plethora of missed dunks, which deemed them overused regardless of how difficult it may be to actually do. 

Friday night kicked off the weekend with the celebrity game and the rising stars tournament. The rising stars tournament consisted of four teams with players in no more than their third year. Long story short, team Pau Gasol came out victorious, as expected, as Gasol managed to draft the most powerful team in the entire tournament. 

However, I personally did not watch the tournament, as I don’t find it as entertaining or worthwhile as it used to be when it was simply two teams consisting of players born in the USA, instead of Team USA facing off against a team made up of players who were born outside of the USA, Team World. This year, Jose Alverado of team Pau was awarded with the MVP award of the tournament, after he hit a game-winning three to secure them as the winners of the tournament. 

The skills competition came first, and with the event being held in Utah, one of the teams of three was Team Jazz, consisting of Jazz guards Colin Sexton and Jordan Clarkson, and Jazz All-Star forward Lauri Markkanen. Team Antetokounmpo returned for their second appearance in the skills competition in search of redemption from their atrocious outing in last year’s skills competition. Thanasis and Alex Antetokounmpo participated for Team Antetokounmpo, as well as Milwaukee Bucks star guard Jrue Holiday who replaced the injured Giannis Antetokounmpo. The third and final team participating was Team Rooks, consisting of rookies Paolo Banchero, Jabari Smith jr. and Jaden Ivey. 

Similar to last year, the home team came out victorious in the skills competition, and team Antetokounmpo once again put up a terrible performance, guaranteeing their return for next year’s skills competition. 

Next up was the 3-point contest, which seemed to have been the only event in the entire weekend that had any type of anticipation behind it. This year’s three point contest was headlined by Tyrese Haliburton of the Indiana Pacers, Lauri Markkanen of the Utah Jazz, Jayson Tatum of the Boston Celtics, and Damian Lillard of the Portland Trail Blazers. Damian Lillard entered the contest as the betting favorite, and left the contest hoisting the 3-point contest trophy. 

“I think all the best shooters in the history of our game, most of them have one of these,” said Damian Lillard in his post victory interview. “And to be in this competition two times and not have one, I just wanted to get it done at least one time, so I’m happy I got it and now I can retire from it.”

Next up was the Slam Dunk Contest, which had been the main topic of discussion throughout the week.  This year’s dunk contest was scrutinized and criticized much more than it has been in recent years. Main reason being that there was not one noticeable name in the contest. This year’s dunk contest participants were Kenyon Martin Jr. of the Houston Rockets, Trey Murphy III of the New Orleans Pelicans, Jericho Sims of the New York Knicks, and Mac McClung, who had signed a two-way contract with the Philadelphia 76ers a few days prior to the contest. Prior to signing a two-way deal with the Sixers, Mac McClung was playing full time in the G league. The mere fact that the dunk contest that has been home to some of the most iconic dunkers of all time like Vince Carter, Michael Jordan and  Dominique Wilkins, was now having players from the G-league compete in a competition held on All-Star Weekend threw fans and critics into a frenzy. 

“Those guys were actually in the game, and they were the biggest stars. And no disrespect, but I’m not so sure how many people know the guys in the dunk contest. And you have Mac McClung, he’s on a two way contract with the Sixers” said Shannon Sharpe on Skip and Shannon: Undisputed. This caused many fans to take to social media and call for the competition to be eliminated from All-Star weekend completely. 

However, the dunk contest wasn’t as bad as many people anticipated it to be. The G-league guy that people didn’t want involved in the contest is today being called the guy who “saved the dunk contest.” 

I thought having Mac McClung in the dunk contest would end up being a good thing, because maybe that meant that he would go out there and give effort that the guys who get paid millions of dollars wouldn’t. Bleacher Report’s instagram posted an image showing McClung’s career earnings, and how much money he was awarded for winning the dunk contest. If big name players are not going to participate, maybe the league should just give opportunities to guys who can actually gain something from the contest and are willing to actually try, this will add a competitive aspect that is not there now.  

The final event was the All-Star Game on Sunday. This year’s game was criticized for the lack of superstars. Five out of the 10 starters that were voted into the game by the fans, media, coaches, and players were unable to play due to injury. These players included Steph Curry, Kevin Durant, Zion Williamson and Giannis Antetokounmpo. And LeBron played, but injured his hand going for a block after playing only 13 minutes. This year’s All-Star game was one that will remain a stain in the minds of many fans due to the fact that there was absolutely no defense being played. 

The All-Star game has always been known for its lack of effort and defense, but it has gotten to the point where the game is now just an extended version of the three point contest and dunk contest that we already saw on Saturday night, but this time, there were actually stars participating. The most memorable moments from Sunday night is when Giannis tried to draft Ja Morant on his team when he was only allowed to pick from the reserves pool and Ja was starting, and when Nikola Jokic drafted himself onto LeBron’s team to avoid being picked last. Most of the other things that happened that night are a blur. However, history was still made on the night, as Boston Celtics forward Jayson Tatum scored 55 points, breaking Anthony Davis’ record of 52 points that he set in 2017. 

Despite this, here at RV, the excitement for the game was largely missing. In a poll of RV students, over 80 percent of voters said that they did not watch the NBA All-Star game this year. 

RV student Jackson Wright did not watch the game either, despite being an NBA fan and usually having some interest.

“Why would I watch that?” he said. “Nobody is even playing, it’s boring.”

 RV student and Varsity basketball player Adris Lewis did not tune in either. “Nah. I was busy sleeping.”

Denver Nuggets head coach Michael Malone coached Team LeBron Sunday evening, and did not hold back in the post game interview. “It’s an honor to be here, it’s an honor to be a part of a great weekend, great players, but that is the worst basketball game ever played,” Coach Malone said. “They put on a show for the fans, but that is a tough game to sit through, I’m not going to lie.” 

No matter what, you cannot get rid of the All-Star game. At this point it has just become a fun basketball game that is raising money for charity. This year, Team LeBron played for “Big Brothers Big Sister of Utah, and Team Giannis played for “Raise the Future.” If the event helps put money in charity pockets, I’m fine with it regardless of the level of play. However, from a fan standpoint, I do hope that the league tries to find ways that would encourage the players to make these events more competitive and entertaining for the viewers.