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Monday, February 20, 2017

The NBA All-Star Game Has Become a Farce

The Western Conference's 192-182 victory over the Eastern Conference is without question the worst NBA All-Star Game that I have ever watched. Other than the MLB All-Star Game that ended in a tie (and many NFL Pro Bowls of recent vintage) it may be the worst major professional league All-Star Game ever. When the reigning two-time regular season MVP literally lies down on the court instead of attempting to play defense, you know that the event has jumped the shark.

The outcome seemed scripted. The West led almost the entire way and it became obvious very early that Anthony Davis--who plays for the host city's New Orleans Pelicans--was going to be the MVP. Russell Westbrook, the only player on the court who ever seemed to even remotely take competition seriously (though his intensity was ratcheted down about 50%), had a shot at not only winning the MVP for an unprecedented third straight year but also breaking Wilt Chamberlain's All-Star record of 42 points. Instead, with the East still within striking distance, West Coach Steve Kerr benched Westbrook for the last several minutes. Wedtbrook finished with 41 points. Davis ended up with 52 points and the MVP trophy. I cannot recall a coach freezing out his best player with the outcome up for grabs. It looked like maybe everyone but Westbrook had agreed that Davis would be the MVP, so Westbrook had to be taken out before he took over the game.

Last year, I wrote that it would be a shame if Chamberlain's record fell to someone who made a bunch of uncontested shots. Sadly, that is exactly what Davis did. The NBA All Star Game has been heading downhill for years but yesterday's farce was a new low. It is difficult to take seriously any statistics or records from a game in which no one played hard. No one reasonably expects the All-Star Game to have the same intensity level of the playoffs but players used to at least take the outcome seriously.

In the 1980s, the games were fun and included fancy plays but no one literally lay down on the court; shots were contested and it was considered a badge of honor to try to block a dunk, as opposed to cowering in fear or treating competition like a joke.

I am not sure how to solve this problem but I wish that the best players loved to compete more than they worried about protecting their brand.

posted by David Friedman @ 12:12 PM