Every once in a while I’ll read something that makes my eyeballs hate me. Such was the case after reading this sensationally awful article by Ian Thomson. It takes balls to write “NBA All Star Weekend is less relevant than ever” in the only sport that actually has a relevant all star event. Almost as much balls as it takes to have an all star article that talks about the economy and salary caps more than the game, when they really have nothing to do with each other. That’s like saying “cherry pie worse than ever” and then you complain there’s a cherry shortage on the horizon and migrant workers are going to organize and strike. And let’s not get into his complaints that the all star game celebrates individual accomplishments because some things are too ignorant to warrant acknowledgment.
Maybe Ian Thomson and I haven’t been watching the same events. Recent all star weekends have had many memorable moments for me: the first Kobe vs Shaq weekend, the Pistons sending four players, arguing why the West should play an all 7 foot line (I think from the one to five it would have gone KG, Dirk, Amare, Duncan, Yao, and it could have competed!!!), the LeBron ascension, little Nate getting nasty, an awesome dance off, cupcakes getting blown the fuck out by GG, Nash dropping dunk dimes off his head, Dirk winning the 3 point contest, and, of course, hoes done getting Superman’d. Now, let’s compare this to memorable moments from recent all star festivities in hockey, baseball, and football combined.
I’ll interrupt the crickets. Every other sport has a lackluster and avoidable all star event. You can be a fan of other sports, not watch their all star shin digs, and not miss out. The last time I recall an interesting baseball all star game was when Ted Williams got wheeled out to Fenway, and that was just a low fucking blow baseball. When he’s reanimated in 100 years it will be just as cheap a PR photo op. But that was ten years ago, when an old man was dragged onto the field of one of the oldest ball parks, and that was the last time baseball’s all star game mattered (sort of? I guess?). Oh, and how could I almost forget when Bud Selig dropped a genius telegram off his smart train telling us to use the game to decide home field in the world series? So now there’s a measure of forced relevance that makes us loath the entire procedure. Not all that different from the BCS, in a way. Go on making $20 million per Bud Selig, man of science, man of knowledge!
Now there’s the Pro Bowl. The NFL does so much right, how does it have such a bad all star game? It doesn’t make sense. It’s like this really hot girlfriend you have, she’s perfect in every way, except she has this one awful quirk. Like maybe she dances like Elaine Benis. It could be something a lot worse and it’s not a deal breaker but it comes up frequently enough to bug the shit out of you. The Pro Bowl game is Elaine Benis’ dancing. Honestly, why do we go back there every February. I’m beginning to think there’s a diabolical James Bond villain’s laboratory on Hawaii that keeps John Madden alive so the NFL and EA Sports make us keep having to go back there hating our lives. That or Tony Siragusa really likes luaus and has more pull than I realized. The crazy kicker challenges they had a year or two ago were bad ass, that must be conceded. But it’s the only remotely worthwhile event the entire weekend. The Pro Bowl itself is just so bad. Mr. Goodell, how good does it feel to rake in hundreds of millions of dollars for not doing anything but keep felons out of the league? Really, really good? Granted it’s early in his commissionership (new word) and it could be worse (see previous paragraph) but it could be a lot better (see two paragraphs from now). Here’s a philosophic question, Roger: if the Pro Bowl doesn’t happen and no one is around to not watch it, does it still go unnoticed? Think about it.
What’s left? Hockey, right…hmmm…something memorable probably happened at some point when Wayne Gretzky still played…maybe? This is me putting my palms up and shrugging. Hockey very likely has the second best all star weekend, considering all their skill competitions they have before the game and whatnot. It’s just mired in obscurity so it can’t compete. Sorry, hockey all star weekend. You’re following cycling and leading into bull riding. When a real network covers you we can talk.
Back the the meat of the issue. Watching the NBA all stars practice on on all star weekend is more relevant and enjoyable than the other sports’ all star games. Yeah, I’m jaded. Basketball is my favorite game. It just seems self evident that the experience of the entire all star weekend trumps other sports. The slam dunk contest, the 3 point contest, the game itself are all great and get people watching and talking. The Rookie/Sophomore game, the skills competition, and now horse this year, they’re all nice little compliments for the hoops junkies to snack on until the main courses. This isn’t to mention all the Hall of Famers that always stop by and the 50 greatest of all time list reminders. David Stern has created an entire weekend that celebrates everything good about basketball. Easily one of his finest accomplishments and a model for other sports to follow.
So don’t call this weekend irrelevant. Not only is it the most relevant all star game of all sports, but it’s one occurring during one of the best basketball seasons since Jordan was in his prime. So everyone sit back, grab some popcorn for Saturday and Sunday night, because it’s going to be shaqtastic.