A Surprising Defense of All-Star Weekend

Photo: Flickr/ DJ Bass

Photo: Flickr/ DJ Bass

I spent all of this morning looking for an old post from a website that I used to write for. It was a post bluntly titled, “I Hate the All-Star Game” that featured as much complaining as humanly possible from one person. Everything from the selection process, to the jerseys and the game itself was put on blast. Essentially, I was throwing as much shade as possible on the entire weekend. Was it necessary? Maybe not but it was a low-risk post in terms of making an inflammatory public opinion since many in the Twitterverse had already been expressing similar views.

Really, I was looking for the post to see just exactly what I had said two years ago and examine my own thought process after this weekend. However, the site has been down for some time and not even Wayback Machine could find the post for me, so my search yielded a fruitless return. Oh well, I don’t really  need it to write this piece; it would’ve just been a good point of reference to have.

I spent this All-Star weekend, not in New Orleans, reflecting on what the game really was. For years we’ve heard that the game is for the fans, but never really thought about what that truly meant. Instead, I had spent past years griping that the All-Star game was a parody of the game of basketball that reinforced every negative stereotype about the NBA game with things like defense. When  I held my previous view against the idea of the game being for the fans, I realized that I was wrong. The All-Star game isn’t supposed to be the league’s showcase of all of its best product; that’s what the Finals is for. Additionally, because it’s supposed to be an exhibition, it isn’t supposed to carry the same weight as the Finals and should be taken for what it is.

The Finals is really an entirely different thing. The All-Star game is where you’ll see the best players of yesterday and today reunite for a few days in the middle of the season. It’s where you get Kenny Smith reflecting on his relationship with Bill Russell over the years and Michael Jordan nodding approvingly towards Kevin Durant. Really, it’s like a family reunion compared to the you-know-what-measuring contest of the Finals commentary of who has more rings and who matters more. As far as family goes, we as observers may not be immediate family, but still count as distant cousins and still get to take part in these moments. Realizing that one of these events is an apple and the other is an orange makes a big difference in viewing All-Star weekend.

Watching people bemoan the lack of defense on Twitter is a little humorous and the players seem to have the best understanding of the fact that the All-Star game is just for fun and for the fans. So when the defensive team on a 3-on-2 fastbreak stops at the three-point line to watch the ballhandler throw up a lob to his teammate, we should remember that’s what it’s all about: fun. And what would be fun about a defensive slugfest with both teams shooting under 40 percent? When you think about it, things are better with the offensive free-for-all. Unless you were able to derive some sort of gratification from those Celtics-Sixers series a few years back, then I may not be reaching you here.

They also call the All-Star break a break for a reason. It’s a time to forget about playoff races and MVP candidates and just enjoy the most indulgent aspects of the game. Sometimes you have to remember to not take yourself so seriously and just relax. Consider the dunk contest. Was it perfect? Not at all, but there was something enjoyable about John Wall dancing with the Wizards mascot after winning dunker of the night in the same way that we all did when we were kids in the driveway trying to recreate the dunks of our heroes. You can scrutinize and nitpick the weekend’s events, but at the end of the day we’re supposed to enjoy basketball and that’s the point of the game.

Maybe you know all of this and have been nodding in agreement waiting for me to tell you something you don’t know. Perhaps the only person I’m really talking to is myself (After all, I do that more than I would like to admit.) Either way, I’ve done a 180 on the entire weekend over the past couple of years now and in a lot of ways I’m glad that my opinions have evolved since my early-20s. If I’ve learned anything over the past few years in general it’s that you shouldn’t take life too seriously, remember to have fun once in awhile and not let the small things eat at you. The All-Star game is one of those things, even if it ranks low on the most important things in life.

Derek James

In addition to writing for Hardwood Paroxysm, Derek James covers the Minnesota Timberwolves for 1500ESPN in Minneapolis. Derek is also a co-editor for SB Nation's At the Hive-- the best Charlotte Hornets blog around. He often finds himself writing too many words on irrelevant players. Unrelated to LeBron James, but taught him everything he knows.

  • Zeke

    I just wish they would get rid of the game and add more skills competitions. I understand that the game itself is the crown jewel of the weekend, but I’d rather watch another dozen competitions than just the offensive half of a basketball game.