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What has happened to the NBA All-Star Game?

What has happened to the NBA All-Star Game?
Wednesday,February 17,2016

It used to be the highlight of the season, the top basketball players in the world coming together to take each other on in a once a year showpiece spectacular.



While never as competitive as a regular season game, there was always pride in winning and giving your best for the millions of fans watching around the world, and fans of other sports - NFL American Football in particular - would look on at the NBA All-Star Game as an example of what their All-Star Games should be like.



The NFL Pro Bowl has long been a bit of an end of season jolly boys outing, usually to Hawaii, almost like an awards ceremony where all the best players turn up to get a pat on the back, rather than play a game. That game draws lower TV ratings than the regular season games, with fans complaining the players would hit each other harder in a pillow fight!



But the 2016 NBA All-Star Game will go down in history as the death knell of the games basketball fans have loved in the past, as all semblance of a competitive game were thrown out the window and Sunday's game in Toronto degenerated into a dunk-fest and the team without the ball essentially parted like the Red Sea to allow the opposition to show off their best moves.



The All-Star weekend already has a Dunk Contest - and what a Dunk Contest this year, by the way, with Minnesota's defending champion Zach LaVine and Orlando challenge Aaron Gordon serving up a battle that will go down in history, along with the 1988 Jordan/Wilkins clash, as the greatest of all time.



The actual All-Star game is supposed to be a game, not just an elongated showreel. If we're going down that road, LaVine and Gordon, nowhere near among the top 20 players in the NBA, should be the first two names on the team sheets for next year's game in Charlotte. All sorts of records were broken in the 2016 All Star Game, and that's not a good thing. The West set All-Star records for points in a game (196), half (92), and quarter (53), field goals made in a half (41), and both teams combined for the most All-Star points in a half (182) and game (369).



This year's All Star Game was Kobe Bryant's farewell, and it was poignant to see the high regard with which the 18-time All-Star is held by both fans and his fellow pros alike, but even through teary eyes, Kobe must look upon all-time greats like LeBron James and shake his head as LeBron is forced to accept his team's inevitable defeat without once trying to play hard defence, run some set moves and give the fans what they ultimately want, a competitive game.



For the second year running, OKC guard Russell Westbrook, through a combination of wide open three pointers and unopposed dunks, took MVP honours while most of the others barely got out of first gear. Of course as NBA fans we want a show, we want flashy moves and red hot three point shooting, but that's why we choose the best players - they can do that while playing a proper game, like the good old days. Watching the ball handler dribble up court and go straight to the rim for a dunk unopposed is not my idea of entertainment. At least not for 48 minutes.



While I didn't go much on the All Star Game, it does provide a neat break in the season to make an assessment of how the season is going, without about 2/3 done and 1/3 to go. Defending champions Golden State have somehow looked hungrier than ever as they march towards beating the record set by Jordan's Chicago Bulls in 1996 of 72 wins and 10 losses. The Warriors are 48-4 as the season reconvenes this week.



Somehow almost going under the radar are the San Antonio Spurs, champions five times in the past 16 years, who reached the All-Star break 45-8, their best ever record at this stage of the season. Cleveland, with LeBron James, lead the East, though their record of 38-14 is only comparable to the third team in the West, OKC (40-14), and that ranking doesn't look too far off to me. Golden State are the best team, closely followed by San Antonio, and really the NBA title should be heading to either the Warriors or Spurs.



Tucked in behind waiting for a slip up are the Thunder and Cavaliers, with Cleveland holding the joker that as an Eastern Conference team they will avoid playing at least two of the other three during the play-offs, as the NBA Finals is always a match-up between the Eastern Conference champions and the best in the West.



Whoever comes out of the West may well do so with some war wounds after tough series against the other Western Conference powerhouses, and that might prove a leveller when they get to meet Cleveland, who should have too much for every other Eastern team at a canter.



While the All-Star Game will do down as one of the worst in history in my opinion at least, this 2015/16 NBA season has all the ingredients to go down as one of the greatest of all time.


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