NBA All-Star weekend is easily the best all-star showcase among the four major professional sports leagues. Even though it is far more entertaining than the NFL Pro Bowl or MLB’s home run hitting contest, this year’s event fell a little flat.
The new Sprite Slam Dunk Contest format failed to recognize a true champion. Sure John Wall got everyone’s attention with his reverse dunk over Wizards mascot G-Man, but overall the slam dunk event looked more like an episode of “America’s Got Talent.”
All-Star weekend is all about individual achievement and signature moments authored by players. The NBA needs to go back to that formula.
The whole team format really minimizes the impact of each player’s dunk. Ben McLemore’s left-handed power slam off the bounce was almost an afterthought during the freestyle portion. It was a good thing dunk judge Magic Johnson pointed out Blazers guard Damon Lillard’s version of the East Bay Funk during the same round because most folks probably missed it.
There were some positives. The three-dunk limit is a good way to avoid drowning out the suspense and preventing dunkers from taking 10 attempts at one slam — ala Nate Robinson and Birdman Anderson. The head-to-head battle is pretty cool, reminiscent of those legendary schoolyard battles. The East definitely had the best team of dunkers. Whoever picked the West team was asleep at the wheel. Lillard, Harrison Barnes and McLemore were severely outclassed.
The finish of the slam dunk competition must be tweaked. One more round between the three best dunkers from winning conference would have made it more exciting. Wall basically won the dunk contest with one dunk. Wouldn’t it be more fun if Wall, Paul George and Terrence Ross went at one more round in a winner-take-all format? That’s something the NBA should consider for next season.
As for the other events at All-Star Saturday, the money-ball rack in the 3-point shootout was a success. It added some spice to the event and forced players to strategize. Even though heavy favorite Steph Curry bowed out in the first round, the 3-ball competition still had drama at the end.
Spurs guard/forward Marco Belinelli’s strategy of placing his money-ball rack at the end proved to be the difference in the finals against the Wizards’ Bradley Beal.
The Skills Challenge buddy system has to go. Lillard won the competition for the second year in a row, but he had to share the stage with Jazz guard Trey Burke because the NBA thought it was a good idea to have a relay challenge instead of a skills challenge. This tag team format definitely needs to go, and return to the old format where one player (and one player only) competed.
Team Bosh defended its Shooting Stars Challenge title, but the biggest winner of the competition was Karl Malone. The Mailman caused a stir on social media with his physique. TNT’s Reggie Miller said, “the Mailman looks like he’s been lifting tractors” during his retirement. Malone appears in great shape and could probably start at power forward for this year’s Lakers.
Joel Huerto is the editor and publisher of OneManFastBreak.net. Follow him on Twitter @onemanfastbreak.