Sports Take: NBA All-Star game poses unnecessary risks during pandemic

Los Angeles Lakers forward LeBron James watches during the second half of the team's NBA basketball game against the Denver Nuggets on Sunday, Feb. 14, 2021, in Denver. (AP Photo/David Zalubowski)

By Will Chamblee | Sports Writer

According to recent reports, the NBA will be holding an All-Star game on March 7 in Atlanta, instead of Indianapolis, where it was originally scheduled to be held. But this decision has been met with a lot of justified backlash from both players and city officials in Atlanta who see the All-Star game as an unnecessary risk.

There’s a reason that none of the other professional sports, including the NFL or NHL, have held an All-Star game during the pandemic. Having all of the NBA’s best players descend on a single city is a recipe for a COVID-19 disaster, both for the city and players.

While there is an obvious incentive for the NBA to have an All-Star game, that incentive does not apply to the players as well. The NBA stands to make millions off of the All-Star weekend festivities, but the players only risk possible exposure.

LeBron James, seen as a leader among the players, said as much, expressing feelings of displeasure towards the prospect of holding an All-Star game during a pandemic.

“I have zero energy and zero excitement about an All-Star Game this year,” James said. “We’re also still dealing with a pandemic. We’re still dealing with everything that’s been going on, and we’re going to bring the whole league into one city that’s currently open … Obviously, you guys can see I’m not very happy about it, but it’s out of my hands.”

Having your most profitable and marketable player speak out against your planned All-Star game is not a good sign. Multiple other players spoke out and agreed with James, including Giannis Antetokounmpo, James Harden and Kawhi Leonard, all players who will be All-Star’s this year. But it was Sacramento Kings guard De’Aaron Fox who hit the nail on the head.

“If I’m going to be brutally honest, I think it’s stupid,” Fox said. “If we have to wear masks and do all of this for a regular game, then what’s the point of bringing the All-Star game back? But, obviously, money makes the world go round, so it is what it is.”

As Leonard said in another statement echoing Fox’s, the NBA is “putting money over health.” This decision becomes all the more worrying when you consider what Atlanta city officials have said about the impending All-Star game.

“We know Atlanta has the reputation as the place to come and party,” City of Atlanta council member Andre Dickens said. “They [the public] will come, pack the clubs and they may or may not be wearing masks.”

Jon Keen, the top cabinet officer for the Atlanta Mayor, was very adamant the city did not seek out the All-Star game either, but the NBA chose to have the game there.

It’s clear that neither the players nor the city want an All-Star game to happen this season, and ultimately, it is easy to understand why. During a pandemic, certain sacrifices must be made, and all unnecessary events must be cut until after the pandemic ends. It’s disappointing to see the league that was the first to get playing safely in a pandemic right be so wrong in this situation.