Sports Take: How NBA can improve All-Star Weekend

New York Knocks Obi Toppin goes up for a slam during the dunk contest part of the skills challenge competition, part of NBA All-Star basketball game weekend, Saturday, Feb. 19, 2022, in Cleveland. Charles Krupa | AP Photos

By Gio Gennero | Sports Writer

In recent years, the NBA All-Star game has improved a lot. Since the new formatting, games have been more entertaining and competitive for the first time in a long time. However, the other events surrounding All-Star Weekend have taken a dip in quality. I believe there can be improvements and changes made to the weekend to make it even better.

To start, that dunk contest was atrocious. It may be because we were spoiled by Zach LaVine and Aaron Gordon hitting so many perfect score dunks on their first attempts. Whatever the case is, I have no interest in watching Orlando Magic guard Cole Anthony lace up a pair of Timberlands for 10 minutes for an average dunk, or Houston Rockets guard Jalen Green miss the same dunk 15 times in a row. Even Shaquille O’Neal was over it. The NBA needs to find a way to get the best dunkers into the competition again, whether it be a format change or a larger incentive. It needs to be fixed.

The skills challenge has always been the opening act of All-Star Saturday, but I would like it to return to the original format the NBA used in the 2000s. The team format wasn’t bad, but it didn’t feel the same as it once did. They should also limit it to actual skill players. I love Milkwaulkee Bucks forward Giannis Antetokounmpo as much as the next guy, but he had no business being in a contest for shooting and passing. In 2007, the competition consisted of LeBron James, Kobe Bryant, Dwayne Wade and Chris Paul — a much better lineup than we saw this year. Go back to the free-for-all format where the actual most skilled players in the league competed.

There are a couple events the NBA should add as a way to improve the weekend. Starting with four words: King of the Court. We’ve seen the videos of Team USA practices where some of the best players in the world have taken each other one-on-one, and it makes for a super entertaining competition. I suggest two six-player tournament style events, where matchups can be randomized. One tournament would be for guards, and the other for forwards and bigs. Games would be ones and twos, played to 11 and the final game would be played to 15. I could imagine isolation-heavy players competing and making this event legendary. Imagine Kyrie Irving vs. Steph Curry, Joel Embiid vs. Nikola Jokic or Kevin Durant vs. LeBron James.

Speaking of one-on-ones, the NBA should find a way to incorporate former players and legends in the events. Last night, there was a video of Michael Jordan taunting Magic Johnson for a game of one-one-one. Imagine how awesome it would be to have King of the Court: Legends Edition, or even having a separate event for each major event. A 3-point contest consisting of Ray Allen, Reggie Miller and other retired players would be great, even if it didn’t become a recurring thing. This year would’ve been a perfect opportunity for that with all the retired players there for the NBA’s 75th anniversary.

I believe there is a way to revive these events, especially the once-great dunk contest. The NBA found a way to make the All-Star game more competitive and the fans have loved it, so they can do the same for the rest of the weekend. Whether it takes giving more incentives, changing the formatting or adding events, the NBA should get it done so All-Star festivities go better and more smoothly.