Last Sunday night as we were driving around northeastern Ohio, we checked in on what was going on at the NBA All Star Game, and we were soured almost immediately.
The game was late in the first half, with the score in the 70’s for both teams, and we heard the play-by-play man say there was only one foul called during the game. We thought that he had to misspeak, that it would be impossible for virtually no fouls to be called in the first half of a professional basketball game.
Sure enough, when we checked the statistics for the first half (mainly to see how LeBron James and Kyrie Irving were doing), we saw the announcer was accurate.
The lack of fouls indicates that a total lack of defense was in the game. Quite simply, no one was even trying on the defensive end.
We felt that the NBA’s star spectacular is now no different from the Pro Bowl and the NHL All Star contest, meaning it bears no relationship to the sport that gets played throughout the regular season.
That might be fine for the younger basketball fans, but what they are playing in that game isn’t basketball, much like the travesty that is the Pro Bowl is really no longer football.
And no one would complain if that game just went away.
No one is suggesting that players take charges, or hammer someone to the floor trying to stop a lay up attempt. But would it kill someone to get in someone’s way every once in a while?
Not to be showing our age, but in the 80’s and 90’s, the players did play some defense, Michael Jordan didn’t want someone scoring 40 points while he was on the floor, and while the players ran the floor and threw fancy, jaw-dropping passes you wouldn’t see in the regular season, there was still a competitive aspect to the game.
That’s why baseball’s mid-summer classic is still the king, and it’s because of the nature of the sport.
Baseball is the only sport where the defense (being the pitcher) has the ball. For Clayton Kershaw to show his skills on the mound, he has to keep a batter from showing what he can do.
It’s the essence of the sport, and that’s why their All Star Game is still the purest.
Imagine if this July, Corey Kluber made the all-star team and decided to lob pitches in so fans could see Giancarlo Stanton belt one in the upper deck. It wouldn’t happen, right?
Because Kluber would be there trying to show the fans why he is there. And to show his talent, he has to prevent Stanton from showing his.
In basketball, the players enjoy showing their creativity and skill set, but it would mean more if there was someone trying to prevent it.
What’s better? A breakaway dunk off a steal, or a player throwing one down in traffic.
The NBA needs to tighten up their product in terms of the All Star Game. You have the 24 best players in the world all on the court at the same time. Why not play the ultimate game one time a year.
Again, we don’t need to have people get hurt, but at least play passable defense, not what was on display Sunday night.
It would be a better show than what was seen at Madison Square Garden on Sunday. The league deserves a better showcase.