Many years ago, the NBA All-Star Game was one of the must-see events of the season. After all, how often would you be gifted with all of the league’s greatest players on the court at the same time? However, as time has passed, the NBA’s marquee midseason event has lost a substantial amount of its luster.
To its credit, the NBA is actively tinkering with ways to add intrigue. In 2018, East vs. West was cast aside in favor of two All-Star captains selecting their own teams. In 2020, a final target score was introduced for the fourth quarter in an effort to force teams to play hard at the end of games. However, television ratings are decreasing, with just 5.94 million viewers in 2021. For context, the 2011 All-Star Game had over 9.0 million.
Fortunately, we here at Sportscasting are innovative thinkers. We’ve been in the lab creating some fun ways the NBA All-Star Game can become inherently more interesting and, more importantly, more watchable.
3. A live, school yard draft just before tip-off
The 2022 NBA All-Star Game is set for Feb. 20 in Cleveland, Ohio. However, 10 days prior, captains LeBron James and Kevin Durant will make their roster selections in the All-Star Draft.
Sure, there will be intrigue … at first. LeBron and Giannis on the same squad? KD and Steph teaming up again? It’ll be all well and good, until about an hour later when basketball fans no longer care.
However, what’s a good way to get fans invested? Creating the roster just minutes before the game begins.
Think about it. All the All-Star selections line up on the court in front of a packed house. Then one by one, the captains select their players until both teams are full. Then, it’s go time. No strategizing, no blustering, just basketball.
The people love drafts, and the NBA was right to incorporate one into the All-Star festivities. So holding a draft just before tip-off gives fans a reason to tune in before the game and to stick around immediately afterward.
2. The winner of the All-Star Game gets home-court advantage in the NBA Finals
Since when did Bud Selig become the NBA commissioner?
MLB’s 2002 Midsummer Classic infamously ended in a tie after the American League and National League teams ran out of pitchers. So beginning in ’03, whichever league won the All-Star Game won home-field advantage for the World Series. The rule was, in a word, polarizing, but it provided huge stakes for the game up until its final year in 2016.
Now there is only one way this could work on the hardwood. To do this, the NBA would have to forgo team captains and drafts and switch back to East vs. West. Simply put, it would be hard for Curry to lay everything on the line so Durant and the Nets can get home-court in the Finals.
This would obviously be a controversial change, just as it was in baseball. But one of the largest complaints regarding the NBA All-Star Game is a lack of effort or stakes. If this rule was implemented, good luck telling Jimmy Butler not to go all out for 60 minutes so his Miami Heat could potentially gain a major advantage for the Finals.
As far as drama goes, this change would be a slam dunk. Or possibly a home run.
1. Move the game outdoors
While we haven’t personally interviewed every single All-Star heading to Cleveland, we can all but assure you that every single one of them grew up playing pick-up basketball outdoors.
It’s time for players to return to their roots.
Just as the NHL has had success with its annual outdoor games and as MLB did with 2021’s Field of Dreams spectacle, seeing professional sports take place in non-traditional settings is always entertaining. While the NBA has experimented with outdoor games in the past, doing so for a main event such as the All-Star Game would be a bold move that could translate to huge publicity.
Imagine the league’s biggest superstars playing on a court adjacent to Venice Beach in sunny California. Or hooping near Rucker Park in Harlem (assuming the weather cooperates, but winter basketball might be fun?). Or how about MacGregor Park in Houston? Imagine LeBron James and Kevin Durant going head-to-head in an intimate setting that feels like a summer pick-up game.
The NBA has recently discussed the possibility of an outdoor game. If that just so happened to be the All-Star Game, ratings would go through the roof.
Metaphorically speaking, of course. Because, you know … outdoors.