Mazurek: Why the All-Star Game matters
Marek Mazurek | Tuesday, February 17, 2015
I will admit I did not want to watch the NBA All-Star Game.
The spectacle surrounding the game has increased to absurd proportions, and, unlike in baseball, the game does not actually count for anything. I’m sure that there are others like me who just want the regular season to resume so we can get caught up on the storylines that really matter. However, despite my personal aversion to the pageantry of all-star weekend, here are a few important reasons why the NBA holds its annual festivities.
First and foremost, all-star weekend allows the NBA to promote its product. By showcasing its best players, the hopes that the all-star game provides a casual fan with a good game of basketball to get them interested in the game. The actual game, however, is of a far lower quality than a real game because the players don’t really care, but the NBA is hoping the big name recognition will get people interested. For example, if you aren’t a die-hard basketball fan, are you more likely to watch the Minnesota Timberwolves against the Orlando Magic or Lebron James and Russell Westbrook dunking all over the place?
This is also why the NBA has expanded its program of events in recent years to include a red carpet event and new skills challenges. More stuff going on equals more media coverage, which leads to more people hearing about the NBA. This exposure becomes vitally important for the NBA considering how important sports ratings are. The popularity of the NFL requires the rest of the sports world to scrap for the NFL’s leftover viewers. The decline of baseball is a testament to this harsh fact, and the NHL has adopted a number of skill-oriented challenges to its all-star game in order to keep up with the NBA. Which shoes the players are wearing, how many dunks are thrown down and which celebrities show up to watch the game may seem like fluff, but they are events that do generate buzz, and that is the NBA’s ultimate goal.
Another reason all-star weekend matters is that it gives younger players a chance to get their names out there and grow their brand exposure. Just think, before Saturday no one knew that Zach LaVine existed, but because of the Sprite Slam Dunk Contest, LaVine and other young players are able to get their names out there.
In recent years, the NBA has added the BBVA Rising Stars Challenge, The Taco Bell Skills Challenge and the Degree Shooting Stars events to the slam dunk and 3-point contests in an effort to give younger players around the league a chance to have their day in the sun. In this respect, the NBA all-star weekend is a lot like the lesser college bowl games: it doesn’t really matter too much and the players have fun.
Lastly, people watch the all-star game because simply because it’s fun. As I mentioned earlier, I don’t like all of the hoopla and red carpet events, but you can bet your tuition money I enjoyed watching Russell Westbrook going berserk. And therein lies the real draw of all-star events like this. People enjoy watching the best players on the planet playing against each other and having fun doing it. It is for that reason that I will probably watch the All-Star Game every year until I die. There is something extremely compelling about watching the players you know and love joking with the referees and each other. It’s like being let in on a big inside joke for famous people.
So enjoy the big dunks, enjoy the somewhat-fabricated camaraderie and enjoy the fact that the NBA all-star weekend allows 5-foot-4 Kevin Hart to have as many MVP awards as LeBron James.
The views expressed in this column are those of the author and not necessarily those of The Observer.