Why I don’t watch the NBA All-Star Game…

Why I don’t watch the NBA All-Star Game and why All-Star Games are a thing of the past.

While my long broadcasting career involved countless sports, including the NFL, MLB, and college basketball, the NBA was actually my lead franchise.

Working the NBA Finals for nine years from the early 80’s through the 1990 season, represented the one time I was the lead announcer.

That was at CBS.

We aired the game of the week, the top playoff games, and of course, the Finals, the best-of-7 series for the world championship.

We also broadcast the annual All-Star Game, which was truly a major event.

To earn a starting spot in the game, and to be elected to either the East or West roster, was a feather in the cap of every player.

Then, to compete, and try to be a member of the winning team, was the icing on the cake.

It is no longer.

In fact it has become a joke.

The final score of the recent NBA All-Star Game was 211-186.

This is not a misprint.

But it is a farce.

If you love to watch an athletic competition of any kind, even an exhibition, and you enjoy seeing absolutely no resistance to players with the ball scoring at will, you would have hated the NBA back a few short decades ago.
Back then, shots were contested, players with the ball were defended by talented players who took pride in taking their opponents out of their game.

Way back in 1972, Lakers legend Jerry West avoided the defense of New York Knicks star Walt Frazier to hit a 20-foot buzzer-beater and give the Western Conference a 112-110 victory. It was a back-and-forth battle that went down to the wire, with West awarded the game’s Most Valuable Player trophy.

Notice the difference in final scores between that game and the most recent.

It’s called playing hard, and playing defense.

Most of the game’s final scores were considerably higher, but nothing like we saw this February, when players took turns into permitting their foes easy layups, open outside shots, or slam dunks.

During my tenure at CBS, the 1988 game played in Chicago was the most memorable.

Michael Jordan, playing before the home folks, won the traditional slam-dunk contest the night before scoring a game-high 40 points in leading the East trio a 138-133 triumph.

That was the year Jordan won the NBA MVP and Defensive Player of the Year awards, averaging 35 points a game.

It was only three years earlier, when in Indianapolis, Detroit Pistons star guard Isaiah Thomas led a planned “freeze-out” of Jordan who was playing in his first All-Star Game.

I covered the game and it was rumored to be an issue that came out on the eve of the game.

It was said Thomas wanted Jordan to ‘pay his dues’ before getting an opportunity to dominate the All-Star contest.

Some said Thomas regarded Jordan as arrogant.

Jordan felt he was going to be ignored prior to the game;

Thomas has long since denied the charge.

In reality, you couldn’t really make a determination in watching the game.

But Thomas finished with 22 points, and Jordan scored only 7, while both played nearly same amount of minutes.

The point of this, is that there were rivalries and battles ensuing in a competitive league, not the love-fest that exists today for the mid-season exhibition.

As an aside, the one moment that will forever stick with me will be an NBA All-Star Game that had nothing to do with the playing of the game itself.

It was in 1983, my second broadcast of that event.

The game was played at the Forum in Inglewood, the home of the Los Angeles Lakers.

Before the game, the national anthem was sung by Marvin Gaye.

It was my honor to introduce him. He was standing next to me at the broadcast table and then preceded to walk to center court.

What followed was one of the most stirring and moving renditions ever done, and the crowd got into the mood as well.

You will have to find Marvin Gaye and the anthem on the internet.

It’s there.

When the game ended, all people talked about was Marvin Gaye. Those who recall that moment, still do today.

All-Star games in general were once a welcomed intermission from the rigors of the day-to-day skirmishes of the regular season.

They featured those performers who distinguished themselves in the first half the season, were rewarded with individual recognition, and were given the opportunity to represent their respective leagues or conferences in playing a game for bragging rights, and pride, showing off why their were chosen over others.

Now, it’s dissolved.

The NFL was always different from the other major sports.

It was unfeasable to hold a mid-season All-Star affair, so the Pro Bowl was held at the end of the regular season before the league championship game which, of course, became the Super Bowl.

To be named to the Pro Bowl is a highly significant honor, which usually precedes the name of a player.

Perhaps being named All-Pro ranks higher, but being called a Pro Bowler is as good as it gets.

The game, which was once exclusively played in Honolulu, was an attractive deal, with the players bringing along their families for a week in the sun.

The game was competitive, but it was never overly serious.

Now, there is no longer a game, only gimmicks.

For two days in Orlando, FL, players compete in dodgeball, tug-of-war, precision passing and the main course, flag football.

There is no tackling and there is no longer a game.

I grew up in anticipation of the All-Star Game, called the Midsummer Classic every year.

It was a thrill to a kid to see who would win the fan’s votes to start, and the rest of the then, 25-man squad selected by the respective managers.

Then the game itself.

Seeing the National and American League stars in their own uniforms on the same field was breathtaking to a youngster, and I know, adults as well.

Most, if not all named to the squads got into the game, but there were some who played the entire 9 innings or more.

I remember the great Cardinals legend, Stan Musial, hitting a game-winning home run in the bottom of the 12th to give the Nationals the win in Milwaukee back in 1955.

I realize things change.

I know what I adored back in the day would not stay the same.

In time, All-Star Games featured larger squads, it wasn’t so special to be named anymore.

Almost every player would see action, which meant that the bigger stars would be gone after one bat.

One time, starting pitchers would work 3 innings.

No one appears for more than a single inning today.

We started with the NBA All-Star Game and what that’s become. We know about that.

In today’s world, players would rather have the time off than to travel to, and  play an exhibition game.

The one thing that may never change is the selection as an All-Star.

Being named to an All-Star team is an honor.

Playing in that game seems more of an inconvenience.

So let’s abandon the All-Star Game for good.

I don’t believe anyone will miss it.