It is time for the charade to stop. The gimmick is up. The joke that is the NBA All-Star Saturday Night is no longer funny. The evening, which included a H.O.R.S.E. competition, three-point contest, point guard skill challenge, and dunk contest, was painfully boring to watch. Maybe to a diehard NBA fan this would have been an interesting night. But I am a casual fan of professional basketball. And part of the lure of an All-Star weekend is that it should appeal to the casual fan.
First, the H.O.R.S.E. contest was a lousy display of creative ability, and seemed like a desperate attempt by TNT to fill unused airtime. The three contestants, Kevin Durant, Rajon Rondo, and Omri Caspi all seemed remarkably uninterested. This was an opportunity for them to show off their imagination and superior athletic ability and create a dazzling performance of the school yard classic. Instead, I was shocked at the amount of pull-up jump shots; nothing inventive or interesting about it. The players seemed to be indifferent about their participation, appeared to be annoyed by the TNT analysts appointed to be their coach, and generally upset that they had been dragged into the competition. The least they could have done was fake some enthusiasm, not just mope around, throwing up shots I have made myself. This was a pathetic showing that depressed me and was a very effective precursor to the rest of the evening.
The skills competition was moderately entertaining. Deron Williams, Steve Nash, Brandon Jennings, and Russell Westbrook, running around pylons and throwing passes through small hoops should not be the most interesting portion of an evening spotlighted by a dunk contest. However, the point guards showed some enthusiasm and personality, which jolted some life into an otherwise mundane event. The same thing goes with the three point contest. Paul Pierce and Chauncey Billups were the only established superstars to participate in the event; and Pierce was the only one who genuinely seemed concerned with winning. You know you have a problem when the biggest story line out of this competition is that Paul Pierce wore his warm-up jersey, just like Larry Bird did when he won 24 years ago. Man, that is compelling, let me tell you.
But perhaps the most disappointing and disheartening portion of the evening came with the dunk contest. This is the baby of the All-Star weekend, the highlight. This contest has produced some of the most innovative and exciting dunks seen in the history of the game. But this year, it fell flat on its face. The dog and pony show of watching 5’9” New York Knicks guard Nate Robinson dunk lost its appeal the second time he won the contest. And Robinson was the only genuinely recognizable face in the competition. Demar DeRozan was voted in the night before by the fans, Gerald Wallace is past his prime, and Shannon Brown was pathetic. I was so bored and annoyed. I quit watching after the first round of dunks. The athletes were performing down dunks that I have personally seen made by members of Manual’s basketball team. And these are supposed to be the premiere athletes in the world? They aren’t event the premiere athletes in their own league.