Improving NBA All-Star Saturday Night
NBA experts offer modifications to the dunk contest, three-point shootout and other events.
Other Saturday Night events
That doesn’t mean there still aren’t ways to enhance the variety of competitions, though. Cowherd noted a skill contest for fastest dribbler or best passer could be set up, sort of an individualized version of the Skills Challenge in which point guards participate.
Phoenix’s Goran Dragic agreed that more point guard skills could be put to the test. “I would put more dribbling drills to have more difficult stuff in there. To dribble with two balls.”
The H-O-R-S-E competition was an exciting prospect when it was introduced in 2009. Despite Oklahoma City’s Kevin Durant winning the event in its first two years, the reformatted G-E-I-C-O event didn’t catch on with fans.
“The H-O-R-S-E thing was a horrible failure,” Rovell said. “A game of G-E-I-C-O. That was a horrible failure because nobody could hit a shot. Durant was the coldest he had been in his career. O.J. Mayo couldn’t hit a shot. They sold the hell out of it, but that didn’t really work.”
TNT, which ran the G-E-I-C-O contest with the insurance company as the sponsor, released its official statement to SLAMonline which said the event was evaluated. “As will all new sponsor-developed content we jointly evaluated the H-O-R-S-E competition and format and decided to focus our efforts on other initiatives at this time,” the statement read. “We continue to look at ways to create content that will further enhance the consumer experience for our All-Star Weekend programming.”
Beadle and Rovell advised the NBA pick up what can be considered an extreme three-point competition — shots from half-court and beyond.
“When I covered the Nets, Vince Carter and those guys…during shootaround and pregame warmups, they’d shoot random half-court and full-court shots,” Beadle said. “And then guys from different teams would have random competitions going. It’s more fun to watch that than most other things. They could do trick shots.”
Rovell offered a contest in which two players take 20 shots from half-court — simultaneously. The players would each face a basket and see who knocks down more shots. Another idea sprouted from there.
“What if you have a contest where the court is marked up with how far away from the basket it is, and guys can hit various shots,” Rovell said. “If you have a three-quarter court shot, then you get how far away it is. Mark various point circles; it’s like a game of controlled H-O-R-S-E. People are facing each other at the same time. You can decide where guys can shoot.”
One thing not to consider is an Around The World contest, which was enthusiastically pitched to Dudley. “Around The World would be terrible,” he said dryly. Okay, maybe not.
But Dudley had an idea for how another staple of All-Star Saturday Night could improve. “In the three-point contest, you can have the old guys like Dan Majerle come back and shoot,” said Dudley, who confirmed he wants in the traditional sharp-shooting contest.
New York’s Shawne Williams was more direct. “One way to improve it is to put me in the three-point contest,” he said. “New York will go crazy.” Indeed, Williams’ 47.5 percent mark from downtown likely should have made him a contestant this year. According to ESPN.com’s Henry Abbott, Williams didn’t pop from beyond the arc often enough.
An international twist to the three-point contest was imagined by Deitsch. He pictured something in the mold of U.S. vs. the World. In his modified contest, two U.S.-born players would be chosen along with pairs from several other countries represented in the NBA, such as Spain, Argentina and France. Then each “country” would compete against the other to determine which nation produced the greatest shooters.
“I don’t think that’s going to draw a million new eyeballs, but if nothing else it’s a new twist on something that’s cool,” Deitsch noted.
There were yet more ideas, some of which admittedly are strictly whiteboard material for now. Rovell suggested a battle of halftime shows, pointing out the entertainment value of the Quickchange show. “There’s such talent, such great halftime shows, that people don’t normally get to see,” Rovell explained.
Beadle threw out the idea of having a competition between NBA dance teams. Kim Garris, Entertainment Manager for the New Jersey Nets, said her dance team would be intrigued by that possibility. “They would love an opportunity to compete or be involved in some way,” Garris said.
Garris expanded on how that could be formed. “It’s always been talked about. There are a lot of logistics involved. I’m not sure you can fly all 30 dance teams out there. Perhaps if there was a way to do preliminary rounds, perhaps online or in a different format, and then somehow choose the top three teams to compete. Maybe something like that would be feasible.”
O’Hara said he and his colleagues at SME would like to get fans more involved, whether it’s creating dunks for players to try or designing the uniforms for the All-Star Game. They even thought a new game that would be played between new school and old school players would be entertaining. “Have a new school vs. old school game with the dividing age of 28 years old,” O’Hara said. “It would put to test the question of what wins: experience or raw speed and athleticism. I think that could be really cool.”
And the All-Star Break should be extended, according to Ceballos. He said players would be more willing to participate if they could get a full week off. As it stands now, most teams end their games the Wednesday before the break and return by the following Tuesday or Wednesday. Several teams typically play on the Thursday before the break to satisfy the NBA’s TV deal with TNT.
Ceballos reasoned the All-Star Break could start on a Wednesday and end one week from that day. “I think you’ll see a lot more people be more interested in trying Saturday night, and more intensity in Sunday’s game,” he said.
After all, the players still have to stay in shape, as Ceballos recalled from his playing days. “I remember in Miami, Pat Riley weighed everybody the game after the break. He measured our body fat and said we had to come exactly how we were [before the break].”
Yet Deitsch said all the great ideas in the world might have only a limited effect on the interest generated in All-Star Saturday Night. “The inherent problem is it doesn’t count,” Deitsch said. “All this stuff is made-up competitions. You’re always going to get a limited number of eyeballs for this because ultimately it doesn’t mean anything.”
While there’s always the idea to award the winning conference of the Sunday All-Star Game home court advantage in the NBA Finals, much like what MLB does for its All-Star contest, the individual nature of competition on Saturday doesn’t offer that as a reasonable measure.
Perhaps there could be a points system implemented in which participants from each team represented earn points for the place at which they finish each contest. Players in the Rookie Challenge would earn points for their teams, or their conference, based on whether they win, and by how much. Then Saturday Night participants earn points for their team, or conference, based on where they finish in each contest. It’s continued on Sunday when the All-Stars also get awarded points for their team or conference based on how they perform and whether their team wins. All that data can be calculated to determine which conference gets home court advantage in the NBA Finals, thus possibly giving some of the better players on title-contending teams to participate in individual contests. Don’t like it? Hey, it’s an idea.