Monday, February 27th, 2012 at 11:36 am  |  19 responses

Would it be Crazy to Bring All-Star Weekend to London?

One writer doesn’t think so.

by Ben Taylor

The All-Star Weekend is a strange thing. Entirely unwatchable but unmissable at the same time. Whether you are in Orlando, Minnesota, London, or Beijing, you can’t help tuning in—knowing that while you’ll probably end with a Fred Jones circa 2004, you just might catch a Vince Carter circa 2000.

Except it seems some hoops heads and casual fans don’t seem to be tuning in anymore.

Last year, the All-Star Game averaged 9.1 million TV viewers. Game six of the 2011 NBA Finals averaged 17.3 million, topping out at 24 million, as the Mavs gave Dirk his first ring and the Big Three failed to take a ‘chip back to South Beach.

The ‘three most exciting days in sports’, in the words of NBA commissioner David Stern, don’t seem to be getting people excited.

It’s not too hard to see why. This year was more fun, but the game is a glorified pick-up run (Dwight Howard shooting threes?) and the Dunk Contest is more about props and theatrics than throwing down. And if the whole thing is tailored for the casual fan, this year the culmination of the entire weekend was on at the same time as the kings of water-cooler moments and vomit inducing theatrics, the Oscars (which hit 37.5 million viewers last year, FYI).

Is there not a simple answer to all of this, one that ticks all of the NBA’s boxes in terms of growth and spreading the gospel of basketball?

Move the All Star Weekend to London. Or Paris, Barcelona, Istanbul, Beijing, or any other international city with NBA starved fans.

International fans love the All-Star Weekend, we just can’t watch it.

Like 98 percent of the NBA season, it takes place while we are all asleep—dreaming of becoming a 26-year-old, white, British, probably-a-little-overweight version of Jeremy Lin…’Bensanity’ has a nice ring to it, if you ask me.

And the weird thing is, all of the reasons that the All-Star Weekend is kind of pointless, those are the things that make it a perfect event for international fans.

It’s a one-off game with no consequences, which if you live in Berlin, and are going to take a sleepless night watching hoops on the chin, makes it a lot easier to follow or commit to than a seven game playoff series spanning two or three weeks.

When it comes to All-Star, fans have no real allegiance to either side, just to their favourite players. That makes it ideal to take to an international city where fans will either already have an allegiance to a team, so will get the chance to see one or two of their guys in action, or won’t follow a team at all and just want to see the superstars in action.

I’ve always thought that the problem with taking regular season games abroad, such as when the Nets came to London, is that nobody wins (unless you are a Nets fan). If you have one, it’s not as good as watching your own team, and if you don’t have one, you’ll probably never get the chance to see the touring teams again. In that sense, All Star would be the perfect product to take abroad.

When it comes down to it, All-Star is a brand building exercise—for the League, shoe companies, and players.

But, if it is just an excuse to sell more jerseys and shoes, why not take it to new markets filled with people waiting to buy jerseys and shoes. NBAers already spend their off-season hitting the far corners of the world to develop their global brands, why not make it part of the season.

As it stands, people aren’t watching. If the game is losing out to the Oscars or the latest from HBO, AMC and the rest, then clearly casual fans aren’t that interested in giving up their evening to watch Kobe get another All-Star MVP. If it was in London or Paris, you guys in the US could watch it live in the afternoon, just like the old days, and international fans would get to watch live without the need to overload on Red Bull or take a day off.

All-Star Weekend has provided some iconic moments over the years, moments that transcend sport. My sports loving friends over here couldn’t tell you who won the NBA Finals last year, but I bet they know Blake Griffin won the Dunk Contest by jumping over a car, and when they think of basketball, they think about Michael Jordan flying in ’85 and Vince shutting it down in 2000.

Maybe the All Star Weekend isn’t broken, we just need to take it on the road and let more fans experience it.

Clearly, I’d love it if the show came to London or another European city one year, but what do you guys think?

International fans: Would you welcome the ASG to your home city? US fans: Would the game being shown in the afternoon be better or worse for you? Would you care if the weekend was a few thousand miles away? On a practical level, would the time difference and extra traveling be too much to take for guys who already spend their lives flying from one city to the next?

As always, look forward to hearing your take in the comments.

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  • trent

    Well, I can tell you from experience that it would mean a lot to people internationally, at least from the ones I knew. I was stationed in Yokosuka Japan around 2003, so I only got to catch an NBA game during my lunch hour and only get to see about 1 quarter( 3rd quarter usually, and man was that a F’ing c0ck tease when the game got good). I know it’s a bit different because I was a service member stationed overseas but if my Japanese co-workers were into it as much as I was(and that was only for a regular season game) I can only imagine how they would’ve felt if the All-Star game were held in their country. Hope I didn’t write too much nonsense btw lol.

  • http://slamonline.com Ben Taylor

    @trent Not at all, thanks for commenting.

  • trent

    Your welcome sir.

  • http://Slamonline.com Caboose

    Very well written Ben. I like the idea. Moving to a non NBA city is not without precedent (Vegas, ’07). London? Probably the best option right?

  • Niio

    By international do you mean CANADA? Toronto is a popping city and I’ve been pleading when are they ever going to give Toronto a shot? They had it in Vegas and they don’t even have a team!! Come on Stern it your *his together!

  • http://www.slamonline.com/online/blogs/adventures-of-the-catford-saints/ Ben Taylor

    @Caboose Thanks. London would be closest in terms of time zone, I guess, and has a history of selling out exhibition games and the previous regular season game. After the USA team steal the show at the Olympics, there will be even more interest in the NBA here, so would make sense from that point of view. I’m totally biased, I live here, but I think it would be pretty cool.

  • http://www.slamonline.com/online/blogs/adventures-of-the-catford-saints/ Ben Taylor

    @Niio I wasn’t thinking Canada, but given you’ve got a team already shouldn’t Toronto be in the mix to host All Star anyway?

  • Niio

    @Ben no idea but it would be nice if Canada was thrown a bone every once and a while..

  • Loaf

    English fan here, i would love for the NBA all star game to come to London, if it wasnt so difficult grabbing olympic tickets, i would be in London for TEAM USA to donimate (what a chance to see the cream of the crop on a global stage) i do think it would be a great idea to bring the All start game here, its easier for people to watch, more fun and entertaining. Even the Globetrotters get attention here, imainge what the all star game would generate! if i didnt have work i would of stayed up to stupid o clock to watch the all star game, but i did so i missed it, but lucky for me i have Sky + ;)

  • http://www.slamonline.com/online/blogs/adventures-of-the-catford-saints/ Ben Taylor

    @Loaf Feel your pain, I didn’t get Olympics tickets either. You should definitely try for the USA vs GB game in Manchester, will be plenty of tix up for grabs.

  • Loaf

    @Ben oh yeah? where can i grab those too? got any links!?!?! (normally dont comment on here so often because of the time zones!)

  • James

    Yeah I agree, an all-star game over here would be great. I would definitely cash out and spend some money to be in London for the weekend to see the basketball, it’s a lot more exciting than just the regular scheduled game between 2 average NBA teams.

  • http://www.slamonline.com/online/blogs/adventures-of-the-catford-saints/ Ben Taylor

    @Loaf They go on sale next week, info is here: http://www.gameongb.com/news/2740.php

  • Rik Smits Mullet

    Your right about the timezones. I dont get why david stern is hammering about getting more international and then programming much of the games around the 7 till 9:30 time slot this means way past midnight for 80 % of the world. The only games i can watch live ( i live in the netherlands) are a couple of games on sunday, the games in the afternoon. I know i can get most of the games as a download the next day but still watching a game live is the best experience. Also the next point is make league pass availible on ps3 or xbox. watching a game behind my computer or ipad just wont cut it. I want to watch it live on my giant tv. And the only provider of nba in the netherlands is a multi sports channel dedicated to bring every crappy soccer match played in the netherlands. And once a month bring you a single lakers game dubbed over by a commentator who also does the extreme sports and turkish oil wrestling or some crap. I really dont want to pay 60 bucks a month for a soccer channel and the occasional laker game.( i hate soccer to the max) Also i know i can stream live matches but this involves a huge amount of luck and most of the time it goes all youtube low quality whenever somebody moves an inch. Which is every time in basketball. SOO after this maximum rant about watching nba as an international fan i must agree an allstarr weekend in london or any european city would be
    great.ps. The olympic game tickets are easily availible but i just cant seem to find out on which day the usa team is playing and you get like two games a ticket but it would extremely boring if i would buy tickets and see some other scrap international team.

  • Rustler

    London is the perfect place if we can persuade the Olympic comity to keep the olympic stadium as that’s one of our premier (purpose built) basketball arenas. But as of right now its only a temporary building for the olympics as i guess they can’t see a better use for it in the future. I know that if Boris Johnson was asked he would agree to this as it could only help the city. My only concern is the fans in the US doing a “lockout” as they might feel robbed of the opportunity to watch “their” players perform for them. But the idea is a great one Ben if this happens then you’ll be the first person to thank.

  • nic

    Trust me don’t take it to London. It’ll get bombed

  • bk

    I think they should adopt what the MLB does. Make the all star game mean someyhing. Who’s ever side wins, that conference gets homecourt advantage in the finals….. Maybe then they would actually try

  • bk

    And to add to it, if you did what MLB does, then you’d root for what ever conference your team is in

  • istanbul

    Also this would be a unique chance to have international fans experience the best of basketball stars. Look what Olympics does for the popularity of the sport and in All Star you end up getting more than the 12 in dream team. Even an internationally obscure FIFA World Championship with the US team generates a lot of interest whereever it goes.