The NBA All-Star weekend has gotten watered down over the past several years, and it’s well documented. It’s not as bad as the NHL or MLB all-star extravaganzas, but it’s close. We don’t necessarily have the best shooters in the 3-point contest. The dunk contest participants are basically a joke. The selections for the actual All-Star game aren’t really representative of the best players in the league. And the laughable Shooting Stars and Skills Challenge still exist. That itself is proof enough that the All-Star Weekend needs some help. But more than that, I want it to be an All-Star weekend from start to finish.
To start, the team with the best attendance (most sellouts in a season) should get to host the All-Star weekend. You probably have to give the 2009 All-Star weekend to the organization with the best attendance for the 2006-2007 season so there’s a little lead time for planning, but it’s still a real possibility. Reward the fans that showed up to support their team by giving them the opportunity to see the All-Star weekend in their home arena.
The only announcers worthy of doing the All-Star game would be an All-Star crew. You know who I’m talking about. Mike Breen, Mark Jackson and Jeff “New Rules” Van Gundy. They are hands down the best announcing crew out there, so it just makes good sense that they’re the ones commentating on the game. Who wouldn’t want to hear how Van Gundy would shake up All-Star weekend and how many times Mark Jackson could call a player a “lock-down defender” and “knock-down shooter.” Then you can’t skimp on the in-studio team, so it’s gotta be the TNT Crew, Ernie Johnson, Kenny “The Jet” Smith and Charles Barkley. Again, hands down the best studio team around. I don’t care about network affiliations and contracts and such. King David Stern is a lawyer, he can figure it out. It’s what’s best for the league, so he needs to make it happen.
And keeping with that spirit, why don’t we have some of the best new announcers do the Rookie-Sophomore challenge. A member of the Polish-American Hall of Fame, Kelly Tripucka has burst onto the scene as a great new addition to the MSG Broadcast team after soem time with the YES Network and Detroit Pistons television. Maybe toss him in there with Mark Jones who started in 2006 as an alternate play-by-play announcer for ABC.
Gotta have the best officials, that goes without saying. So I think each NBA player and coach should vote on the officials. The coaches vote should count for three votes, where as the players vote only counts for one, simply because the coaches are slightly more objective and there are fewer of them. Of course it’ll be a blind vote, and the Association will determine what officials will be eligible to be voted in. But I think this will help keep the spirit of the All-Star weekend.
I think the league should develop a mathematical system (like the B.C.S. system but functional, uncorrupted and fair) that determines the best three-point shooters in the league for the first half of the season and barring injury, those are the players that compete. Put a minimum required number of attempts limit. Rank the players by their three-point percentage, and weight it by their average number of threes per game. So if we put the minimum attempts limit at 150 (making 60 players eligible) take the top percentage shooters, and then rank them by their average three-point field goals made per game, we’d get a list that included Rashard Lewis, Danny Granger, Peja Stojakovic, Mike Bibby, Ray Allen, Daequan Cook and Ben Gordon. Naturally, the winner of the previous year, Jason Kapono gets an exemption to defend his title. And the alternates would be Roger Majon, Rudy Fernandez and Troy Murphy.
To bring the Dunk Contest back to it’s place of prominence and respect one thing has to happen. The fans need to vote. End of story. There is only one player in the 2009 Sprite Slam Dunk Contest that is worthy of being a contestant, and that’s Dwight Howard. Spanish Rudy, go practice your threes. Nate, you were banned (per Jeff Van Gundy) after “missing 22 dunks in a row” from ever competing in the contest again. And Rudy G., you’re a high-flyer, but only worthy of being an alternate in our new system.
At the very latest, King Stern needs to ratify the collective bargaining agreement to include this clause. “If a player is voted by the fans into the Slam Dunk Contest, said player MUST participate in the contest, to the best of their ability, or face potential fines and suspensions. Medical exemptions will be reviewed on a case-by-case basis.”
It’s been a long time since the players wanted to see in the contest actually participated in the contest. Fred Jones, Nate Robinson and Gerald Green have highlighted everything that has been wrong with this contest for so long. Vince Carter should have won many more titles since 2000. Kobe shouldn’t have last competed in 1997. And as much as we all love LeBron, it is an absolute slap in the face to every NBA fan, every single time the Slam Dunk contest goes on with him in street clothes.
The 2009 Sprite NBA Slam Dunk Contest should be made up of LeBron James, Josh Smith, Andre Iguodala and the defending champion, Dwight Howard. Period. End of conversation. The alternates would be J.R. Smith and the aforementioned Rudy Gay. And every year that doesn’t happen will just be another sham. We might as well just give it to Fred Jones, again.
Here’s the big problem with the Dunk Contest and the Three-Point Shootout and why they’ve become a joke, and a shell of their former selves. The players are spoiled. They have no loyalty. Every time a Laker fan buys a ticket, they’re paying for the multi-million dollar mansion that Kobe lives in. They’re paying for the tricked-out car he drives to the Staples Center on game day. They’re paying for the gigantic rock he bought for his wife to show that he’s sorry he cheated on her in Colorado and that he promises he’ll never get caught again. So how about a little respect? If the fans want you to be in the Dunk Contest, and you’re healthy, then go compete in the Dunk Contest. It’s as simple as that.