The NBA All-Star game has often felt like an epilogue to the main event that is All-Star Saturday night, where everyone tunes in for the three-point shootout and the Slam Dunk Contest. By Sunday, the festivities are wrapping up, and the All-Star game is just an opportunity for superstars to throw a few lobs, pay tributes to the legends, and create a few highlights worthy of going viral on social media.
While we've all tried to brainstorm ways to make the Dunk Contest more interesting, and add more events to Saturday night, there are plenty of ways to juice up the All-Star game itself. Here are ten ideas.
1. Introduce the four-point line
Borrowing from Ice Cube's newly introduced Big3 league, the All-Star game should tinker with the scoring system and extend the three-point arc so any shot from 25 inches out should be worth four points. Imagine Steph Curry bringing the ball down court and pulling up from just inside the logo (actually, you don't have to imagine, Curry has done this in-game) for a four-point shot, or how the four-point line can help a team erase a 20-point deficit in a hurry during the All-Star game.
2. Have the rim catch fire after a player makes three consecutive shots
One of the best things about the All-Star game is watching a shooter catch fire and go on a personal run of his own. Imagine James Harden hitting three straight jumpers or LeBron James attacking the basket on three consecutive possessions. It's unclear how we can incorporate an NBA Jam-style basket where the rim can catch fire after an All-Star makes three straight shots, but it would certainly add an extra level of excitement as a player approaches his third consecutive basket. Alternate suggestion: After a player makes three straight shots without allowing the opponent to score a basket, any subsequent makes should be worth an incremental amount of points.
3. Turn the second half into a 3-on-3 game
One of the best parts of the construction of the All-Star rosters is imagining the 3-on-3 combinations that can occur on the floor. Think: Curry, Klay Thompson and Kevin Durant versus LeBron James, Kyrie Irving and Carmelo Anthony. The possibilities are endless. And while coaches are loath to give heavy minutes to their own players (or opposing players), these are not high-stress minutes, and rotating a series of three-man teams in the second half would bring an additional level of excitement to close the game.
4. Introduce a wild card spot on the roster
The list of players who should always be involved in an All-Star game regardless of their merit include Dion Waiters, J.R. Smith, Joel Embiid and JaVale McGee. If All-Star weekend is about excitement and the actual All-Star game is about servicing the fans, there's no reason why the roster of both conferences should always include an additional spot. Imagine Waiters checking in and looking off four other All-Stars on the floor as he attempts to take on the Western Conference 1-on-5, or Embiid and McGee battling in the low post (they would definitely have to be mic'd up). The fans are there to see the superstars, but adding in a wild card would bring an extra level of entertainment to Sunday's proceedings.
5. Do away with the referees and coaches
Here's what an All-Star coaching staff does at All-Star weekend: They comply with media availability obligations on Friday, run a practice on Saturday, then spend Sunday's game figuring out rotations and making sure everyone plays in the game. It would appear that the players themselves could figure it out (I assume Gregg Popovich would agree with this, it strikes me that Pop and other coaches might rather just have the weekend off vacationing in Cancun or another locale of their preference). This new wrinkle would also add some drama to a close game in the fourth quarter, when these superstars would have to decide for themselves the best lineup to put on the floor. And same with the referees. Sure, we need someone to figure out out of bounds calls and police traveling, but the level of physicality is so low in these games it would be fun to watch the players call their own fouls like a street ball game.
6. Change Sunday's game to a MTV Rock N' Jock production
The most ambitious idea on this list would be to turn the All-Star game into a variation of MTV Rock N' Jock in which celebrities could be added to the roster with actual All-Stars. This would be a variation of the Celebrity Game on Friday except players like Master P and Mark Cuban would be running alongside the best basketball players in the world. Throw in some high quality production value, an All-Star cast of musical guests at halftime, and we're looking at way more unpredictability to the proceedings on Sunday night.
7. Introduce an alumni spot on the roster
There's a practical reason for this suggestion in that a player like Kobe Bryant on his farewell tour (see: last season) can rightfully occupy an All-Star spot but also not leave a current star deserving on a spot on the snub list. For entertainment purposes, imagine Charles Oakley on the East team, or Shaquille O'Neal on the West team. Or in another era, we could actually know what it would be like to see Michael Jordan run alongside LeBron James, or Kobe Bryant with Magic Johnson. The possibilities are endless and retired players would get another proper tribute on All-Star Sunday.
8. Introduce a rotating celebrity commentary team
If the All-Star game is really about entertaining the fans, then we should give the regular basketball commentary crews a night off and have the fans vote for the celebrities they most want to commentate during the four quarters (I mean, the celebrities are in town and at the games anyways). This is all really just a ploy to get Drake to commentate an entire basketball game so he can tell stories and let us decide exactly how much he knows about the NBA:
9. Involve the fans by allowing them to call plays
An emerging theme from these suggestions is to continue servicing the fans, including those watching at home. There's no better way of involving the audience then having them vote for or suggest particular plays from the All-Star players during the game. We're not talking about running pick-and-rolls or having the Warriors players execute their elevator doors play, but how about requesting a half-court alley oop from Irving to LeBron in the first quarter and seeing if they can pull it off, or imagine Durant and Russell Westbrook having to figure out how to begrudgingly execute a two-on-one fast break. Okay, just for that alone, we have to make this an official rule next year.
10. Allow Michael Jordan to introduce prop bets
The NBA would certainly not approve on this idea since any acknowledgement of the association between sports and gambling toes a tricky line, but how have we not put a live cam on Michael Jordan during All-Star game as he makes in-game prop bets with his friends. We can do anything from who wins the tip to over/ under points, and turn the entire game into a running tally of Jordan's prop bets, basically taking the best of Super Bowl Sunday and incorporating it into NBA All-Star Sunday.