All-Star festivities are both a no-brainer because of obvious “funness,” but also because of how little cerebral capacity seems committed to their preparation. I’m a big fan of the all-star shenanigans, and they remain dear to me despite their misled changes – at the end of the day it’s nice to celebrate a field’s best and sometimes impressive, sometimes hilarious to watch miscellaneous contests. Nevertheless, since the dawn of these hierarchical jubilations there's always been accompanying degrees of discontent ranging from the MLB’s game being boring, to the heat received by the NHL for its drunken fantasy draft, and to the grand litany of NBA complaints that Papa T is about to break down for you.
Until they messed up contest rules, letting Blake do a dunk over a Kia, and letting Harrison Barnes sell his soul on-air to 2k, All-Star Weekend was pretty cool. Not having been born into the “Four Corners” offense or raised atop Tim Duncan’s elbow jumper, my hoops appreciation originated as a hops-less fellow wowed by Jason Richardson’s dunk contest demolitions and rude, NBA Street Vol. 2, off-the-heezy on a gargoyled Carlos Boozer – anecdotal proof assuring you of all-star merrymaking’s merits. Now, some scrapped ideas that might be worth tabling… HBO’s FO Showdown: Front office members from the East and the West compete in their own scrimmage. Mikhail Prokhorov using his infamous handles on Mark Cuban is appealing, but I worry that the execs mightn’t dig this idea enough to participate. Burger King’s “Halve it Your Way” Half-Court Challenge: The league’s greatest heavers, from Matt Barnes to Stephen Curry, compete in a half-court shooting match. And if Gareth Bale can knock down 3/5 I’m sure the Association can do better.
15 Get it Out of Toronto
One easy change to the 2016 All-Star Weekend to amend its suckiness: get it out of Canada. Canada’s cool. Montreal is nice, Toronto, “eh,” maple syrup, etc... Steve Nash is cool, and moose too, are cool. But after what Canada’s done to American football, we’ve gotta make like their horse-riding mounties and keep our guards up. They took football’s fourth down away and instituted Arena-style rules pre-snap – we can’t afford to let them give hoops a four-point line, elect Rob Ford as commissioner, and implement hockey substitutions next.
14 One-on-One: Drake vs. Meek Mill
Fine, so we keep it in Toronto because of the logistical difficulties involved in moving it, because we want to expand the NBA's audience, and because we trust Canadians to respect basketball’s sanctity. Then, let's take advantage of Toronto's ambassador and Canada's Slime Minister – the ever-visible Drake. Drake has been known to hoop in the past, as has his arch-nemesis Meek Mill (both appear in the 2k videogames). Why not let the two settle their differences on the hardwood in the first-ever OVO 1v1?
I don't know if anyone in the world wouldn’t want to watch two millionaires earnestly compete at something they lack talent in, so let’s put the ball in their court to finally let their games speak instead of their ghost-writers.
13 Presidential Jubilee
A buddy (esteemed filmmaker Lee Campbell), when told about this article, immediately suggested that Bernie Sanders and Jeezy co-host the weekend. While that idea is certainly enticing, I think it ought to be taken to its logical conclusion: “War in the Donkey/Elephant Safari.” Presidential candidates play a game to 16 to determine who gets to co-host with Jeezy and earn the respect of NBA fans everywhere. Since there are only three democratic candidates, I figure we’d go 3 on 3 with Bernie Sanders, Hilary Clinton, and Martin O’Malley against Jeb Bush, Marco Rubio, and Ted Cruz. Then, mid-match, Donald Trump makes a WWE-style entrance, molecularly combines with Ted, slanders a shocked Carlos Arroyo and Becky Hammon, and kicks the ball into the stands. The winning team then plays a game of 21 to determine who the co-host will be.
12 Save Klay's Confidence: Remove the All-Star, All-Style Fashion Show
The All-Star, All-Style fashion show was a weird idea. A LeBron executive-produced it, a guy straight out of a GQ Nintendo Wii game ("Lance Fresh”) hosted it, and ballers were essentially dressed up to get judged by other ballers and Kevin Hart. While I do enjoy Charles Barkley’s three-piece suit investigations and J.R. Smith swaggering his way to a championship and probably pushing a couple kids into puberty early – this event is not only dumb, but also might have broken the robot that is Klay Thompson. After being asked how he felt in his get-up, and responding "pretty," a quick Kevin Hart and sinister LeBron dove onto Klay's absence of machissimo and roasted him for a couple minutes straight. Some say that's the last we saw of Klay's confidence (until the last week of January 2016).
11 DDR for Handles: Hezzy-Hezzy-Revolution
So apparently this product already exists under Deron Williams’ representation, but I find no record of it anywhere and therefore feel comfortable with my own patenting. “Dance Dance Revolution” was (and, in Japan, still is) a very popular game where you have to follow a screen’s cues and rhythmically hit different lighted tiles with your feet. Now, imagine DDR, with its bright lights, time constraints, and the passion of the early 2000s, except instead of doing crip walks, John Travoltas, and shimmies you’ve got to perform crossovers and shammgods. While All-Stars like Kyrie Irving would do great at this, some underappreciated handle-maestros like Tony Wroten would also get their shine on, as would the rhythmically-sound fellas like Cole Aldrich.
10 Less "Rising Stars," More Ageism
While the “Rising Stars” idea might have seemed like a fun way to switch up the ageist tradition of the Rookie-Sophomore game, having a fantasy draft among the young loses the tension of generational rivalry for the sake of a happy-go-lucky junior-school all-star game. The 2015 and 2016 renditions, splitting the rising stars according to their origins – USA vs. the World, is a nice idea that breeds a new nationalistic rivalry – but, lest the rest of the world continues developing and contesting the U.S. elite, we run the risk of watching blowouts. I can't imagine our American boys losing anytime soon, so if we want to bring the drama back to the rising stars game then let's get back to our rookie/sophomore roots. While people might not mind losing to similarly aged peers from abroad, nobody wants to lose to the youths.
9 Let the Fans Decide the Starters, Period.
Fan voting determines All-Star game starters, bringing oodles of controversy across all American sports because pundits don't trust our hoi polloi’s decision-making. In the NBA, a rookie Yao Ming was voted in over prime Shaq thanks to the Chinese vote in 2003 and then in 2011 despite Yao only playing five games. In the NHL, a relative nobody, John Scott, was voted in as team captain. And in the MLB, clever fans almost succeeded in voting in the entire Kansas City Royals. While all of these decisions seem to tarnish our celebration’s sanctity, maybe weird fan decision-making is the actual sanctity of All-Star Weekend.
In 2009, the mediocre Yi Jianlian was left off of the all-star ballot and still received 1.2 million votes as a write-in, nearly edging out Kevin Garnett for a starting spot. Some suspect league tampering thwarted Yi's starting, but imagine an all-star game where fan dreams come to fruition and we all get to reminisce on that one time in 2009 when Yi Jianlian was an on-court onlooker getting crossed and dunked on by real all-stars on national television. What a joyfully silly world it could be.
8 The Tournament of Bad Free-Throw Shooters
This idea, suggested by Jeff Van Gundy follows in the foot-steps of one of all-star weekend’s greatest all-time events – the blindfolded free-throw contest – and puts tough free-throws under the limelight. The idea is simple: we take the bottom 10 players in free-throw percentage (minimum of 50 attempts) and have them each take 10 free-throws, awarding the best with an exciting “Best Bad Shooter” award and donating $1k to charity for each missed free throw during the competition’s duration. Good times all around and more incentive for people to learn how to shoot their damn free-throws.
7 Half-Court, Full-Throttle: 3v3
Team basketball boiled down to its playground, au naturale, core. Three-on-three is great for half-court balling because there’s enough bodies and space on the court to permit for some iso ball, some passing, and a maximal concentration of buckets. We go to a game of 21, by twos and threes, take back everything to the three-point line and six total teams (one for each division) with local press (or fans, or players, I’m not too picky) determining the rosters. While I have some faith that the hometown Atlantic Division combo of Kyle Lowry, Carmelo Anthony, and Brook Lopez would handle their business – the Pacific trio of Steph Curry, Blake Griffin, and DeMarcus Cousins (“the Pacific Rim-Shakers”) might be a favorite to pacify all opposition.
6 Ask LeBron and Westbrook to Dunk
I know Russell Westbrook said he won’t join a dunk contest because he ‘only dunks on people,’ and I know LeBron said he’s gotten too old to compete, but come on, they’d still be dope. I suggest that we ask them really nicely or get a sponsor to promise guap to a charity if they finally participate in the dunk contest. LeBron’s even admitted that he regrets not joining: "It's been some years where I've said I was going to do it, and didn't do it, and then actually watching the dunk contest, and was mad at myself, because I believe it would have been great.” Ideally, not only would that convince Westbrook to dunk, but we could also tell LeBron “yes, it could still be pretty great” and get the old man to bring his pre-game antics to the contest too.
5 More Money & Public Apologies
All-Star Weekend has historically fielded two principal complaints from fans: too much carelessness during the game, and too little passion for the other contests. The Association has been slowly enacting my (and Bill Simmons’) passion solution, consistently bumping up the money rewarded to charities or contest winners. But, the carelessness conundrum is a little more complicated. I suggest that, in order to participate in the all-star game, any player who has more turnovers than assists or rebounds ought to get on the microphone post-game and publicly apologize to the arena and TV viewers for their carelessness.
Notable apologies that we would be able to giggle at had my policy been enacted over the past decade include Damian Lillard, Dwyane Wade, Paul Pierce, David Lee, Tim Duncan, and Joe Johnson.
4 Big Man Got Game
[Turns out this idea is actually being implemented in some form for the 2016 All-Star Weekend so I suppose I ought to change my passwords or thank the NBA for taking an interest in my article drafts.] The Skills Contest is always a fun time, an obstacle-course chock-full of basketball goodness and zooming, skilled guards. But where’s the love for big guys who worked on their guard skills for no apparent reason? It would be a great way to celebrate skilled bigs and showcase the association’s talent if there was a similar skills contest including guys over 6’8.
Players like Kevin Durant and LeBron James might be unfair, and Odom would probably dominate, but stars like Blake Griffin and DeMarcus Cousins, and youths like Julius Randle would get their work in – finally showing that, when it comes to basketball skill, size does not matter.
3 The Mecca of Hoop: One-on-One
One-on-one is the cement that paves playgrounds worldwide. It’s probably the square-root of hoops and closer to the hearts of ballers than their hands during the National Anthem. Nothing has given Gregg Popovich more nightmares, and the instinct towards it has crippled youth teams across America – but it's also the foundation on which an infinitum of bragging rights and championships have been built on.
While having never been formally enacted amongst the NBA, it did once come close: in 1995, after Shaq's Magic lost to Hakeem Olajuwon’s Rockets in the NBA Finals, Shaq famously left a note to ‘Keem challenging him to a game of 1-on-1. Taco Bell and Vegas jumped on the idea, advertising a PPV $1 million championship basketball adaptation of boxing bouts between Shaq and the Dream, accompanied by a rookie matchup of Kevin Garnett and Joe Smith and a guard matchup of Nick Van Exel vs. Kenny Anderson. The game was canned when Hakeem’s back gave out, but the idea is genius and ought to be revitalized for the modern day. Ideally, in 2016, we’d split it up by Wings: LeBron vs. KD, Guards: Curry vs. Westbrook, and Rookies: Kristaps vs. Karl Towns.
Probably the most popular basketball competition outside of scrimmages, H.O.R.S.E., unlike other playground classics like around-the-world and knock-out, lends itself excellently to the virtues of All-Star Weekend. It is a creativity- and skills-based game that celebrates a side of basketball clutchness and skill that we don't often get to enjoy. There is some historical precedent when it comes to H.O.R.S.E. in the NBA. During the 1977-78 season, a tournament between Association ballers was pre-recorded and subsequently aired throughout the season, with Pistol Pete's injury-replacement Rick Barry eventually falling to the notorious trickster Paul Westphal.
In 2009 and 2010, Kevin Durant and his long-range cannon outdueled Rondo, OJ Mayo, Joe Johnson, and Omri Casspi in All-Star H.O.R.S.E. festivities. Given the weird shots players enjoy putting up in practice, this could be a great, jokesy event to include nestled somewhere among the weekend's festivities.
1 Just Go Ahead and Fix the Dunk/3PT Contest Rules
Enough is enough. The 3pt contest change is a travesty, but the 2014 dunk contest was such a profound disaster that my inner trauma center insists on preemptive action against its repetition. The Three-Point Contest is an easy fix. Its format remained constant since its inception: Five racks, with five balls each (one money ball, worth 2pts), giving a maximum score of 30. Then 2014 happened and the one rack became all money balls, making a max score 34. Now, Steph Curry has an asterisked record of 27 because his 27/34 is a lower percentage than Jason Kapono's 25/30.
The dunk contest has always been tinkered with, from a wheel determining dunks, to prop inclusion and Blake Griffin's Kia jump, to the 2014 debacle where they rushed the entire ordeal with a scrambled team dunker format. Just bring it back to something simple like six dunkers, two dunks each per round with a three-minute time-limit per dunks. And return the 3pt contest format to normal. Although I appreciate the energy for revitalization, let’s get classic and bring back the nice stuff: inter-generational competition against history.