A Weekend of All-Stars

The NBA’s annual All-Star Weekend took place in Salt Lake City, Utah on Feb. 17-19. Featuring a Celebrity All-Star game on Friday, a skills challenge, three-point contest and slam dunk contest on Saturday, and then the All-Star game on Sunday, these three days are a chance for fans to watch their favorite players from across the league participate in unique and fun activities.

However, in recent years and especially this year, fans have criticized the weekend, saying that it is getting boring and that the players aren’t trying during the All-Star game itself. This year’s version of the game ended with Team Giannis defeating Team Lebron 184-175.

“This was a glorified layup line,” Celtics All-Star Jaylen Brown said to reporters postgame. “We’ve got to figure out how to make the game a little bit more competitive.”

Michael Malone, head coach of the Denver Nuggets, who are in first place in the Western Conference and thus was the head coach of Team LeBron during the game, also was critical of the effort put forth by the players.

“It’s an honor to be here. It’s an honor to be a part of a great weekend with great players,” Malone said to CBS Sports. “But that is the worst basketball game ever played.”

It’s not only the All-Star game that has seen a drop in excitement in recent years. The dunk contest, once considered the premier event of the weekend, has fallen short of expectations quite a few times over the last decade. 

“In recent years, some fans and analysts have criticized the Dunk Contest for lacking star power and creativity, and some top players have chosen not to participate,” Sacred Heart student Ryan Metellus said. “Additionally, the rise of social media and the ease with which fans can access highlights of dunks and other impressive plays has perhaps made the contest less of a must see event.”

The dunk contest was won by Mac McClung, a guard in the Philadelphia 76ers organization who has only played in two career NBA games, according to NBA.com.

“McClung’s victory in the dunk contest was certainly unexpected given that he was a relatively unknown player to many fans prior to the event,” Metellus said.

The three-point contest, according to some critics, has become the marquee event of the whole weekend. Portland Trail Blazers guard Damian Lillard won the event, edging out Indiana Pacers guard Buddy Hield by one point, 26-25, in the final round. 

“I think this was a goal of mine [to win] because as a shooter, anytime you come into a competition like this you want to win it,” Lillard said to ESPN. “I had done it two times before this, and I didn’t take it seriously enough. As a shooter, I wanted to win at least one time before I was done playing, and that’s why I took this one a little more seriously.”

The increase in three-point shooting across the league could be a contributing factor to the rise in popularity of the event.

I think the increasing emphasis on three-point shooting in the modern NBA has contributed to the contest’s popularity,” Metellus said. “Many of the league’s top players are prolific three point shooters, and the contest provides an opportunity for them to showcase their skills and compete against one another”.

The NBA has some questions to answer moving forward as they look to find ways to improve the fan experience of the event and increase player effort. Next year’s edition of the All-Star game will be in Indianapolis, with the All Star game to be played on Feb. 18, 2024.

Tommy Mussio contributed to this article.

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