Two NBA players from different generations have slandered the 2021 NBA All-Star game. One called it stupid. The other said it was a slap in the face. Both are on point. But the exhibition game that shouldn’t be played is one other thing: an exercise in greed. Owners are looting and pillaging for extra revenue while punishing pandemic violations such as not wearing a mask on the sidelines. The irony is breathtaking. Games have already been postponed because of COVID protocols but that same protocol is irrelevant when billionaires have a one-time shot at making money. It’s a Faustian bargain that weaponizes greed and ignores infection science.
The All-Star game is unnecessary. It puts players and personnel, not to mention families at risk. Like most business schedules, the NBA schedule is fragile. It has already taken a massive hit with multiple postponements. For this entire season to work, the NBA needs to have a champion crowned before the Olympics begin on July 23rd, and they need to make up all the missed games to hit their target mark of 73 regular-season games.
Adam Silver has always been able to read the room. Years before racial reconciliation burned through cities, he kicked out Donald Sterling. He operated a season in a bubble and had very few hiccups. He is usually on the right side of…well, right. But you can’t have an exhibition game that fans don’t want just so you can minimize the financial tsunami everyone in America is drowning in. It’s white privilege at the behest of black bodies.
NBA owners will tell you they are giving money to HBCU’s. As someone who went to an HBCU, the gesture is appreciated but don’t conflate a game that has the potential of infecting dozens with charity. You can give money to an HBCU on your own time. Here’s a news flash: you don’t need the All-Star game to give to an HBCU. When Mackenzie Scott gave Prairie View $50 million she didn’t do it because she owned a professional sports team. She was a private citizen, albeit with ludicrous Amazon wealth via a divorce, and most importantly she knew it was necessary. She cares. Don’t manipulate us NBA owners.
De’Aaron Fox was just as amazed as the rest of us mask-wearing, social distancing, can’t have a Super Bowl party folk. “I think it’s stupid. If we have to wear a mask and do all of this for a regular game, then what’s the point of bringing the All-Star Game back?”
There is none. Sure, have the fan voting so players can get their incentives for making the team. Donate if you care enough. But don’t act like this game is for charity. De’Aaron Fox added, “Obviously money makes the world go round, so it is what it is.”
The NBA has a unique feature to this All-Star game that has been missing from others. Players can opt-out. In previous years, if you missed the game it was because you missed the last game before the break. Years ago, Rasheed Wallace had planned a Caribbean vacation during the break and then was picked as a replacement. Vacation out the window. This year players can say no thank you but that doesn’t change what the NBA is doing: devaluing lives so they can make that payment on their summer house.
The NBA’s best player is vehemently opposed. LeBron James was told there wasn’t going to be an All-Star game and he organized his schedule; he wants the time off considering he had to start the year with only 71 days of rest. Naturally, LeBron is the leading vote-getter in the West. He will attend the game but won’t be there mentally. So what’s the point?
SB Nation’s poll revealed more than 65% of fans don’t want the game and for obvious reasons. First, the game is a bore. Players go out of their way to not get hurt. The product isn’t NBA level basketball. The game only matters in the last 5 minutes. Secondarily, we are living in a pandemic. Give us our NBA Finals but keep the All-Star game on hiatus.
There is a compromise if the NBA feels they have to put something on television. The Skills Challenge, 3-Point Contest, H-0-R-S-E competition, and Slam Dunk Contest are events in which players are competing as individuals and social distancing by design. At the max, only 20 players would be needed and you could space them in the arena so they have minimal contact with each other.
Owners are proud that this All-Star game has COVID relief built into it and that’s a good thing. But how about thinking outside the box? The city of their birth origin for every player selected to the ASG will receive a check for COVID related needs. That player will then do a PSA on vaccines for that city. No game necessary.
Also, no revenue generated. So, like a lot of COVID patients, dead on arrival.