Three Ways to Save the NBA All-Star Game for Fans and Bettors

  • The All-Star Game is no longer as competitive as it once was
  • The three-point shootout is the new highlight of the weekend
  • The league should consider adding a one-on-one contest
  • Giving the All-Star Game winner home-court advantage could help
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The NBA All-Star Game is quickly losing its appeal, so we have come up with some ideas to fix it. [Image:]

NBA All-Star Game in decline

The NBA All-Star Game was once the highlight of the winter sports calendar. 

Shaquille O’Neal’s “dream shake” on Michael Jordan during pregame warmups was immortalized and iconized. Kobe Bryant thanked Dwyane Wade for accidentally breaking his nose as a show of his competitiveness. Magic Johnson shocked the world with a return to the game he dominated for years but was forced to abandon because of his health.

a hollow figment of what it once was

These days, the NBA All-Star Game is a hollow figment of what it once was. A battle between the best players in the world is now mostly just a friendly three-point practice and an opportunity to go party during a week off of work.

How can the NBA fix the All-Star Game, especially in an era in which sports bettors are so heavily invested in the final product? We have a few answers.

How to save the NBA All-Star Game

Before we dive into potential solutions, it’s important to note that NBA commish Adam Silver has tried his best to make the game more enticing. He introduced a captain system in which two players picked their rosters, just like everyone used to do back on the blacktops.

After that, he implemented an Elam ending, or final target score teams needed to hit. That resulted in one of the best finishes to an All-Star Game ever in 2020.

Silver’s most recent attempt saw NBA Players Association executive director Andre Iguodala and retired legends Larry Bird and Julius Erving speak to the players and encourage them to put on a show before the game. 

All that came to be for nothing as the 2024 NBA All-Star Game ended with a record-high final score of 211-186 and was heavily criticized and condemned as one of the worst ever.

There are several ways the NBA can look to restore the All-Star Game (and the whole All-Star weekend) to its previous glory. Let’s take a look.

Lean into the three-point shootout

The All-Star Game and Slam Dunk Contest are no longer the most exciting parts of the weekend, the three-point shootout is.

That makes sense in theory, since teams attempt 35 threes per game, nearly 2.5 times as many as they did 20 years ago (14.9).

Silver made a great decision to add a special one-on-one shootout after the conclusion of the traditional contest, selecting Stephen Curry and WNBA star Sabrina Ionescu as the inaugural participants (the two issued public challenges to each other since Ionescu won the WNBA three-point contest last year). 

expanding it to duos (or trios) and stars from both the NBA and WNBA

The general reaction was overwhelmingly positive and in support of the new addition. Silver should run with this and consider expanding it to duos (or trios) and stars from both the NBA and WNBA. Imagine a world in which the Splash Brothers, Steph and Klay Thompson, square off against Ionescu and Iowa phenom Caitlin Clark (assuming she declares for the WNBA Draft after her season).

Sports bettors would be able to wager on the score of each participant, which team would win, which player would outscore which opponent on the other side, what the total points would be, and more.

Give the people what they want

Every basketball fan grew up playing one-on-one with their friends in the driveway or at the nearest court. Players also seem to take these types of drills the most seriously during the offseason, so why not let them put on a show for everyone to see?

Part of the reason players are allowed to get away with playing with very little effort during the All-Star Game is that they are hidden by the other nine players on the court, but in a one-on-one scenario, with the pressure of social media weighing on them and a potential chunk of prize money waiting for them—the players would be more likely to give a better effort.

The best way to regulate this would be for every player to have a maximum of three dribbles and to either earn a certain amount of points for a bucket or a stop, or have a “lives” system in which they can gain or lose part of their total with every made or missed shot. 

The three-dribble limit greatly lowers the risk of injury, which players often cite as a reason for not trying during the All-Star Game. Sports bettors would also be able to live bet one-on-one matchups, bet on which players will win the tournament, who will make the most stops or score the most buckets, and much more.

Copy Major League Baseball

How did MLB get its players to try during the All-Star Game? The answer is quite simple: give the winner of the game home-court advantage during the NBA Finals.

The natural counterargument to this is that not every player in the All-Star Game will reach the NBA Finals, so why should they have any sort of influence on which team gets the advantage in the most important series of the year? 

Our rebuttal is that the current system of awarding home-court to the team with the best record also isn’t an exact science. One of the conferences is often considered easier or more difficult than the other, which means teams have a natural advantage or disadvantage built into their schedule based on where they play.

Coaches in the All-Star Game are also almost always in charge of the first or second-place team, which means they’ll put the players they think are most likely to win the game out on the court since they have aspirations of winning the Finals themselves.

ensuring a high level of competition

Most importantly, this protects the bettors who are invested in the product by ensuring a high level of competition. That way, Anthony Edwards doesn’t shoot with his left hand, two-time MVP Nikola Jokic doesn’t look like he’s sleepwalking, and Luka Doncic doesn’t shoot from three-quarters court. 

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