Why the NBA All-Star Weekend is completely untouchable

The NBA is different than other major American sports leagues. Maybe it is due to smaller rosters or less people actually playing on the court at one time, but one way or another the NBA exudes what can be described as nothing less than swagger (if you need proof look at what the players wear to post-game interviews). And the 2014 NBA All-Star Weekend is no different.

Major League Baseball runs its All-Star Game on the basis that “it matters”, giving the winner home field advantage in the World Series. The National Football League’s Pro Bowl is an absolute joke. But the NBA has found a way to keep the weekend both intriguing enough for the players to fully participate and entertaining enough to justify making it a three-day event.

A huge part of that has to be the NBA on TNT crew, headlined by Charles Barkley and Shaquille O’Neal’s shenanigans. The chemistry of this crew cannot be overstated when adding flair to the NBA All-Star Weekend. Case and point:

“Well I can’t go for Karl Malone’s team because he’s wearing that tight ass shirt” -O’Neal on who he thought would win the Shooting Stars challenge.

Who could even script that? That commentary is just Shaq being Shaq, and fans eat it up. During the pregame show for the actual All-Star Game Barkley had an interview with President Barack Obama inside the Oval Office, and Shaq was mobbed and tackled by over 100 children in another segment. TNT has managed to piece together the best NBA crew currently on television, which has only helped the ratings.

Speaking of ratings, what is better than an All-Star Game? How about numerous musicians performing, to go along with the star studded crowd. Before the actual game there were guest performances by Pharrell, Nelly, P Diddy, Busta Rhymes and even the not forgotten Snoop Dogg (Lion?).

No other major American sport’s All-Star Game is even close in terms of pop culture impact either. There was a Kendrick Lamar concert between the three-point contest and the slam dunk contest. Just think about that. The NBA All-Star Weekend is not just a few games, or a social gathering. It is an all out pop culture haven. Even better, the celebrity game is actually interesting!

All of the celebrities that participated in the game actually had a little game, which is strange for any sport (we are obviously excluding Victoria’s Secret model Erin Heatherton). But Kevin Hart talking smack to former 3-time NBA champion Bruce Bowen was one of the highlights of the weekend. The U.S. Secretary of Education (Arne Duncan) almost put up a triple-double, doing his best Tim Duncan impression. WNBA stars such as Skylar Diggins and Elena Delle Donne also put on a show, with Diggins in particular getting physical with Hart, the crowd favorite.

However, I think the real driving force behind the NBA’s success in keeping an entertaining All-Star Weekend is the nature of the game itself. It is the individual matchups of great players across the NBA that make the weekend spectacular. People can talk up Manning vs. Brady all they want, but the simple fact is that they do not actually line up against each other at the line of scrimmage. Even in Major League Baseball’s All-Star game, there is no guarantee you will ever see Craig Kimbrel staring down Miguel Cabrera.

But a standardized three-point contest, a timed skills challenge, or even a somewhat subjective slam dunk contest feeds the casual fans with the competition they really want out of the All-Star Weekend. Let’s be honest, we all stayed awake to the finish of the All-Star Game to see Lebron face off against Durant. Of course Blake Griffin’s thunderous dunks helped a little bit too.

These guys all have something to prove. Guys like Anthony Davis represented his hometown in New Orleans. James tried to prove he is still the king. Chris Paul showed the world he is healthy again. And then there were the matchups. Kyrie Irving versus Stephen Curry, Lebron versus Durant and Dwayne Wade versus James Harden all had sports fans licking at their chops.

There simply is no better competition in the sporting world that represents the best players from around the league. It is not just some games. It is a party for the stars of our era — those that play basketball and those that don’t. There’s a reason all of the NBA legends come back for these games. Add in the pride behind a network of relationships (the rapper Nelly babysat Bradley Beal as a child?) and we have got some spirited games. As long as the NBA keeps up the loose atmosphere, its All-Star Game will continue to be the model of success for other leagues.






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