The NBA announced a few tweaks to the format of its All-Star Saturday lineup on Thursday, connecting the events by way of a competition between the Eastern and Western Conferences and adding “captains” to oversee the spectacle.
In years past, the four events — the Shooting Stars, Skills Challenge, Three-Point Contest and Slam Dunk Contest — were totally independent. Beginning at this year’s 2013 All-Star Weekend in Houston, the East and West will receive points based on the results of each of the four events, with the overal winning conference earning extra money to donate to charity
Why make these changes?
The primary motivation would seem to be drumming up interest in the Shooting Stars and Skills Challenge, which have traditionally been pointless appetizers before the real show begins with the Three-Point Contest and Dunk Contest, and gaining exposure for the charities. It’s not entirely clear how many people out there will actually be motivated to tune in earlier and stick around throughout simply because of a charity-driven competition, but this will give the television broadcasters some extra material to fill time. It should help the charities involved get constant name-checking and logo shots on televised graphics as the competition’s progress is being tracked from event to event.
The inclusion of captains for each side could also help spark interest. Big-name NBA stars have become a courtside fixture during the Dunk Contest, which adds some excitement and buzz to the scene. Watching LeBron James watch the Dunk Contest is often as exciting as the Dunk Contest itself. If the Saturday Night captains wind up being star players and they interact with the participants throughout the events, that could be reason enough to tune in. Just imagine James and Kevin Durant lightheartedly talking trash during the Shooting Skills. A chance to watch the stars interact in a somewhat impromptu and extemporaneous fashion would be far more entertaining than the WNBA halfcourt shot contest.
Of course, there’s a chance the Saturday Night captains wind up being broadcasters or former players, in which case we’re right back to no one caring about the first half of the show. Please, NBA: do not make the captains Shaquille O’Neal and Magic Johnson. Resist the temptation.
The 2013 All-Star Game will be held on Sunday, Feb. 17 at the Toyota Center. All-Star Saturday will be Feb. 16.