In years past, the NBA All-Star game and other related events have been a cavalcade of entertainment and great basketball from some of the game’s best stars. This past weekend, however, was an exception to that rule.
The consensus throughout the sports world is that both the All-Star game, dunk contest, and three-point contest were all a snooze compared to years past. Players clearly not giving their all in the all-star game itself was evident, and while the Lebron vs KD draft is a good idea in theory, it’s not being supported by entertaining basketball.
Anyone who watched the game just had to look at a shot of Shaq’s face to see how bored he was. This is a guy who lives basketball and he looked like he’d rather be anywhere else.
The lack of originality or flair in the dunk contest was also apparent and several players were simply missing dunks or just not doing anything that we haven’t seen before. It was a cool thing to see Obi Toppin win the dunk contest, but it just didn’t feel like we were treated to anything all that impressive this weekend.
What’s causing this
A big part of the issue is an already generally declining viewership in the NBA. It’s still 2nd most popular in the US behind the NFL, but the NBA just does not seem to garner the same excitement it did five years ago.
After hitting a record low in viewership last year of just 3.1 million tuning in, the NBA is continuing its downward trajectory in terms of All-Star game viewership in 2022. The All-Star game itself did alright, but it was the dunk and three-point contests that have really stirred this negative publicity.
Stephen A. Smith laid into this year’s dunk contest, calling it…
“the worst slam dunk contest in the history of basketball. It was a national atrocity. It was awful”, on “First Take” Monday afternoon.
Smith is widely known for his hyperbole and humor, but he’s really not wrong. The dunk contest looked more like a causal practice than an All-Star weekend event. The amount of missed dunks were cringe-worthy and it’s hard not to sympathize with the people who paid for tickets and were subjected to severely underwhelming basketball this weekend.
Smith also cited the fact that this year’s participants such as Cole Anthony and Juan Tascano-Anderson are not really guys who normally dazzle with their dunking ability, so it’s not a surprise that the contest was so lackluster this year.
How the other leagues are doing
While the MLB may not be nearly as popular overall, the league actually did better in ratings in 2021 than in the last few years and people are starting to cite the All-Star game as a reason the MLB is still holding its own.
Something baseball has that basketball simply doesn’t is the history as well as pomp and circumstance that comes with the MLB All-Star game, coupled with the fact that the MLB’s All-Star game is able to be played outdoors and over the summer.
Hockey may be the least popular of the four major American sports, but even the NHL’s all-star game has more flare than the NBA’s. Something, MLB player Josh Donaldson cited in a recent tweet, also ripping the NBA All-Star weekend.
For the NFL, the pro-bowl is already a joke, but it doesn’t really matter because, well… it’s the NFL. Nobody is going to stop watching football because of the pro-bowl. It’s questionable whether the same can be said for pro basketball, though.
What this means for the NBA
The NBA is undeniably less popular than it was five years ago, and just feels less entertaining than it used to be. It may not seem like the biggest deal right now, but NBA fans should be at least slightly worried.
Both regular season and playoff game viewership are declining in popularity and the league just does not seem to be throwing the same kind of exciting talent and games on the court that it used to be.
With players like LeBron, KD, Steph Curry and James Harden all in their 30’s now, it’s on the new generation of talent like Ja Morant, Trae Young and Luka Doncic to bring that excitement and flare back to pro basketball.