NBA All-Star Game: a slam-dunk

Imagine yourself on the edge of your seat watching the NFL Pro Bowl or MLB All-Star game. It seems unfathomable.

The norm of dull and tedious all-star games in professional sports came to a screeching halt during the 2020 NBA All-Star weekend in Chicago, which ended in nail-biting fashion.

The refinement of the All-Star Game was emphasized this year after the tragic passing of Kobe Bryant. League officials proposed new and innovative rules as a way to increase excitement in the game, while simultaneously honoring Bryant for all he did for the league.

Instead of a timed, four-quarter game, the scores of the first three quarters were each scored separately, with the score resetting to zero at each quarters end. After the first three quarters, each team’s total points were compiled. The teams would then each start with their respective point totals, and to win the game, a team had to reach whatever the leading team’s score was, plus 24, (Bryant’s jersey number) in a non-timed quarter.

In addition, one team wore number two in honor of Kobe’s daughter, Gianna, who died alongside her father; the other team sported Bryant’s 24, accordingly. Also, the MVP of the game would win the newly renamed, “Kobe Bryant All-Star MVP Award.”

The changes made by the league in Kobe’s honor proved to be a massive success. Rather than dribbling around the court for four pointless quarters, both teams played extremely hard, which had been a criticism of previous all-star games.

The climax of the game was the fourth quarter. Heading into the final quarter, Team Giannis led Team Lebron with a score of 124-133.

The quarter itself was perhaps the most intense of any all-star game since the game’s creation in 1951. Toronto Raptors guard Kyle Lowry took hard charges from the six-foot eight, 250 pound Lebron James. Philadelphia 76ers center Joel Embiid dove across the court for loose balls. Houston Rockets guard James Harden got into a shouting match with the opposing team captain, Giannis Antetokounmpo, over a referee’s call.

To casual basketball fans, this behavior is an expectation. However, around the league the all-star break has become a resting period for players. It has served as a time to recover from any small injuries as well as gear up for the final stretch of the season.

In past all-star games, most starters would be on the bench by the fourth quarter, giving the reserve players a chance to play. That was not the case this year, as almost every starter remained in the game for the entirety of the final quarter.

Team Lebron was ultimately able to come back from a seven-point deficit to defeat Team Giannis, with a final score of 157-155. Los Angeles Clippers forward Kawhi Leonard took home the first ever Kobe Bryant All-Star MVP Award.

Additionally, the winner of each quarter donated $100,000 to the charity of the team captain’s choice, as well as a $300,000 donation from the winning team.

With the 2020 All-Star game officially wrapped up, fans are left with several questions regarding the future of the event.

Should the NBA continue to model the game as they did this year? The answer is undoubtedly, yes.

Presumably, not every all-star game will be Kobe Bryant themed, but it should be noted that the game’s high intensity mostly came from playing to a target score.

Perhaps instead of adding 24 to the leading team’s score, they could add 21 points, similar to the classic backyard-basketball game, “21.”

They should even take the concept of this year’s game further, and have each quarter reach a target score. The first three quarters could go to 40 points each, allowing players to play more relaxed, whereas the final quarter would go to 21 to achieve the same intensity as this year’s game.

There is truly an endless amount of routes the NBA can take with this game. All that can be said for now is that they are heading in the right direction.