The NBA’s All-Star weekend is not about the game. Or the Dunk Contest. Or any of the rest of the activities on the court. It’s a showcase of stars, a chance for the marketing machines around the league to go into overdrive, and it’s a chance for the league to hype it’s biggest names. It’s just not about basketball.
NBA Commissioner Adam Silver gets that, and he’d like to change things. Silver mused about it at the MIT Sloan Sports Analytics Conference going on this weekend in Boston, but was quick to note this is not an easy fix.
“The All-Star Game didn’t work,” Silver said, via the Associated Press, calling it “an afterthought” and saying of the changes so players go on teams drafted by captains “I get it. We put an earring on a pig.”
Silver also talked about chopping off 15-20 percent of the NBA season, say scaling back to 70 games instead of 82. Of course, 70 games would mean six fewer home dates per team, a corresponding drop in revenue, and with that players and everyone involved with the league would have to take a 15-20 percent pay cut. Good luck with that.
Which is why Silver talked about possibly trying to replace that revenue with money from a preseason or midseason tournament, similar to what is seen in European soccer. There could be multiple smaller tournaments, Silver said. It would even be possible to have some of these tournaments overseas — Europe, Asia — where the NBA is working to grow its brand.
The forward-looking Sloan Conference is a safe place for Silver to think out loud about some of these far-reaching issues. He also was quick to admit that any changes to the length of the NBA season are not coming soon — changing all that tradition around an All-Star Game would be very difficult (and require players’ union and ownership buy-in). Even if the game itself borders on unwatchable we will keep getting it for the foreseeable future.