Three ideas to spice up All-Star Weekend

Published February 23, 2023, 9:00 AMPolo Bustamante
Polo Bustamante

NBA.com Philippines writer Polo Bustamante shares his ideas on how to make the NBA All-Star Weekend even more exciting.

The NBA All-Star Weekend is always a fun romp. The players had a lot of fun. That’s the point of the All-Star Weekend. Anytime the league’s best and brightest come together in one event, there’s always something cool that’s bound to happen. Like Dame Time happening in a 3-Point Shootout, or a 540 dunk, or an impromptu one-on-one between teammates.

Fans also want their All-Stars to take things just a little more seriously though. With mostly only pride at stake, the players selected to these events can sometimes treat this as a paid vacation. Because of that, competitiveness goes out the window. For fans trying to enjoy the All-Star experience, that’s not so fun.

So here are three ideas to spice up the All-Star Weekend that will keep things fun for both players and fans alike.

1. Make the All-Star Game Team USA vs. Team International

Having the highest vote-getters draft their teams was cool. Changing the format of the game to the Elam Ending made things more exciting. But it seems the novelty to those two recent tweaks to the main game has worn off. Turning the All-Star Game into a battle between US All-Stars and International All-Stars might solve the issues plaguing the event.

By changing the way teams are formed, it solves the issue of repetitive players teaming up with each other. It also puts a little more at stake for both teams. Will Team USA defend their home turf or will the International All-Stars fully showcase how they’re taking over the league.

Just imagine, the league’s MVP front-runners, Luka Doncic, Nikola Jokic, and Giannis Antetokounmpo facing off against their underdog counterparts, Jayson Tatum, LeBron James, and Kevin Durant. Beyond those three, the international team can trot out guys like Joel Embiid, Shai Gilgeous-Alexander, and Domantas Sabonis. The US All-Stars can match with big names like Stephen Curry, Ja Morant, and Anthony Davis.

With more and more international players coming into the league, the roster combinations are endless. Can the US Team stop a frontline with Jokic, Antetokounmpo, Embiid, AND Victor Wembenyama? Will the US counter by going small with James at center surrounded by elite shooters like Curry, Lillard, and Tatum?

This turf war between the emerging international players and the old guard US players should add a little more heat to the All-Star Game. Maybe then, some defense will be played when the game is on the line.

2. Bring in Viral Sensations to the 3-Point Shootout and Dunk Contest

Mac McClung saved the dunk contest. You want to know why? Because he wasn’t dunking like an NBA player. He was dunking like his high school self, where he was a viral sensation.

That might be the key to not only saving the Dunk Contest, but bringing new energy to the 3-Point Contest beyond branded balls. Add players that have made a name for themselves online because of their dunking or shooting skills.

Similar to the first idea, bringing in outsiders to take part in these events will turn things into a battle of pride. Will the NBA players allow themselves to be beaten by dunkers and shooters that aren’t even in the league? At the same time, this is a chance for exhibition dunkers and shooting coaches to show just how good they are at the singular thing they’ve been doing their entire career.

It will be fun to see someone like Guy Dupuy or Jordan Kilganon showcase their crazy dunks on the biggest stage in the game. It will be even more fun to see guys like Zach LaVine, Aaron Gordon, or even Ja Morant join the competition to try to beat these guys. Even if the NBA players lose, their pride won’t take much of a hit because they lost to professional dunkers who are focused on just dunking. It’s a chance to see new faces, and more importantly new dunks in the contest.

The 3-Point Shootout doesn’t need fixing. But bringing in someone named “Lethal Shooter” try to beat someone like Curry, the best shooter in the world, should keep the momentum of this event going. 

Will Chris Matthews live up to his name or will Curry just continue his dominance from beyond the arc?

3. Replace the Skills Challenge with a 3x3 Tournament

Notice how I didn’t include the Skills Challenge in the list of events above? That’s because in my opinion, the event should be scrapped.

No matter how much they change up the format or teams, no one really understands what’s happening during the Skills Challenge. All they see are guys going half speed, throwing balls into holes or running past stanchions. With this competition becoming stale, it’s time to change things up.

The one thing that the Skills Challenge has always gotten right is the number of players per team. Whether it was the 2-Ball Competition or this current iteration that the league is going with, they always had a mix of three players. A 3x3 Tournament naturally comes to mind.

Having four teams duke it out for the NBA All-Star 3x3 crown should be more interesting  than the Skills Challenge. The games are fast-paced and always exciting. A premium is put on scoring in 3x3 games, that’s in line with the direction that the NBA is going.

How the teams are formed is where things can get fun. They can hold a draft with four NBA legends as captains picking from the G League, WNBA, and Celebrity players. They can trot out the Team USA 3x3 Team as one of the teams and have NBA teams try and beat them at their own game. Or they can form teams based on locality. Have New York run out a team with Immanuel Quickley, Sabrina Ionescu, and John Starks to face off against LA’s Jordin Canada, Austin Reaves, and Nick Van Exel. Those all sound like fun games to me.

The rise of 3x3 Basketball can’t be denied. The NBA should take notice and add this to their slate of All-Star events.