How the NBA can improve the All-Star weekend

With the NBA dog days wearing on every team, All-Star weekend (Friday, February 16-Sunday, February 18) is a well-deserved break. While All-Star weekend is an opportunity to see some of the best players in the game, it is not without its flaws – some superstars don’t participate and some of the events lack players who should be included. The NBA has tried to add excitement to the 67th All-Star Game itself by allowing the top vote-getters of Lebron James and Steph Curry to pick their teams this year.

Friday begins the action with the All-Star Celebrity game and the Rising Stars Game. The Rising Stars game showcases 10 first- and second-year from the NBA against 10 first- and second-year players from around the world. While the All-Star Celebrity game (Friday, Feb 16 at 7 on ESPN) has names fans already know, the Rising Stars game (Friday, Feb 16 at 9 on TNT) highlights players who may not get a ton of national coverage, but have the potential to become all-stars. The Skills Challenge, Three-Point Contest, and the Slam Dunk Contest are held on Saturday and will air on TNT starting at 8, with Team James taking on Team Curry in Sunday’s NBA All-Star matchup (Sunday, Feb 18 on TNT at 8).

The NBA is looking for solutions to get fans to tune in – here are mine.

While the Dunk Contest has some fun-to-watch young dunkers in Larry Nance Jr., Donovan Mitchell, Victor Oladipo, and Dennis Smith Jr., they are missing some of the best dunkers in the world. Everyone wants to see Zach Lavine and Aaron Gordon go at it again after their tremendous 2016 competition. While Gordon was supposed to participate in the contest this year until suffering a hip injury, Lavine wasn’t slated to appear. Lavine had missed most of the first half of the season recovering from a torn ACL. But he is now back and healthy. Lavine should get an automatic pass into the contest because of his past performance.

Vince Carter, one of the best dunkers of all time, is another player who should be in the competition. While he is 41 years old, giving him a shot at the dunk contest could boost ratings. His dunks from the 90s and early 2000s are considered some of the best in NBA history. Offering Carter the chance to participate would be interesting to see what he would try to pull off.

The biggest freaks in the NBA, Giannis Antetokounmpo, at 6’11 with a 7-foot wingspan, is another player who could bring some excitement to the contest. Giannis Antetokounmpo has put up some incredible dunks in the last few years. Some think he could easily dunk from behind the free-throw line just Michael Jordan did with his iconic 1987 jam. Antetokounmpo is rising star at 23 years old who can add a spark to the contest. He poses a threat to throw down on any defender in the NBA.

In the three-point contest, James Harden and Stephen Curry aren’t participating. These two superstars are two of the best three-point shooters in the league, Curry leads the league with 4.2 averaged a game and Harden in 2nd averaging 4.1. How are the top two three-point shooters in the league not in the contest? These two faces of the NBA not only lead the league but maintain high accuracy in their shooting – Curry’s three-point field goal percentage is 41.7% and Harden’s is 38.1%. If the NBA is looking to boost ratings – Harden and Curry should be participating in the three-point contest. Viewers would see teammates compete against each other in Harden and Gordon, and Curry and Thompson.

The NBA changed the All-Star games format this year from the Eastern Conference squaring up against the Western Conference to having the two highest rated players selected as team captains and picking their team’s like a pickup game. While this is an interesting take, allowing matchups and rosters that no fan would ever see outside of a video game, the NBA didn’t air this on TV. With drama unfolding on social media surrounding the picking of teams: with questions of “who will go number 1”, “will Lebron draft Kyrie”, “will Russell and KD play on the same team?”, viewer know who is on each team, but don’t know how it all went down. The league lost out on viewers with this misstep, as we all would have tuned in to see how the draft unfolded.

Last year’s All-Star Game on TNT which the West won in a 192-182 shootout, was the most-watched All-Star Game broadcast since 2013, according to Nielsen Fast National ratings, with an average of 7.8 million total viewers. The NBA could build off this excitement by making sure the most dynamic and explosive stars are on the court – in both the All-Star Game itself and the other events.