Ridiculous game

Ridiculous game

National Basketball Association (NBA) commissioner Adam Silver was not a happy camper in the aftermath of the 2023 All-Star Game. He had seen the two teams combine for a ridiculous 359 points off 255 field goal tries. The final score — in which there was a nine-point difference — made it seem like the match was close, but “opposing” would be an onerous adjective to describe both sides. A mere seven fouls were called, not to mention four free throws attempted, from start to finish — as clear an indication as any that defense was nonexistent.

And so Silver spent the next year trying to find a solution to the utter absence of competitiveness in what was supposed to be the highlight of All-Star Weekend. That all he could do as a result was mandate a return to the old East-versus-West format underscored the complexity of the problem. Even as players want to showcase their best by way of thanking fans, they understand that exerting no small measure of effort in the exhibition comes with risk. They simply do not want to get injured going at full speed in an inconsequential venture. For all their desire to invest in the contest, they are constrained by the potential damage to their career.

Little wonder, then, that Silver was still not a happy camper in the aftermath of the 2024 All-Star Game. The aggregate score was 38 points higher. The number of committed foul shrank even more to three. And so dismayed was he by the outcome that he oozed with sarcasm during the trophy presentation. Meanwhile, the so-called All-Stars seemed like they couldn’t care less. Anthony Edward’s, one of those tabbed to be the future of the league, went so far as to admit that “It’s a break. So I don’t think nobody want to come here and compete.”

Silver has come full circle. Seven years ago, he sought to modify the rules and have team captains — the top vote getters — construct the lineups. Four years ago, he added the Elam Ending. The unique concoction led to what was arguably the best-ever centerpiece. The ensuing set-to showed how a perfect blend of the NBA’s crème de la crème can produce a masterpiece. Everybody competed to the fullest, and on both ends of the court.

Moving forward, there is need for Silver and Company to think outside the box anew. Perhaps it’s because the game itself has been around for quite a while now; at 74 years old, it’s definitely long in the tooth. Perhaps it’s also because a different set of thinking informs today’s crop of talents; as gung-ho as they may be for bragging rights, they’re practical enough to acknowledge that nothing trumps their health. And while advances in medicine and technology have helped them take better care of their bodies, the very improvements under today’s style of play likewise demands more from them.

There is no quick fix to Silver’s concerns. As with the Slam Dunk Contest, it is in dire need of innovation. And in the face of the alarming indifference from the stalwarts who should be celebrating it, the adjustments cannot come quickly enough.


Anthony L. Cuaycong has been writing Courtside since BusinessWorld introduced a Sports section in 1994. He is a consultant on strategic planning, operations and human resources management, corporate communications,  and business development.