Now that the dust has settled, most of us can agree that we just witnessed the worst NBA All-Star game in history. The Eastern Conference dropped a record 211 points to the Western Conference. The final score ended up being 211-186. Granted, with how prolific three-point shooting has become, record scores are inevitable. But you can’t cheat our eye. And the eye test says that these fellas weren’t even giving effort that could warrant us saying they were barely going through the motions. So why was this game so egregiously bad?
What has become too painfully glaring in modern society is the prominence of brand partnerships. Damn near everything that we consume visually daily is an advertisement. Hell, some ads help this site run currently. It’s a way of life at this point. And NBA All-Star Weekend has become one of the biggest advertising opportunities for tech, spirits and food brands. I first realized how blatant it all seemed this year during last Friday night’s celebrity game.
Emanating from Lucas Oil Field, the NBA Celebrity Game boasted a first-ever LED basketball court. Pretty cool idea right? Visually, it was a lot to me. But I thought it was fun. However, it wasn’t lost on me that this LED screen that spanned 90 feet would be a vehicle for ads. And a vehicle it was. From Ruffles to Starry, it was color schemes and logos galore. The NBA isn’t alone in finding new ways to incorporate branding in their on-air product. As a well-documented pro wrestling fan, I’ve seen the WWE in recent years similarly. Lately, during the Royal Rumble, they’ve had the likes of Applebee’s and other sponsors the countdown clock. So I accept that this is a thing and that this piece of writing will not change that.
However, brand activations at these huge events are a whole other beast. When athletes are the faces of some aforementioned industries and brands, they end up having to pull double and triple duty during all-star weekend. Chris Broussard alluded to as much earlier this week.
In a nutshell, what is demanded of players now, is a lot more than what was demanded of players in the past. And it’s these demands that have grown incrementally over the past even seven years that have manifested in a lackluster All-Star Game. So how can the NBA remedy this?
For starters, how brand activations are scheduled needs a huge overhaul. The priority of All-Star Weekend used to be all about the fans. If players don’t have any energy to perform even marginally, then we’re doing a disservice to those to sacrificed to be able to attend the weekend’s festivities. I know the world of business often dismisses some of the residual negative effects of its practices. But if we can throw maybe 3 fewer open bar parties, it might could be a start. It’s illogical to cram so much for these players to do in about 4 days. Not only that but at the very least, it’s dismissive of what’s asked of them in a macro sense.
Now that brings us to the players. These are the players who in large part were voted on by their peers, and the fans to be able to participate in the weekend’s festivities. The players in our current NBA era need to care about the game, period. There’s been so much talk about incentivizing the players more in hopes that they’ll play harder. But what about legacy? There’s a huge contingent of basketball fans whose fondest memories of the game include past All-Star Games!
Personally, when prospective Hall of Famers are on the ballot, and they seem to be on the fence, I consider All-Star Game performances. The All-Star Game is, and was a huge conduit for players to become household names. I grew up with memories of Tracy McGrady and Vince Carter throwing alleys to themselves! The first time I saw any of that stuff was in the all star-game. It helped define just who those guys were in the history of the game. And up until today, they’re remembered.
So I implore anyone, with any pull, who happens to be reading this, to make the All-Star Game a priority. Make your fans a priority. Because I can’t imagine the ratings for these events increasing with the type of play we saw this past weekend. To the players, keep your legacy top of mind. The All-Star Game only helps your star shine brighter. But that’s only if you respect it.