Feb 26, 2012, 12:48 PM EDT
Sunday night, 24 players will amble into the Amway Center in Orlando, Florida. Many of them will be hungover, sleep-deprived, or both from a night of partying at all the hot spots during the biggest nightlife year for the NBA universe. They will casually go through the media requirements, slowly get dressed, do some casual shooting, talk with a lot of friends and acquaintances.
They will play a game, of sorts. There will be no defense. There will be very little effort. There will be some ooh and ahh moments, a few dunks, some neat passes, and a general giggly sort of feel to the day. It will be presented with lots of flash and pageantry and have no effect on anything, nor should it. It shouldn’t decide homecourt advantage in the Finals, it shouldn’t impact playoff seedings, it’s an exhibition and should mean absolutely nothing.
Those players were elected to play in the game either by fan vote, the same fan vote which routinely ignores any and all evidence to who has been good or not good throughout the season and is primarily decided based on either the presence of an overwhelming voting block (in the case of Yao Ming), or the player’s station as a member of one of the big three teams (Los Angeles Lakers, Boston Celtics, Chicago Bulls), or by coaches’ decision, which is often done using impact from assistants or video editors and which can often be attributed to recognition of a lifetime event or influence from what they “should do.”
To sum up, today’s NBA All-Star Game is a completely meaningless exhibition in which you will barely remember anything outside of who wins MVP and who was on roster, and was constructed using completely meaningless, bogus, and largely flawed methods of election. Saying the All-Star game is stupid isn’t really a stretch, even if it’s a bit much for something that’s just supposed to be fun for fans. Fun things can be meaningless, like cartoons for your four-year-old or appletinis (say hey, LBJ). There’s no harm in that. This is not advocacy for eliminating the All-Star Game. The Game is a tradition, a nice PR tool for the league, and a fun experience, if exhausting and boring for players after about their third time.
No, what this is is a study in contrasts. Because while this game is constructed nearly without meaning, entirely arbitrarily, its relevance expands beyond this day, this season, this year and into a much greater context. That’s the real dichotomy of the All-Star Game. It’s both meaningless and crucial.
When evaluating the resumes of players listed for the Hall of Fame, the criteria is complex, but it’s like any other resume. When you list your resume to an employer, are you able to encapsulate on a 1-2 page document why that job you were at less than six months didn’t work out? Can you describe the thriving success you experienced at the position you were at for four years without a promotion? Can you give context to why one award granted meant a lot and was well-earned while the other was simply the result of your relationship with the awarding board? No. You just fill in the lines. I can do X, I have done X, I want to do X. That’s it.
The All-Star resumes are no different. Stats, a specific anecdote, perhaps, championships most importantly, and then there’s that which is most often the first thing listed.
X-Time NBA All-Star.
That line holds relevance in history. When we debate the relative merits of a player for inclusion in the Hall (and don’t get me wrong, we can say a lot of the same things about the Hall of Fame that we say about the All-Star Game; in fact, the Hall is probably a bigger disaster than a game which is voted for online), that measure is used to distinguish. Being a six-time NBA All-Star? That’s more than a half-decade of being one of the elite players in the NBA!
Some six-time All-Stars in the Hall of Fame: Tiny Archibald, Adrian Dantley, Joe Dumars, Artis Gilmore, Tommy Heinsohn, Jack Twyman.
Joe Johnson is a six-time All-Star.
(Note: I’m one of the few people left on the planet who doesn’t punish Johnson for his contract relative to his performance. The Hawks have made the playoffs each year since 2008, haven’t been an abject embarrassment in them outside of the Bucks series which they won, and gave Atlanta a run. Johnson, for all his moderate efficiency, is a huge part of that and is constantly underrated for his defensive work. My point is more about how we look at things now versus how we will look at things later.)
When we look back at Johnson’s career, the contextual stuff about the disgust over his selection or the mockery of his production relative to his contract will get lost. Someone’s going to be perusing Basketball-Reference in ten year who has never seen Joe Johnson play a second of basketball, look at his per-game stats during his peak, look at that six-time All-Star streak, find the YouTube of his work in the Boston series 2008, and think of him as a pretty great player, when currently, he may be the most derided All-Star selected, and Chris Bosh is on the team for crying out loud (again, I don’t have an issue with Bosh, he’s actually been great this year, but for the most part people hate him).
My point is, this stuff matters.
Going to the All-Star game means nothing, but it means more than the All-NBA teams, which receive so much less scrutiny and criticism. Being an All-Star means something to your career. It puts you into that level. When people in non-NBA contexts introduce you, they introduce you as “NBA All-Star.” It’s a designation that represents being something greater, not just currently, but within the massive flow of players that ebb in and out of the league. Stars rise and die in weeks in this league (take heed, Jeremy Lin), and these players selected are above. Paul Pierce is a nine-time All-Star. Nine. He’s probably going to wind up with a decade of All-Star appearances.
Jermaine O’Neal is a footnote in the NBA, and he’s pretty much only mentioned in reference to how slow he is or his injury issues.
The guy is a six-time All-Star!
And there are certainly debates about the quality of stars in the league relative to these eras. But they’re only mentioned in relatively recent context. We ignore how many fewer teams there were in 1980 and before, when some of the biggest legends exist. And no, no one’s going to be talking about Joe Johnson or Jermaine O’Neal as all-time greats, but there is a fondness that develops as a man’s career passes, a remembrance of when he was best that comes to overshadow the fading years of age. The same will happen with Jason Kidd, with Kevin Garnett, the same has already happened with Gary Payton.
So today is a day for lazy skip passes, a few off-the-backboard alley-oops. Kobe will shoot a lot and if he’s feeling it will score a lot and make everyone shake their head, grin and go “Oh, Kobe.” LeBron may have one of those days… you know what, no, James has never taken this event seriously, probably never will. Blake Griffin will do some stuff. But none of it means anything, and the process of their respective assemblies is obviously flawed, subjective, invalid and largely a joke. But the fact that they are there (or in Joe Johnson’s case, there in spirit) does resonate. It does reflect something about their position in the context of this game, of sports, of culture.
Having been an All-Star means something, even if being one doesn’t.
May 21, 2013, 8:00 AM EDT
Game 2 is not going to look like Game 1. Memphis is not going to get its doors blown off from the opening tip as happened in their Game 1 loss. You can expect better pick and roll defense out of Memphis. You can also expect better ball movement and more Zach Randolph. You can…
May 21, 2013, 2:02 AM EDT
From the start, there was one thing most likely to keep Mike D’Antoni from returning as Lakers coach — free agent Dwight Howard. It may not have been that direct — and it may not change who is the Lakers coach next season — but apparently Howard let Lakers management know exactly how he feels…
May 21, 2013, 1:19 AM EDT
We need a game in this series so we can talk about basketball and not this ridiculous game of telephone. As we explained before, LeBron James took umbrage at something a reporter told him Pacers’ coach Frank Vogel said — except Vogel never said it. What Vogel said was, “They’re the next team that’s in…
May 20, 2013, 11:15 PM EDT
If you’re like me, you have been transfixed by the tragic events that have unfolded around Oklahoma City on Monday, where a monster tornado has left death and devastation in its wake. The pictures out of schools in that city are heart wrenching. The thoughts of all of us here at PBT are with the…
May 20, 2013, 9:30 PM EDT
Just three seasons ago, the Golden State Warriors were a 26-win team with Monta Ellis and Corey Maggette as their two leading scorers — this was a team in need of a radical overhaul. Enter new ownership willing to invest in winning, new players to go with then rookie Stephen Curry, a new coach in…
May 20, 2013, 6:55 PM EDT
Let’s start out here by saying take this all with a grain of salt. People’s descriptions of fights after a bar closes often do not match reality. But a pair of brothers in Oregon told television station KGW that they snapped a picture of Blazers point guard Damian Lillard walking to his car outside a…
May 20, 2013, 5:56 PM EDT
Would the Nets wait to hire a coach until Memphis is eliminated from the playoffs just so they can make a run at Lionel Hollins, whose contract expires after the season? If Scott Skiles is a top alternative, patience could make sense. What’s there to lose? Gery Woelfel of the Journal Times: Some NBA officials…
May 20, 2013, 5:32 PM EDT
The Nets were surely dejected when Phil Jackson turned them down, so it seems they want at least one coaching candidate who’s extremely unlikely to reject them. Gery Woelfel of the Journal Times (hat tip: Matt Moore of Eye on Basketball): the Nets also have put Scott Skiles on their short list. Skiles was fired…
May 20, 2013, 5:23 PM EDT
The Nets are pretty hamstrung with their roster this summer. Billy King did put together an interesting team to open the Barclays Center in Brooklyn, a team led by Deron Williams and Brook Lopez that was the fourth seed in the East. But he capped out the team to do it — they have $86…
May 20, 2013, 4:07 PM EDT
In the last three years and five of the last six, the No. 1 pick in the NBA Draft has been a player who declared after only one year of college basketball (Blake Griffin being the exception). At one point, Shabazz Muhammad was rated as the the No. 1 incoming freshman, so it’s reasonable he…
May 20, 2013, 3:59 PM EDT
The NBA Summer League is about rookies and guys trying to make NBA rosters — basically it’s guys 10-15 on the NBA bench and a bunch of players who will be in Europe next season battling it out to impress scouts. But each year a handful of name players (often top drafted rookies) are there…
May 20, 2013, 3:44 PM EDT
Amar’e Stoudemire just dealt with one of the more frustrating seasons of his career. A variety of injuries limited him to only 29 appearances and 23.5 minutes per game when he was healthy enough to suit up. And while he made a return to the Knicks’ lineup in the 2nd round against the Pacers, he…
May 20, 2013, 2:43 PM EDT
For the next five weeks PBT will be profiling likely first-round draft picks in the upcoming NBA Draft. Today we talk about Pitt’s star center. In today’s NBA player development matters a lot — draft a guy and for a few years bring him along slowly, develop his skills and mold him into a player…
May 20, 2013, 1:28 PM EDT
Fans of every lottery team have a simple solution for how to operate in a historically weak draft: Trade down. Of course, if you think this is a weak draft, other teams probably do too, and they’re not going to be so keen on trading up. But there might be one team interested in trading…
May 20, 2013, 1:25 PM EDT
It’s Dwight Howard silly rumor season. Everyone knows the Lakers are still the front-runners in this race but the latest reports have the Rockets and Mavericks at least in a good stalking position to make a move once this race moves into the home stretch. Other teams may try to get into the mix as…
May 20, 2013, 12:44 PM EDT
The Bobcats would receive the Trail Blazer’s first-round draft pick this year – a remnant of the Gerald Wallace trade – in the .001 percent chance Portland lands the No. 13 pick in tomorrow’s draft lottery. But Charlotte is doing a lot of work based on just that .001 percent chance. Rick Bonnell of charlotteobserver.com:…
May 20, 2013, 12:28 PM EDT
Bryan Colangelo is still going to be with the Toronto Raptors. But he is going to be on the other side of the building (at least metaphorically). By today the Raptors had to come to a decision on picking up Colangelo’s option as the franchise’s general manager and decision maker. And he is out in…
May 20, 2013, 11:52 AM EDT
The video above was a reminder to Alonzo Mourning that there is no privacy anymore. Not anywhere. (And if you think Jordan’s legacy would be the same in today’s world of cell phone video and 24-hour news/blog cycle as it was in his era… you should ask Steve Kerr about that rock show on the…
May 20, 2013, 11:03 AM EDT
There are a lot of coaching interview rumors right now — basically the same handful of guys interviewing for every open job while those fan bases dream of Phil Jackson and Stan Van Gundy. What follows is a wrap up of the weekend news from the coaching searches going on. • The Suns are going…
May 20, 2013, 10:33 AM EDT
If you watched Carmelo Anthony at all as he tried to carry the Knicks through the playoffs (often too single-handedly, but that’s another issue for another day), you could tell that his left shoulder was really bothering him. So it’s not a shock that a team doctor is about to have a look at it,…
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