AP Photo/Lynne Sladky
There is no All-Star game more exciting than the NBA All-Star Game. As Bill Simmons expunges in his book, The Book of Basketball, to be at an NBA game is as close to the action as you can get in any sport without being behind a glass panel for protection.
You can hear the players talk, you can feel their sweat, and you can marvel in their size and athleticism that is so far beyond anything you have ever experienced. Put it simply, you are right there.
So for that reason it’s not hard to see why the NBA All-Star Game is better (or at least more jolting) than other sports. In baseball, the fans are far away from the players, rendering the actual game something of a boring formality. The Home Run Derby is certainly the spectacle fans want to see — more because of the close proximity and loose atmosphere than anything else. In hockey, the game is fun, but because of pads, helmets, and the speed of the game, it’s hard to pick out the great moments outside of the Skills Competition.
And no one likes the Pro Bowl in football because, well, the Pro Bowl is boring.
The awesome part about the NBA All-Star Game is the clarity in which we view these titans of athleticism. Whether during the slam dunk contest, the skills challenge or the game itself, the true star characteristics that each player possesses shines through in magnificent and mind-blowing ways.
Consider for a moment the prospect of having seats right behind the dugout for the MLB All-Star Game. You get to see the guys standing in the clubhouse, and get to watch your favorite players stand in and face good pitching. Perhaps you get to see a base hit. It doesn’t do justice to the level of skill the players have. In other words, the magnificence of those athletes does not translate well to the audience (in most cases).
In Orlando, if you happen to grab some floor seats, lower bowl seats, or even upper bowl seats, when Blake Griffin rises and rips, you are going to feel it. Heck, you’re even going to feel it if you have a flat screen and turn your volume up a bit at home. The greatness of NBA All-Stars is in perfect focus, partly because only 10 guys are on the court at any given time, but partly because the cameras are close, and they aren’t hindered by walls, pads, helmets, or any other obstruction. You’re right there.
The same microscopic clarity shines through in the individual competitions as well. There is a reason so many fans prefer the home run challenge to the MLB All-Star Game itself. It’s because you get to be right there (on TV). You hear the voices, you get a zoom shot on the batter, and his power and coordination become abundantly clear. For that reason, the Home Run Derby comes close to rivaling the events of the NBA All-Star Game. However, because it’s more fun watching guys fly than it is to watch them swing a bat, the events surrounding the NBA All-Star Game are always going to be the most exciting.
Here is what an All-Star game does in a way that nothing else in the entire world can do: it shows you once and for all that there are individuals in the world who possess abilities, traits, and skills that we cannot imagine. When you watch something and realize that you are but a tiny fraction in comparison with others, it’s mesmerizing. It’s earth shattering, actually, and it’s a big reason why I am thrilled to be in attendance at this year’s game as a member of the media.
Here’s my wish list for All-Star Weekend in Orlando:
- An absurd pass from Derrick Rose that leaves everyone on the court and in the stands totally frozen until three seconds after the bucket.
- Dwight Howard going Blake Griffin on a fast break, getting hit in stride, and finishing hard over someone (perhaps Pau Gasol).
- Kobe Bryant going 0-for-0 from the floor with 14 assists.
- Ryan Anderson sweeping the Three-Point Shootout, hitting 24 or 25 in his final round, and then putting up a three-point mask on his way off the court.
- A three-way alley-oop. This is going to have to be on a 3-on-2 fastbreak, starting with LeBron tossing it up from 25 feet to D-Rose, who catches and lobs it straight up for D-Wade, who tosses it off the backboard in mid-air. The whole thing finishes with LeBron coming out of nowhere and throwing down a mind-bending smash that defies all smashes.
- I hope there is a series of 3 to 4 possessions where Roy Hibbert decides not to get back on defense, and cherry-picks looking for the 100-foot lob. Even if it fails all four times, I’d love to see the effort.
- If the West decides to go serious and play hack-a-Dwight, I would stand up and applaud.
- It would be terrific to see the West go small for a large chunk of time. Nash-Parker-Paul-Westbrook-Kobe. The idea is to scramble and run at 100 percent speed and just see what happens.
- I need a big block. Maybe a chasedown block from LeBron, but maybe just a gigantic denial at the rim. Griffin getting stuffed by Wade would suffice.
Basically I’m under the assumption that anything could happen at All-Star Weekend.
We’ll see if it pans out.