As far as epic wastes of time go, the NBA All-Star Game is a less epic waste of time than most of its counterparts.
That’s not saying much, but it is saying something.
The All-Star reserves were announced Thursday night, crowning 14 players to join the 10 fan-voted starters in New Orleans for the league’s annual midseason classic. Those players get to give their wives and girlfriends a bite of gumbo along with the usual flowers and chocolates this Valentine’s Day.
With the release of the vote, of course, comes the required hemming and hawing about so-called “snubs.” Anthony Davis, DeMarcus Cousins and Kyle Lowry were among of the notable names to be left off the list despite playing All-Star caliber ball, while Joe Johnson inexplicably was named over Lance Stephenson and Kobe Bryant was voted in despite playing only six (mediocre) games all season. Depending on your capacity to get upset when millionaires are denied a free weekend vacation in the Bayou, this was either an outrage or mildly discomforting.
Incoming commissioner Adam Silver needs only kick back, smile and take it all in. The NBA has to love these debates. Not only do they keep a completely unimportant exhibition like the All-Star game trending on Twitter, they also make the event itself seem somewhat relevant when compared to other sports’ All-Star festivities.
And it is, but only by comparison.
Unlike NFL players in the Pro Bowl, NBA players actually seem to want to take part in the All-Star experience. LeBron James has disappointed fans by refusing to compete in the dunk contest, but at least he’s only begging out of the minor events. The most interesting part of the Pro Bowl is seeing which player comes up with the most original excuse to skip the actual game. Maybe it’s the parties. Maybe it’s the desire for recognition and to be considered among the elite. Whatever the reason, the NBA has it and the NFL doesn’t.
At least the NFL only has to battle disinterest. Major League Baseball was so shell-shocked by the 2002 tie, it’s endeavored to become the least-exclusive All-Star proceeding in sports. Nearly 70 players — 34 for each league — make the rosters in baseball, or 3.78 times the number of players who can actually occupy the field at a given time. If the NBA made up its rosters using the same percentage, each conference’s squad would consist of 19 players, instead of the current 12.
None of this makes the NBA All-Star Game a perfect setup, or even remotely watchable. It turns into a real game about once every four to five years, with a string of unbearable, defense-free dunkfests in between. The use of sleeved jerseys this year will only add to the ugliness.
As far as all-star games go, though, the NBA can boast that it might have the one that matters most. It’s not exactly a brag worth trumpeting, but in relation to some of the other abominations attempted by its brethren in the four major sports, the NBA can at least argue that its attempt at all-star pageantry isn’t the absolute worst.