First, it was off. Now, it’s on.
Originally, the NBA decided to cancel its 2021 All-Star Game due to COVID-19 concerns. That event was supposed to take place in Indianapolis next month.
Now, the league is moving forward with a revised version of its annual event at State Farm Arena in Atlanta, even though some players aren’t too fond of the idea.
So, why did the NBA make this decision? Commissioner Adam Silver revealed that answer during an appearance on TNT’s “Inside the NBA” on Thursday.
And in doing so, he revealed the league’s hand.
“It begins with the fans,” Silver said, as seen on TNT’s broadcast. “All-Star (Weekend) is the No. 1 fan engagement event of the entire season for the league. It’s been a 70-year tradition, something like 100 million people will vote for All-Stars, the highlights coming out of All-Star Weekends historically have generated in the neighborhood of a billion views. Something like 130 million people will watch the All-Star Game on a global basis.
“And I’ll say, when I was on with you guys last March when we first shut down, people were mixed. Some people were congratulating us for shutting down. Some people thought maybe we’d done something prematurely, and I said, ‘We should be judged ultimately by our ability to operate during a pandemic, not to shut down in a pandemic. Anyone can be closed. And for us, we set out on a course, whether it was in the bubble in Orlando or this season, to present the league as close to a normal state as possible. And so for us, All-Star (Weekend) is part of our league, no different than the games we play. And I’ll just end by saying it begins and ends with the fans. And as I said, this is an event our fans love to see. They love to see our players come together. But nothing comes without controversy during the pandemic.”
To translate: It’s all about making the fans happy, which makes the NBA (and its wallets) happy. Players’ happiness, though? That’s secondary, even in a pandemic.
The All-Star Game is slated for March 7.