It’s been a trying season thus far, but the NBA finally has reached the All-Star break.
For most teams, it couldn’t have come soon enough, as a handful have played shorthanded while struggling with COVID-19 outbreaks. And the fatigue must be real after the shortest offseason ever.
For these reasons, some — including players — have criticized the league’s decision to hold the 2021 NBA All-Star Game in Atlanta in the first place.
But commissioner Adam Silver has a business to run. He explained the NBA’s decision to hold the festivities Saturday during his annual midseason press conference.
“I haven’t made a secret out of the fact that economic interests are a factor, I’ll add though that, to me, when I say economic interests are a factor, it’s less to do with the economics of one Sunday night on TNT in the United States. It has more to do with the larger brand value of the NBA, and the fact that this is our No. 1 fan engagement event of the year,” Silver said when asked if he felt pressure to hold the All-Star Game considering the financial hit the league took during the pandemic.
“Not only did roughly 100 million people vote for the All-Stars on a global basis, you know. Based on past ratings, well over 100 million people will watch the game and the ancillary competitions. We’ll have over a billion social media views and engagements. And so, it’s sort of what we do. And so, for me, it would have been a bigger deal not to have it. I mean, and especially since we know how to operate a bubble, and we have called it our mini bubble here in Atlanta, from the moment the players land to when they leave, they’re going to be only operating between the hotel, and the arena. Once we got to the point where we felt we could do it safely, it seemed that definitely should go forward we should do it for our fans and we should do it for our business.”
And as for the players who have called out the league’s decision? Silver respectfully believes some comments may have been a little reactionary.
“The guys, many have told me directly, they’re thrilled to be All-Stars, and they recognize their careers are relatively short,” Silver said.
“Maybe it should be judged when people are looking back on what this meant to them as opposed to what sort of initial reactions were from some of the players.”
The All-Star Game tips off Sunday at 8 p.m. ET.