Is the NBA All-Star Game Worth the Effort?

This weekend, the annual NBA All-Star Game and all the events that come with it will be held in Las Vegas. The game, as always, will be an exhibition game. There will be absolutely no defense played and the only effort that will be put forth by the players will be to see who can throw down the sickest dunk.

With all this in mind, you might find yourself wondering why on Earth this game is even played. There are a couple of reasons, few of which that are legitimate, typically given to defend the practice of holding these annual exhibition games. One of the best reasons is that the All-Star break gives the players a much-needed rest from the grind that is the 82-game NBA season. Another excuse you will often hear provided by league officials is that the game is played for the fans. This argument seems to hold up because the fans vote on the starting lineups and numerous events are designed to bring them closer to the players and the game in the host city; however, the real reason has nothing to do with the fans. Let’s be honest. Most players are not nearly savvy enough to understand the importance of giving back to the fans. The answers to why the players tolerate this All-Star nonsense are simple: the money and the parties.

Virtually all NBA players have clauses in their contracts which grant sometimes substantial salary bonuses if a player is selected to his conference’s select All-Star team. That bonus grows even more substantially if a player is voted to be a starter by the fans.

The other reasons that players simply don’t turn down the All-Star invitations are the parties. Yes, you read that correctly, I did say the parties. Having lived in Houston, which hosted the NBA All-Star Game recently, I was able to witness this first hand. I can say with great conviction that there were more parties during NBA All-Star Weekend in Houston than there was when my native Houston hosted the Super Bowl the year before. The city that hosts the NBA All-Star Game will usually play host to several huge celebrity parties as well as a couple of parties hosted by magazines (i.e. Playboy and Maxim).

These reasons seem to be perfectly valid for keeping the All-Star Game intact as is. But the best possible scenario this weekend will not come as a result of the NBA holding the All-Star Game and its’ accompanying festivities. The BEST possible scenario would be if no player gets injured (be it a participant in the All-Star Game or the Rookie-Sophomore Game, which is held on Saturday night and showcases the league’s top rookies in a game against the best second year players) and no player gets arrested.

What if Kobe Bryant breaks his leg? This is a very real possibility. If you need evidence, we need only to look back a week ago when New Orleans Saints star quarterback Drew Brees dislocated his left elbow playing in the Pro Bowl (out two months). I doubt Lakers’ fans would be very happy if their team’s heart and soul breaks his leg in an All-Star Game that doesn’t even matter.

God forbid, but what if one of the league’s young stars (like LeBron James or Dwyane Wade) makes a poor decision and commits a crime or is falsely accused of something that he didn’t do? What would fans say then?

For a game that doesn’t matter, there seems to be a whole lot of risk and not much reward. But hey, I might just be cynical.