Every avid NBA fan knows that, usually, the All-Star Game is a bit of a dud. In previous years, most games devolved into a low-intensity, back and forth with next to no defence and even fewer stakes. For supposedly being the icing on the cake for the NBA celebratory weekend, the All-Star Game has always tasted rather bitter.
That was until this year.
When asked if this year’s All-Star Game was one for the books or not, Lakers big man Anthony Davis responded, “Absolutely,” as reported by Eric Woodyard of ESPN. “For the seven I’ve been in, I think this was probably one of the better ones. We were actually out there competing and we were arguing with the refs. It felt like a real playoff game and that’s what makes it fun.”
Davis was not alone in his analysis of the 2020 All-Star Game.
Bucks forward and team captain Giannis Antetokunmpo echoed Davis’ sentiment, “It had a little bit of playoff intensity”.
As a response to the critiques listed above, Adam Silver, the NBA cognoscenti and a man by the name of Nick Elam got together to devise a solution. The result? A new format which has taken the basketball world by storm.
The new format explained:
- The two opposing teams play three ‘mini-games’.
- Each ‘mini-game’ is the length of a standard NBA quarter of basketball.
- The winner of each ‘mini-game’ earns $100,000 for charity.
- The scores for each team over the previous three quarters are accumulated into one. For example, in this year’s All-Star Game, after three quarters Team Giannis had 133 points, Team LeBron had 124 points.
- In the fourth quarter, the game clock is turned off and a target score is set.
- The first team to reach the target score wins.
- In the All-Star Game, the target score was 157.
- The target score was determined by adding 24 to the highest-scoring team’s point total.
- 24 was chosen in this specific game to honour the late, great Kobe Bryant.
As a result, the ‘Elam Ending’ a phrase named after the format’s creator – Nick Elam – increased the pace and intensity of the game as well as improving the overall flow of the contest.
Since the conclusion of the All-Star Game, there has been much deliberation over whether or not the ‘Elam Ending’ could become the new way in which EuroLeague or NBA games end.
Of course, this idea faces an uphill battle of ever being implemented. Whilst the NBA is more open to change and evolution than say the NFL, significantly altering the rules of a game that has been around for 130 years is not a process that can happen overnight. However, the founder of The Basketball Tournament (TBT), Jon Mugar, has an answer for the Luddites of the NBA,
“If Naismith invented the game 130 years ago with the Elam Ending and someone came along 130 years later and tried to implement the timed ending, it would be like the biggest, most massive failure of all-time, with players hitting each other, everything going to the free-throw line,” Mugar went on to say “Fans would storm out after one game and say, ‘This is the dumbest thing ever.”
As well as being popular in the States, I see Mugar’s sentiment resonating a lot with audiences overseas. Staying up until the early hours of the morning is already tough enough with outside commitments such as school or work, the long, drawn-out nature of the ends of games can get tedious at times.
The number of time-outs and ad breaks act as a large turnoff to British, European, Asian and African audiences. A shift to the more continuous, smooth style of soccer would yield interesting results.
Back to the game itself, All-Star weekend offers a chance to celebrate everything and anything NBA or basketball-related. It is simultaneously a celebration of the NBA’s past, present and future. Historic legends such as Dwyane Wade, Chauncey Billups, Magic Johnson and Scottie Pippen mix with the stars of today in LeBron James and Giannis, as well as the stars of the future in Trae Young and Luka Doncic.
However, this year the passing of Kobe Bryant, his daughter Gianna and nine other people lost in that helicopter crash cast somewhat of a sombre shadow over the weekend.
For many, the passing of Kobe still hasn’t completely registered. Hearing his name, seeing an iconic picture, a video of him and Gianna together. All these things still make me, and many others, stop whatever we’re doing and remember that he, and Gianna, are gone.
As the weekend rolled on and bright lights lit up the hardwood, that sombre feeling faded and in its place came the all-too-familiar ‘mamba mentality’. As the All-Star game headed into the fourth quarter, the stage was set for the players to remember Kobe the right way – by playing hard and leaving everything out on the court.
The face of the NBA and close friend to Kobe, LeBron James echoed the sentiment that Bryant was present during the festivities, saying after the game; ‘You could definitely feel Bean’s presence from the start… he was definitely here.’
— Los Angeles Lakers (@Lakers) February 17, 2020
After the game, Kawhi Leonard was honoured with the All-Star Game MVP award, also known as the newly named ‘Kobe Bryant Award’. In his acceptance speech, the man of few words summed it up perfectly; ‘Thank you. This ones for him’
"Thank you. This one's for him." 💜💛
Kawhi Leonard thanks the late Kobe Bryant upon winning the first-ever Kia NBA All-Star Game Kobe Bryant MVP Award. pic.twitter.com/o8YS1jLRy9
— NBA (@NBA) February 17, 2020
Indeed, this whole weekend seemed it was made perfectly for him.