The NBA tends to get a lot right in the realm of professional sports leagues. A lot of their philanthropic work, policies and social initiatives do seem to be genuinely geared toward the interest of its players and fans. When we look back at the NBA bubble last summer, and how that plan went off without a hitch, it strengthened the confidence that many of us had in the league’s moral compass. However with that withstanding, we all also understand in a general sense how billion dollar corporations tend to move. With all that the NBA does correctly, there are some things that they do miss the mark on.
This Sunday, TNT will present the 2021 NBA All-Star game. For the first time ever, the skills competition, three point shootout, dunk contest, and all-star game will take place on the same day. The reason being as told by NBA commissioner Adam Silver, is that this is a “made for TV event.” As the United States continues to battle COVID-19, the NBA made the decision to hold its all-star game without fans in attendance except for 1,000 lucky HBCU students. That seems like a noble thing to do, but not without having coaxed the players into this as well.
You see, the NBA’s players started this 20-21 campaign significantly earlier than they initially planned. Teams that made deep playoff runs this past summer, barely were able to get three months to rest their bodies. The NBA’s priority became all about capitalizing on the ratings they would get if they had games to broadcast on Christmas Day. If the player’s didn’t get back to playing, they would stand to lose leverage in future collective bargaining talks, as well as lose money on their own contracts. So, as you would expect, the players conceded and agreed to come back to play earlier.
Upon the NBA’s return earlier this winter, the players believed that there would be no all-star weekend festivities. This was to be done, “out of an abundance of caution.” Somewhere along the way TNT decided that if ESPN was able to capitalize on Christmas Day viewership, then they should be able to cash in on the viewership for all-star. Adam Silver and the team governors agreed, but the players were staunchly against it. Many NBA players feel jerked for a lack of a better term. They were told one thing to begin the season and the commissioner did a complete 180. I can’t blame the players.
This year’s all-star game will raise money for HBCU’s. At least that’s a silver lining, but my concern this weekend is the player’s enthusiasm for the game as well as the safety of folks in Atlanta. So much of the charm about the all-star game is the fact that the players let their hair down and they really play with such enthusiasm and joy. This year more than any other, this weekend’s events feel more like an obligation. And in as much as I’ll still tune in, I worry that the effort given on Sunday night will be subpar.
With the game taking place in Atlanta, the party epicenter during this pandemic, I just know that the city will be abuzz. Mayor Keisha Lance Bottoms has asked that establishments not hold any events in celebration of NBA All-Star weekend. We all know that it’s quiet for that. For the businesses in the city that saw a decline during the span of this pandemic, they’ll be looking to break even. Not only that, but the city has been seemingly running as normal for the majority of the time that we have been in this paramecium. Atlanta has been “open open.” So if cases spike significantly, it won’t be a good look for Mayor Lance Bottoms, and I certainly would hate that for her. But this was a moment to make the most responsible decision, if for no other reason, to set an example for the country.
This Sunday capitalism will reign supreme once again. I can only keep my fingers crossed that everything goes as perfectly as it can go. For us, the fans, I hope we get a unique viewing experience. I hope that the players are engaged. I hope that the jovial spirit of the yearly tradition is still felt. Most importantly, I hope everyone enjoys the events responsibly. But this all-star weekend will probably be always viewed as the one that should have never happened. The players should’ve been able to rest this weekend and for the common person, we would’ve been just fine. All in all, we know what it is. Let’s keep it safe this weekend y’all, and enjoy.