The NBA All-Star Game will have a regular conference vs conference contest on Feb. 16. This used to be a given in All-Star games, yet it wasn't when the NFL turned the Pro Bowl squads into a fantasy draft between Jerry Rice and Deion Sanders last month. Yet the NBA will stick to the East vs West format, although it didn't work too well as a format in the skills competitions on Feb. 15 -- especially in the Slam Dunk Contest.
Although John Wall prevailed in a more star studded slam dunk lineup than usual, the NBA took a lot out of the contest by making it an East vs West battle as well. Three dunkers each from the East and West competed in a "freestyle round" before a series of individual battles determined a conference winner -- with fans voting on a "Dunker of the Night" that ultimately went to Wall.
The NFL is already trying every change it can to keep the Pro Bowl alive, yet the NBA tampered with the one element of its All-Star weekend it didn't have to change. The biggest problem with the Slam Dunk Contest was its lack of star power in recent years -- with or without LeBron James -- not the format itself.
However, since the NBA apparently can't force the likes of James to compete, it chose the easier route of tinkering with the contest format. This year's lineup did have up-and-coming star Wall and Indiana Pacers' MVP candidate Paul George, yet it didn't pay off until Wall's winning dunk over the Washington Wizards' mascot.
If the skills contest was a letdown, it doesn't bode well for the All-Star Game itself, although the East and West should combine for 250-300 points like usual. Yet while the NFL and NHL have changed the team makeup for their All-Star Games in recent years, and baseball has its All-Stars determine home field for the World Series, the NBA has resisted the temptation to alter its midseason classic. Of course, it makes it all the more ironic that it tinkered with the weekend's other signature event instead.
Nevertheless, the NBA All-Star Game will go on like it always does, starting at 8 p.m. est on TNT.