Take The NBA All-Star Game and Add One Part Mindless Nationalism

Michael Wilbon’s latest column in the Washington Post is a suggestion of two ways of how to “fix” the NBA All-Star Game so more people are interested. Brooks already noted how the plan to have the two highest vote-getters pick teams looks like a jack of Bethlehem Shoals’ writing at Sporting News, but I’m more interested here in the hackneyed and tired “U.S. vs. the World” idea, which I’m sure someone has proffered before.

What I want to see is the best players in the world go at each other, to play not for show but for pride….

[cut for potential lineups, which are actually pretty good, go read the column – ed.]

Best of all, it would be a game . . . a real, live, seriously contested, pride-on-the-line basketball game, with defense, elbows and trash talk . . . for real. I dare anybody to tell me there wouldn’t be. If the NBA was about to stage this game, there would have been talk about it constantly for the last two weeks. We see teams admit they’ve grown stale and spice it up, as the Lakers and Suns just did; why not the league?

Ask the NHL how that “North America vs. the World” concept worked for them. I’ll tell you it won’t be a real game, because it doesn’t count in the standings and means nothing. Go ask baseball fans if their All-Star Game now means more because it determines which league gets home field in the World Series. All-Star Games are glorified exhibitions. What’s so wrong with that?

But trying to throw the jingo into the All-Star Game won’t do much for the game itself. It’s like trying to make us care more about the Olympics — our interest, our self-worth as sports fans as a country revolves around whether our ballers beat the shit out of the rest of the world in the Pan Am games, the World Championships, and the Olympics somehow. Right. Why bother with an option of mindless nationalism that’s just as outdated in its own way as Eastern Conference vs. Western Conference? Basketball is becoming a global game, hoping to achieve in the way soccer has. Can’t we just get a show-off game rather than try to imbue it with fake jingoism and meaning?

Because if the U.S. loses such a proposed All-Star game, every columnist will be wringing their hands about how American players play the game the wrong way, how the Euros and Asians are beating us at our own game….oh, now I see. Gotcha.

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