De’Aaron Fox, following a 26-point, 11-assist performance in a loss to the Celts Wednesday night, said during his postgame Zoom conference that the NBA’s lust for an All-Star Game this season falls a bit shy of sagacious.
“If I’m gonna be brutally honest, I think it’s stupid,” he said. “I mean, if we have to wear masks, and do all this for a regular game then what’s the point of bringing the All-Star Game back. Obviously, you know, money makes the world go ‘round. It is what it is.”
Fox also noted that those who are selected and don’t play (not due to injury) receive a “hefty fine.”
Fox’s point about money is the leading one. Money indeed makes the world go ‘round, which is how we’ve gotten here to begin with. It’s why many of us are not only working during a pandemic, but going to work during a pandemic, without many alternatives. It’s also damn near the slogan for large American business operations, like the NBA, who were a model of success during the bubble, but have since aimed to retrieve as many dollars possible. It’s easy to kill the NBA as a business for playing out its season, but there probably isn’t a safe sport to be played in the condition we’re collectively in, so the league shouldn’t get singled out.
But, as far as the All-Star Game goes, specifically, we can do better here.
As Americans continue to weigh risk versus survival (largely in the form of money), the All-Star Game stands out as an unnecessary leisure. Major League Baseball canceled its own festivities last year, while the NFL successfully played its Pro Bowl virtually. The NBA does not need to put their top one percent of players at risk — in Atlanta of all places — on March 7, unless there’s something dire we haven’t learned.
So why not, gasp, actually take after the NFL, who adapted and still managed to pull off a fun Pro Bowl event?
With the help of the NBA 2K League, the video game basketball universe has developed one of the great presences in esports, one that exceeds that of Madden, as much as people love football. While people feared the NBA 2K had become rudimentary, which has long been a criticism of Madden, the next-gen launch breathed new-life into the leading virtual basketball franchise. NBA athletes not only play 2K, but grew up on it. 2K grabbed the torch from NBA Live at least a decade ago, when the return of Michael Jordan in a video game carried the promotion of NBA 2K11. Pivoting to 2K would be engaging, and perhaps a welcomed non-traveling consequence of avoiding a mass spread in Atlanta in early March.
Either the NBA sees an attractive amount of money to be made from this, or, they know they’re getting vaccinations soon, or both. Even so, the Moderna and Pfizer vaccines require a boost in the following few weeks or so, and the Johnson & Johnson single shot is only 72 percent effective.
What’s at play here is a classic American big business operating as such. But a virtual All-Star Game would be profitable, less of a headache, and most importantly: safer.