The reason why I’m against an NBA midseason tournament is the same reason why All-Star weekend events and Pro Bowls don’t work: incentive. Rings are the only unit of bragging rights that matters. It’s why people laugh when Carmelo Anthony talks about all of his Olympic gold medals. There’s no reason to try hard or risk losing when the collective response is, “Let me know when X wins a (or another) title.”
Leagues obviously care enough about the showcases to put time and effort into the format, but time and effort doesn’t give something prestige. The way to make an event or an exhibition game prestigious is to make players want to win it as much as they want to win a title.
The way to do that is to throw exorbitant sums of cash at them. It’d have to be enough loot to make millionaires blush — which is a lot of money and the reason it’ll never happen. That said, if you could walk away $50 million richer for a few highlight dunks, there’s no way the guys who populate the contest normally would even get in it. There’d have to be tryouts and qualifiers due to the influx of interest.
Remember when movie studios were like, “Oh, it’s cute Netflix wants to make original movies.” Now A-list movie stars are lining up because the company is handing out multimillion dollar deals like party favors. These athletes have a finite amount of time to make money during their playing career. There’s no way they’re going to ignore an invite to Hawaii if the NFL paid $5 million to each guy for showing up and another $5 million for winning.
Again, there’s no way this ever happens, but put a disgustingly large bounty on these things, and nobody will ignore it. Maybe even try some sort of weird lottery system where the jackpot grows so large every five years that players make sure they’re healthy and in shape for/by All-Star Weekend.
LeBron James should want to win All-Star Weekend because it’ll add to his legacy. and he’s only healthy in short stretches now anyway. (It’s a crime against basketball that he’s never been in an NBA dunk contest. You want to be better than Michael Jordan? Lengthen the free throw line dunk by a step or two. Shit is checkers, it ain’t chess.)
It’s genuinely hard to have that much talent in one place and come away with Expendables sequels. Every year these events pass by with Jason Statham and Jet Li fake laughing at Sylvester Stallone’s indecipherable jokes while they have the cast to be an Avengers: End Game-type blockbuster.
How much money do you think Ice Cube spends on the Big Three league? How much do you think the USFL reboot cost? Someone get those guys on the Zoom and see if they want to fund sporting events people will actually tune into. Super Bowl winning players get a $150,000 bonus. Imagine how cutthroat these guys would be for $10 million instead of simply free lodging in Honolulu. The most memorable aspect of this year’s Pro Bowl was Micah Parsons beating Tyreke Hill in a 40 yard dash.
There has to be some sultan or prince who can fund this idea using money made from means we definitely don’t want to know about. Screw a golf super league (and obviously screw Phil Mickleson), let’s get the Saudis on board to fix All-Star Weekend.
The nice thing about having no concept of a billionaire’s disposable income is telling them how they should spend it. I lived in Aspen for a decade, there are a lot of people who have more money than god. Let’s give the housing market a break and use some of that cash to fully utilize the potential inherent in gathering the best players in their sports for a sporting contest.
I hate when people say money doesn’t solve everything. It may not fix a relationship or a death in the family, but it sure as shit can fix the Pro Bowl. “What if we have the quarterbacks play cornerback for a series?” “What if we give contestants five minutes to complete a dunk and don’t dock them for misses?” (That’s called a best trick contest, and skateboarding has been having them for decades.) What if you put enough money at stake to get the attention of millionaires verging on billionaires?
All-Star Weekend has the infrastructure to be as big as the NBA Finals. Taking home hardware should be like a European club winning the Champions League or an English team claiming the FA Cup. Those trophies carry significance because of their history and the difficulty it takes to win one. There’s a clout to it, a prestige to it. It’s not the main goal they chase all season, but it’s a distinction won in a game and not merely bestowed upon them.
Two-out RBIs aren’t worth double in the midseason classic because it’s still hard to get an RBI in the MLB All-Star Game. Steph Curry hitting 16 3s is fun, but no one is acting like Team Durant was actually guarding him.
Format changes are fun in a sort of gimmicky way. Dangling a big bag of cash over a bunch of All-Stars absolutely qualifies as a ploy, too… A ploy that just might work.