Gerald Green brought the house down.

Green’s inaugural dunk in the 2013 Slam Dunk Contest was no ordinary lift-off. The off-the-side-of-the-backboard, double-clutch, reverse dunk from the Indiana Pacers small forward electrified the crowd gathered in Houston for the NBA All- Star Weekend. It brought the group of friends I was with to their feet, some screaming in delight, some simply standing and staring in awe. The thunderous throw-down represented a hope — maybe this was the year we would see the unbelievable in the dunk contest. Maybe this was the year we could discard all rational thought and forget, just for a few hours, how high a human could jump and how hard they could come down. Maybe this was the year the NBA All-Star Weekend would be meaningful, and would be something greater than a little hiatus in the NBA calendar.

Unfortunately for us, the house Green brought down was more of a mirage than a mansion. Once again, All-Star Weekend was hyped to be a premier event in the NBA season and a chance to see the greats of the past, today’s superstars and tomorrow’s NBA elite gather under one roof. The recipe is simple: Bring the stars and celebrities to one arena in the middle of February, and just add a ball. Things would work themselves out, right?
Maybe not. Another year, another lackluster NBA All-Star Weekend. The year that James “Flight” White was supposed to take off and take over the Dunk Contest just never got off the ground.

Kicking off the supposed excitement of Saturday night was the Three-Point Contest, and although the event was only under pressure to follow up the pitiful Skills Challenge, the end result still left me hankering for more. Steve Novak — the plucky hero of every viewer sitting at home — turned in anunderwhelming performance and was beat out by Kyrie Irving, the Cleveland Cavaliers’ wonder kid. In the final round, Irving found himself matched up against the poor man’s Novak, the San Antonio Spurs’ Matt Bonner, and beat him by three triples, continuing a torrid stretch for the Duke product. But Kyrieseemed unimpressed with his victory, and knowing he wasn’t the best three-ball shooter there only cheapened the victory.
The dunk contest concluded Saturday night, and the aftertaste was equally bitter. The best dunk? Gerald Green’s aforementioned jam. The best dunker? “Flight” White, his outer space hops the focus of the buildup to this year’s incarnation of the storied event. Neither of these men, though, emerged victorious, punished for an unspectacular second dunk and questionable scoring from the presiding judges, respectively. With the most important dunkers sitting out the finale, Terrence Ross defeated Jeremy Evans in a yawner.

Finally, we arrived at the All-Star Game Sunday night. Sure enough, the game was filled with moments to revel in, like Kobe Bryant’s block on LeBron James, Chris Bosh’s hilarity-filled 23 minutes and Blake Griffin’s alley-oop to himself to cap things off. But the contest was a glorified pickup game, not a representation of the finest the NBA has to offer. It was back-and-forth to a fault, with defense not to be found in the entire state of Texas. Yes, the stars were on display, but they weren’t allowed to truly showcase the skills we have to come to know and love. They were just out there to show up one another in what amounts, year after year, to a loosely organized shoot-around and alley-oop exhibition.

The problem with All-Star Weekend lies in what it asks us as fans to do. The All-Star game, the dunk contest, the three point contest — they all ask you to expect the unexpected, demand the unrealistic. This seems natural for the lighthearted festivities, but the side effects of this prescription are unintended and ugly. All-Star Weekend requires you to throw out every serious angle of the game of basketball you have. Suddenly, instead of five players moving in harmony on a quest to score and five men tasked with keeping the ball out of the hoop at all costs, the game is completely changed. Now it’s players showing less energy in running the obstacle course than they do warming up for a regular season game. It’s one guy moving around the arc, chucking up threes. It’s James White missing five dunks in the span of two minutes because he is convinced he can pull off the impossible. It’s the two teams combining for 281 points and 116 field goals in 48 minutes of play.

Serious basketball minds are turned to mush when All-Star Weekend rolls around. Those critical, serious outlooks are replaced by a view of the stars assembled in the arena, a constant stream of loud music and louder outfits further diluting the product. Basketball? What’s that? Watch the players! Keep an eye out for those celebrities!
All-Star Weekend is supposed to shine the brightest lights in the NBA. For yet another year, however, it has only dimmed them. Thankfully, the whole get-together of All-Star Weekend is not entirely useless. After all, midterms are in full swing. I could sure use a nap.

Peter Barston is a freshman in the McDonough School of Business. RAISING THE BAR appears every Friday.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

*