The Sporting Iconoclast
Challenging the conventional wisdom, sowing new ideas, sending some old ones to the compost heap

Make NBA All-Star Game a pickup game

In case you missed it — and by “it” I mean the Pro Bowl — count yourself lucky. Because it will be harder to miss next year.

The NFL is moving its annual mid-winter sedative to the site of the Super Bowl the week before the big game. For the past 30 years it’s been held in Hawaii the week after. As ideas go, this is one. If nothing else it will guarantee that no players on the Super Bowl teams participate in the Pro Bowl.

If you think that makes little sense, how about this idea: The Yahoo! Sports blogger MJD wants to replace the Pro Bowl with a three-day flag football tournament.

The Pro Bowl has always been the all-star game most in need of a makeover. But it’s not the only one. Take the NBA all-star game. The next one is Feb. 15 in Phoenix. For years Ive been suggesting a simple, free way to improve it: Turn the game into a pickup game.

Here’s how and why:

A half-hour or so before the tip you have all the players elected or named to the game assemble at mid-court. The two players who received the most votes from the fans get to be captains. The captains then take turns selecting players. They can pick any player, regardless of conference.

Under this scenario we would discover the following:

  • Which players are most valued by their peers.
  • Which players are least valued or liked. (Can you say dissed?)
  • Which captains are so stupid they forget to pick a point guard.

Unlike almost every other aspect of all-star weekend, this would produce drama. Humor, too. Just let the captains have microphones during the selection period.

This would also inject a measure of justice. That over-the-hill superstar voted in as a starter would not only not start, he would likely end up being picked late, maybe last.

If we absolutely must have coaches — and I say we don’t — they could still pick the starters, make substitutions, get towels.

The pickup-game approach wouldn’t cure the Pro Bowl’s ills. For one thing, it would take too long to divide up rosters three or four times the size of basketball teams. But going pickup is a natural, even traditional, way to organize a competitive basketball game.

Why not give it a try?

Ed Cohen


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