x Abu Dhabi, UAETuesday 23 January 2018

NBA All-Star game has lost its shine

Showpiece no longer has significance

When All-Star status meant you might win $100

Once, the NBA All-Star game meant something. Once, Rome ruled the world.

Alas, for more than 30 years the game has been a competitive joke. It should be played under a big top with a ringmaster. It should be banned viewing for any youngster who wants to learn how to play the game.

It has degenerated into an odd, almost uncomfortable show. Defence is treated as a foreign concept; it is like contact is banned.

The game has become a showplace for individual skills, for dunks, to show off. Anyone interested in watching a good game would be better off taking in any regular-season contest.

It did not used to be this way, of course. The NBA was born in 1949, when two older leagues combined. This was long before free agency ripped at the continuity of teams and made players rich.

In the 1950s, the US$100 (Dh367) prize money to players on the winning All-Star team was significant. So was the car you got for being MVP. A starting player staying in the line-up for most of the game was hardly unusual.

But players started making millions, swapping from team to team, and rivalries suffered.

The intensity lessened. The defence vanished. Then in 1992 Earvin "Magic" Johnson, who had retired after testing positive for HIV, was allowed to play in the game even though he had not played a minute all season.

It was more a carnival than an athletic contest. And sadly it remains more a show than a game.