x Abu Dhabi, UAEThursday 27 July 2017

NBA: Same old All-Star game was actually fun to watch

Thuderous dunks, some late defence and a close final score added a little more excitement to this year's NBA All-Star Game, writes Steve Dilbeck.

LeBron James, left, fends off a little fourth-quarter defense from Kobe Bryant during the NBA All-Star Game on Sunday. Ronald Martinez / Getty Images
LeBron James, left, fends off a little fourth-quarter defense from Kobe Bryant during the NBA All-Star Game on Sunday. Ronald Martinez / Getty Images

Most NBA fans lost interest in All-Star games with the advent of free agency. There was a time when players remained with one team for most or all of their careers, and the idea of playing people from the other conference or league was appealing. They played to win. The outcome mattered. Rivalries were real.

But not in the past 25 years. Players move from team to team. One year a player is an All-Star on one side, the next year the other. Intensity vanished.

Major League Baseball's event became so causal, Bud Selig, the game's commissioner, felt compelled to attach a reward to it: the winning league's champion would have the home-field advantage in the World Series.

The NBA's All-Star game was worse. It was a giant party. Pop stars sang before the game and at half time. Defence disappeared. Players took turns being selfish.

It was there again in Sunday's game. Chris Paul dribbled between the legs of Chris Bosh. Dwight Howard shot a three-pointer –and made it. The gangly centre Joakim Noah tried a crossover dribble.

But then … there were several awe-inspiring hard slams. Blake Griffin, the king of power dunks, got loose on a breakaway, tossed the ball off the backboard, caught the rebound and dunked it. Freed from the confines of a traditional game, great athletic ability shone. The game stayed close. In the fourth quarter, the defences tightened. Kobe Bryant twice blocked shots by LeBron James.

The surprise: it was fun to watch.

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