x Abu Dhabi, UAETuesday 25 July 2017

One-on-one would liven up stale All-Star Weekend

The three-point competition and dunk contest will always have their place, but it's time to replace one of NBA All-Star Weekend's lesser events with a 1-on-1 competition, writes Jonathan Raymond.

Isaiah Thomas, right, would provide an entertaining one-on-one matchup with an NBA centre. Rob Carr / Getty Images / AFP
Isaiah Thomas, right, would provide an entertaining one-on-one matchup with an NBA centre. Rob Carr / Getty Images / AFP

It is time for the NBA to re-think All-Star Saturday. The three-point shoot-out is still fun, and even though it is shrouded in a sense of “all-been-done-before”, the slam-dunk contest is not really the problem.

But the rest of the action – the Shooting Stars shot contest and the Skills Challenge – is fairly tame. It is time for one-on-one.

The beauty of a small one-on-one tournament is obvious. We never get to see the league’s biggest stars match up outside a five-on-five environment, and the question of who might win when it is just two players on the court has always been a fascinating thought experiment for basketball fans.

And, yes, since the league’s biggest stars would surely decline to participate, at least at first, I’d still be plenty interested in watching, say, the Lakers’ Nick Young and Boston’s Jeff Green play each other, too.

Tall v short, speed v strength, old v young – depending on the field you could arrange, the possibilities for weird, funky match-ups offer a chance for an event that would be far more entertaining than what is currently in place.

It doesn’t have to be some gruelling competition that crowns the very best one-on-one player in the league. First to five points, or even three. I just want to see what happens when 6ft 10 ins Serge Ibaka is forced to stop 5ft 9 ins Isaiah Thomas, and vice versa.

We’re a long time removed from when the dunk contest could generate anticipation and give All-Star Weekend a truly must-watch feel. A one-on-one tournament could bring that feeling of seeing something new back.

jraymond@thenational.ae