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Tuesday, April 16, 2024
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Pundits Bashed a 397-Point NBA All-Star Game—But Fans Still Watched

  • Silver struggles to conceal his frustration with the game’s lack of competitiveness.
  • Fans still respond with larger viewership for the much-derided event.
Kyle Terada-USA TODAY Sports

NBA commissioner Adam Silver couldn’t completely hide his frustration with the distinct absence of competitiveness, effort, and defense in this year’s All-Star Game, conducting the trophy presentation with his own lack of enthusiasm.

“To the Eastern Conference All-Stars, you scored the most points. Well … congratulations. Giannis [Antetokounmpo], your team, this trophy is yours,” Silver said

Three months ago, Silver was clear about his intent to produce a more competitive All-Star Game, shifting the event back to a conference-based format. What he got instead was a record-setting 397-point game largely devoid of normal basketball energy as players looked to avoid injury, prompting numerous pundits to suggest the game has grown irredeemable and needs to be rebuilt from scratch.

Much like the NFL’s dramatic reshaping of the Pro Bowl to the Pro Bowl Games, the NBA holds a series of sometimes-conflicting objectives for its midseason showcase. The All-Star Game offers an additional platform for corporate sponsors and for league grassroots initiatives while additionally serving as a fertile source of social media content. It also prominently showcases the league’s top talent, which can manifest in other revenue lines, such as merchandise sales and viewership of regular-season and playoff games. 

But as the NBA is already grappling with player load management issues, the All-Stars were clearly disinterested in doing anything that could impact their availability in the second half of the season.

“All these guys here are very valuable to their teams, so it’s some mixed emotions about it,” said Lakers forward Anthony Davis. “You try to go out there and compete a little bit, and not just be a highlight show. But at the same time … God forbid something happens in the All-Star Game when it could have been avoided.”

Despite that sentiment, and the lack of defense on display in Indianapolis, fans did not object. The game drew an average audience of 5.5 million, up 14% from record-low viewership a year ago, with exposure boosted by a Warner Bros. Discovery coverage plan that included alternate broadcasts on TruTV and B/R Sports on Max to supplement core coverage on TBS and TNT.

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