We Can Expect Plenty More NBA All-Star Games That Stink

There were still winners off the court — just not the viewers

INDIANAPOLIS, INDIANA - FEBRUARY 18: Giannis Antetokounmpo #34 of the Milwaukee Bucks and Eastern Conference All-Stars drives against LeBron James #23 of the Los Angeles Lakers and Western Conference All-Stars in the second quarter during the 2024 NBA All-Star Game at Gainbridge Fieldhouse on February 18, 2024 in Indianapolis, Indiana. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and or using this photograph, User is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement. (Photo by Stacy Revere/Getty Images)
Giannis Antetokounmpo "drives" against LeBron James at the All-Star Game
Stacy Revere/Getty Images

The NBA All-Star Game hasn’t been a contest brimming with competitive juices for decades. But the lackluster effort displayed on the court by those selected this year was on a whole new level, and people got pissed.

NBA Hall-of-Famer and columnist for The Athletic David Aldridge posted on X: “That was dreadful. Again. I am beginning to think this game is irredeemable.” Countless analysts like Aldridge chimed in on the platform and, of course, fans too, with one posting: “The #NBA All-Star Game is horrible and not worth watching. The NBA keeps getting worse and worse, just like the #NFL. I feel as if there’s a real possibility I’ll stick to strictly #MLB and the #NHL one day.”

Many media outlets noted that even NBA Commissioner Adam Silver was openly unenthused by the showing. During his post-game on-court remarks while presenting the trophy to the “winning team,” he said flatly, “To the Eastern Conference All-Stars, well, you scored the most points. Congratulations.”

But don’t expect Silver’s displeasure to result in any radical changes to the event. As Sportico writes, “criticism could be hitting an all-time high, yet All-Star still manages to attract attention — just look at the volume of complaints! — and today, that’s invaluable. It remains a moment-making machine.”

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In a chart, the publication also notes that, while the game’s ratings are not as strong as they were prior to the pandemic, they’re still significantly higher than the average regular-season NBA game. In 2023, an average of 1.59 million people tuned in to an NBA matchup during the regular season. The All-Star Game drew 5.5 million (likely very disappointed) pairs of eyes, while All-Star Saturday Night, which featured the skills competitions, attracted 4.6 million viewers.

Those kinds of numbers continue to represent a strong revenue stream for the league. Big-name brands are still attaching themselves to the contest, too.

Giannis Antetokounmpo could…be spotted documenting the slam dunk contest with a new [Google] Pixel model,” Sportico writes. “A record number of other partners set up in the NBA’s fan-focused Crossover show floor, a 350,000 square-foot zone inside the city’s convention center, with similar goals in mind. A fragmented entertainment landscape has made reaching mass audiences increasingly difficult for consumer product companies — and made sporting celebrations even more enticing.”

Starry sponsored the 3-Point Shooting Contest, and Panini sponsored the Rising Stars Game on Friday. Meta’s Quest 3 headset and Gatorade Water were some of the many new products turning up at events throughout the weekend in Indianapolis, a city that was a big winner as well. “NBA head of event strategy and development Joey Graziano said All-Star festivities would provide more than $400 million in economic impact for the Indianapolis area, up more than 4x from when he joined in 2019,” Sportico writes.

But if the game itself continues to be this bad — or grow to be even worse — and fans lose interest, eventually it will die. Given the money still surrounding the NBA’s All-Star Game though, it’ll be a slow death, not unlike the Pro Bowl. But, hey, the NFL has figured out a way to salvage that whole shindig, right? Actually, maybe not.

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