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The 2021 NBA All-Star Game: Status, Player Votes & More

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You would assume the NBA All-Star Game would be lost in the shuffle of headlines for the league, right? The Utah Jazz leading the league at 20-5. LaMelo Ball becoming the strong favorite to win ROY. The Dallas Mavericks refusing to play the national anthem at games.

Nope, instead, the All-Star Game has been front and center in the news over the last few weeks. The league canceled the All-Star game and all festivities hosted in Indianapolis due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Recent news broke that the NBA All-Star game is still slated to happen in Atlanta on March 7. Players have voiced their disapproval of the league’s announcement.

Why Atlanta and not back in Indy?

The NBA has a broadcast partnership with TNT and it just so happens that TNT’s home offices are in Atlanta. Due to travel restrictions from the pandemic, the production crews would not have to travel for the game. Different companies, such as AEW in Florida, are hosting their events in their local area to take out the factor of travel and saving money. State Farm Arena, home to the Atlanta Hawks, would be the site for the game.

Is this a weekend event still or just the one day for the ASG?

There is usually an All-Star weekend with different events. With COVID-19 protocols, the weekend has been condensed down to one single day. The league doesn’t want players from so many different teams and areas around each other for very long to eliminate COVID-19 exposure. Players are assumed to be arriving in Atlanta Saturday by private planes and will be staying at a private facility. They will then leave immediately following the event.

At this moment, only the NBA All-Star game is scheduled to be played. The Three-Point and Slam Dunk Contests are in the works to be played as a halftime show. The following annual events do not seem to be in the works for this year: live musical performances, All-Star Celebrity Game, Rising Star Challenge, and the Skills Challenge. These plans are subject to change as the NBA and NBPA negotiate the terms on making the game happen.

Why are so many players speaking out against the ASG?

When someone like LeBron James speaks, everyone usually tunes in. In a post-game interview following a recent win over the Denver Nuggets, James gave his opinion on the NBA All-Star game.

“I have zero energy and zero excitement about an All-Star Game this year…Short offseason for myself and my teammates. It was 71 days. And then coming into this season, we were told that we were not having an All-Star Game, so we’d have a nice little break…an opportunity for me to kind of recalibrate for the second half of the season…pretty much kind of a slap in the face.”

James’ comments have since opened the door for others around the league to voice their concerns. Sacramento Kings’ De’Aaron Fox could potentially be a first-time All-Star this year but labels the game as “kind of stupid”. LA Clippers’ Kawhi Leonard felt the league was “putting money over health right now”.

The reigning NBA MVP Gianna Antetokounmpo hopes that fans are permitted to attend the NBA All-Star game should the game be played, otherwise “I don’t see the point”. James and Fox have since stated that they will play in the game if honored as an All-Star, but James says he will only be in the game physically not mentally.

On the other side of the debate, Phoenix Suns’ Chris Paul sees both sides of the argument. Paul, the union president, defends the NBPA’s decision to work on signing off on the game happening. He’s also talked to LeBron James and Stephen Curry privately and has no issue with their concerns or disapprovals.

Paul sees the NBPA as thinking of the players first and foremost and knows of the effects whether there is a game or not. The ASG draws in the ratings which leads to more money and revenue for the NBA and more money down the line for rank-and-file players.

What does the NBA lose/gain from the ASG decision?

Kawhi Leonard had a point when he stated the NBA values money over everything else. If there is to be no ASG, the league will lose out on money they desire at this point. There has been a loss of 40 percent of revenue with no attendance at games. This will likely lead to larger repercussions down the road from a financial standpoint.

The ASG is anticipated to draw in the ratings which should boost the ad revenue from marketers. Viewership doubled since last season during the opening week of the season back in December. It is a highly demanded place to put your marketing as a company.

A more positive spin on the money side of the argument is that the NBA wants to use revenue from the game to help HBCU and COVID-19 relief. No game means no charitable donations, or at least that is what the league wants you to believe. The NBA and its investors can easily make a rather large charitable donation even without the ASG.

Is it safe/smart for the ASG to be held?

The NBA proved it can conduct a rather successful and safe bubble event with the Orlando playoff bubble last season. However, there are a lot of moving parts in the ASG bubble in a much shorter window of time. When things are rushed, mistakes are made. With the game set to be held on March 7, that is less than a month away and it is not even a final agreement yet.

There could only be three weeks or so in planning time by the end of it. If there is an outbreak within the bubble for whatever reason, the rest of the season will be in serious jeopardy. Last year’s All-Star Weekend included at least one player from 29 of the 30 teams. With fewer events, that number will be much smaller but if even 1/3 of the teams are affected, the season will be postponed or even shut down.

The one “legitimate” reason that NBA has for the ASG is that it would lower the chance of players going away on mini-vacations and traveling during their midseason break. Either way, there is a pandemic still going on in this country, and adding additional unnecessary risk is not smart.

Current Top NBA All-Star Game Votes After Second Round

Western Front Court

  1. LeBron James- Lakers- 4,369,533
  2. Nikola Jokic- Nuggets- 3,006,981
  3. Kawhi Leonard- Clippers- 2,462,621
  4. Anthony Davis- Lakers- 2,329,371
  5. Paul George- Clippers- 1,024,233

Guards

  1. Stephen Curry- Warriors- 4,033,050
  2. Luka Doncic- Mavericks- 2,464,552
  3. Damian Lillard- Trailblazers- 2,095,157
  4. Donovan Mitchell- Jazz- 479,241
  5. La Morant- Grizzlies- 437,632

Eastern Front Court

  1. Kevin Durant- Nets- 4,234,433
  2. Giannis Antetokounmpo- Bucks- 3,282,478
  3. Joel Embiid0 76ers- 3,022,105
  4. Jayson Tatum- Celtics- 1,680,780
  5. Jimmy Butler- Heat- 622,691

Guards

  1. Bradley Beal- Wizards- 2,528,719
  2. Kyrie Irving- Nets- 2,104,130
  3. James Harden- Nets- 1,829,504
  4. Jaylen Brown- Celtics- 1,062,888
  5. Zach LaVine- Bulls- 936,309