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Look, a lot of things changed in the NBA when Kevin Durant announced his signing with the Golden State Warriors last July 4th. His alignment with an already historically good team went beyond even LeBron's decision to join the Miami Heat and altered the power dynamic of the league. Now as someone who grew up in the Bay Area and has been a Warriors fan since the days of Speedy Claxton, the announcement set off what was probably a straight week of me being unable to do anything besides fantasize about the basketball that lay ahead. And for the most part, the season thus far has lived up to even the loftiest expectations set for a team with four superstars in their prime. And while fan backlash and uninteresting blow out games were expected from the get-go it wasn't until this past weekend that I discovered another casualty of Durant's move, the NBA All Star Game.
The game played this past Sunday that once was a highlight of the NBA season already feels like it occurred a lifetime ago, with fans' attentions quickly moving to the blockbuster trade of DeMarcus Cousins to New Orleans announced that same night. And sure the game had its noteworthy moments including Durant and one-time teammate turned rival Russell Westbrook reuniting on the same side of the court, but the truth is there's no longer any true novelty to the All Star game format. Largely considered a "just for fun" exhibition by the selected stars, what fans get is a defense-free showcase utterly devoid of the stakes or drama found in even regular season matchups.
So what happened? Well the biggest thing is that fans no longer have to wait for one night a season to see their favorite stars do battle. With several super-teams containing two or more true NBA superstars like The Warriors or the Cleveland Cavaliers currently in the league, fans no longer have to wait for one game a year to see the top players challenge each other. On the contrary, with teams like New Orleans accruing top stars to replicate this philosophy for their own survival, the average primetime game not only carries comparable levels of star players, but actually competitive play. To put it plainly, what's the point of indulging in the NBA's pomp and circumstance when stars are having better and more exciting showdowns with each other nightly?
While not yet hitting the levels of irrelevancy of the NFL's all star match up the Pro Bowl, it's clear that their needs to be improvements if the NBA All Star Game is to remain a showcase event. Even Warriors coach Steve Kerr who led the Western Conference squad suggested playing for charity in hopes of inspiring a more competitive game from the players. Others have already championed taking measures to break up super-teams in order to keep a select few teams from consolidating too much talent. Still, as I follow my Warriors on their march towards the playoffs it's hard to be too upset with the lost luster of the All Star Game. Now that every game has the potential for highlights, drama, heroics, and villainy, the All Star Game will need to find some way to distinguish itself or else quickly become a relic.
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