By Jalon Dixon, Columnist
Unlike any other season in NBA history, the 2019 NBA All Star Game may have the most significant implications we have ever seen in a game with no real stakes.
Since last season, the All-Star game has been conducted differently than in years past. Before, it was essentially a game in which the 12 best Eastern Conference players and the 12 best Western Conference players duked it out for bragging rights. It was like playing “My Team” in NBA 2K, except your whole team has to come from the same conference.
Last season broke that mold when for the first time ever. The NBA elected to use a captain system where a single player from each conference was selected by coaches, players, media and fans to draft their team for the big game.
From there, as in the past, 11 players from each conference are selected based on voting and the determination of who is a starter and who is a reserve is left up to the voters. The big difference now is that they treat the game like a true pick up game and allow the team captains to create their team from the 22 players voted into the game regardless of conference.
Now, the question is what does changing the rules of the All Star game do for the NBA?
The reality is that this new format for the All-Star game has created an overwhelming amount of interest in a game that most would deem as more of a “meaningless spectacle.”
After all the hype and hoopla last season about the NBA refusing to televise the All-Star draft, this season they decided to appease both the fans and the media by creating a television special last Thursday on TNT.
The captains, being Lebron James of the Western Conference and Giannis Antetokounmpo of the Eastern Conference, showed off their general management skills as they drafted their respective teams live, one pick after another.
During this All-Star draft, two things became very apparent throughout the process.
The first point is that there are five participants that will be playing in their first career All-Star game. These players are Ben Simmons, Khris Middleton, Nikola Jokic, D’Angelo Russell and Nikola Vucevic.
Of that group, Giannis drafted four of them in hopes that they will be more motivated to win while showcasing why they deserved to be selected.
The second point is that seven of the 24 players could become a part of the free agency class coming this summer. These players included Kevin Durant, Kyrie Irving, Kawhi Leonard, Klay Thompson, Kemba Walker, Middleton and Russell. Of those seven players, four were drafted by James and have been linked to possibly joining the Los Angeles Lakers this summer via free agency. Coincidence or just simply good drafting by Lebron?
Anthony Davis is the lead man of this point, as he was the first player drafted by Lebron from the Western Conference reserves, Giannis immediately responded to the pick by saying “Isn’t that tampering?” jokingly as James could only respond by playing it off and saying “Tampering rules do not apply on All Star Weekend.”
Whether it could be associated with tampering or not is up to the league office to decide, but that exchange might not be something that simply gets swept under the rug.
In a game of contrasting general management styles, an underground recruiting ploy versus a gritty and motivated roster, this game has more meaning to it than most would think.
When watching this game, keep the following questions in mind. Are these potential team ups we will see next season? Could James’ draft be considered tampering despite it being shrouded by the supposed harmlessness of a pick up game? Could this be the best player in the world facing off against the guy next in line to carry the torch?
Unlike most All-Star games played in the past, no game has more implications or raises more question than the 2019 All-Star game taking place this Saturday at the Spectrum Center in Charlotte, North Carolina at 8 p.m.