By: Jacob Shindel, Contributing Writer
Views expressed in opinion columns are the author’s own.
Despite being in the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic, the NBA plans to hold its All-Star Game on March 7. It was first reported about a month before the planned game by ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski on Feb. 2.
It is a controversial move by the league, which has taken immense steps to ensure the health and safety of its players. The decision to hold the All-Star Game, which has not been officially announced by the league, has already been met with some criticism by Lebron James and De’Aaron Fox.
The NBA season has been off to a rocky start, despite being over a quarter of the way through the shortened season. There have already been 24 game postponements as of Feb. 5. A positive note for the league is that there have been no positive tests over the past week, the first time that’s happened the entire season.
Holding the All-Star Game is a terrible idea for the league. According to James, the idea of holding the game doesn’t sit well with him.
“Short offseason for myself and my teammates,” James said. “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. And then they throw an All-Star Game on us like this and just breaks that all the way up. So, um, pretty much kind of a slap in the face.”
All-Star Weekend is usually a midseason break, where the league’s best talent engage in a weekend of activities such as a dunk contest, three-point contest and a skills competition. They also have a celebrity all-star game, a rising stars challenge and the final event of the weekend is the All-Star Game.
Fox was just as clear about his viewpoint on the All-Star Game as James was.
“If I’m going to be brutally honest, I think it’s stupid,” Fox said.
I agree wholeheartedly with Fox. With the number of games that have already been postponed due to contact tracing, the league has become tighter with their COVID-19 guidelines. Jersey swaps are no longer allowed and players are supposed to wear masks if they are not in the game. If one player contracts COVID-19 while at All Star Weekend, contact tracing will be very difficult, and the league might have to shut down. If by some chance the league doesn’t shut down, the integrity of the game will be fully compromised.
If we assume that contact tracing forces even five players to sit out for two weeks, those five players are likely one of the best two players on their team, if not the best player. If I were a player, I would not want to risk missing out on two weeks of basketball just because I played in a meaningless game. It won’t even be the same experience as a real game. There likely won’t be any fans and the events will all fall on one night. There won’t be a rising stars or celebrity game. Just skills competitions and the game itself.
The NBA seemed to do a great job at managing COVID-19 when they were in the Orlando bubble. There were no cases for the final eight regular-season games and then the entire playoffs. Even throughout the beginning of this year, it seemed as if the NBA were doing a good job.
It’s impossible to completely block out COVID-19 from the league if there is no bubble. However, this possible report of the All-Star Game seems like a step back for the league, which could have followed in the NFL’s footsteps and done a virtual showcase.