Thirty-seven years after Boston last hosted an NBA All-Star game, Mayor Thomas Menino stated his desire to bring the NBA’s most worthless exhibition back to Bean Town. (Boston Globe)
“We haven’t had it since ’64 and I think we’re ready for it,’’ Menino said. “We have new ownership, new enthusiasm, the fan base out here for it, and I just think we have the facility and everything ready to go.
“I hope that the NBA makes the decision in the near future to bring the All-Star Game to our city.’’
The city has not hosted an All-Star game since 1964, when Bill Russell, Sam Jones and Tommy Heinsohn represented the Celtics for the Eastern Conference. The East prevailed by a 111-107 score and the MVP honors went to Oscar Robertson, who, not very surprisingly, posted a near-triple double. The Western Conference All-Stars featured Jerry West, Wilt Chamberlain, Elgin Baylor, and a lesser-known player named Don Ohl who was nicknamed Waxie due to his crew cut. In case you were wondering.
The Celtics will need to complete a formal proposal to bring the game back to Boston. The large financial commitment has been a barrier keeping many teams from hosting the event. The NBA also tends to host All-Star Games in warm climates, and Boston in February doesn’t exactly have beach weather. But according to the Boston Globe, Wyc Grousbeck said the Celtics are interested in joining the rotation.
“The Celtics would have to be the applicant for it, and as a city, I would endorse the idea,’’ Menino said. “As a city, I would endorse the idea of bringing it here with the Convention Center folks, get all the entities in our city working together to make sure the All-Star Game is a first-class game that people participate in and neighbors could participate. I just think it’s long overdue.
“The change in ownership, the change of attitudes, the change of spirit in our city – I look forward someday to having the NBA All-Star Game here and I hope the Celtics in the very near future make the application for it.’’
Now is my turn to play Debbie Downer. Not about the Celtics hosting the All-Star Game — that would be cool, I guess — but about the All-Star Game itself. It’s about as captivating as the movie Gigli.
Maybe I’m in the minority for loathing the All-Star game. I’m sure some fans fall in love with off-the-backboard slams, alley-oops with no defenders in sight, and the same amount of defense as a criminal who pleads guilty. Surely, some people enjoy 155-147 scores, wide open shots on every possession, and the spectacle of 24 of the world’s best physical specimens sharing the same court. When I articulate it that way, it doesn’t sound so bad.
But the All-Star Game could be so much better. Imagine if the players actually cared about who won or lost. Then you would have Kevin Durant fighting for bragging rights against Lebron, Chris Paul hounding Derrick Rose around pick-and-rolls, Kobe Bryant trying to school Dwyane Wade, Dwight Howard banging down low with Pau Gasol and Amare Stoudemire attempting to dunk on Blake Griffin’s dome piece (not to mention vice versa, which could very well be even more exciting).
The caliber of play in the All-Star game — if all the players would just play their hardest — would be high enough to make fans forget about the lack of off-the-backboard dunks. Perhaps each All-Star game could even approach the legendary scrimmages of the original (and only) Dream Team.
The New York Times wrote a story of one such scrimmage, when Magic Johnson’s team leaped to a 14-2 lead before Johnson accidentally turned Michael Jordan’s competitive juices into overdrive.
Johnson told Jordan he needed to “get into his show” or the scrimmage was over.
“I don’t know why I said it,” said Johnson. “Michael just kind of took over for the next five minutes.”
Times writer Harvey Araton wrote, “A few dunks and jump shots later, the score was close and a riotous battle ensued, with no player or official immune to the baiting and the taunting. According to Johnson, there were titillating subplots to this theater, including Barkley mano-a-mano with Malone, Ewing with Robinson and so on.
” ‘It was like, Charles went down and dunked on Malone, and they said, ‘You can’t let him do that to you,’ and they gave the ball right to Malone, and he went down and, boom, turnaround jumper, and then Michael came down on me for a 3-pointer, and then I went down and scored on him!’ said Johnson, all in one breath.”
Charles Barkley called that scrimmage something you didn’t realize you enjoyed until later. Johnson called it probably as much fun as the actual Olympics. The players were so competitive, in part, because they had been disappointed by a 40-point win in an exhibition game against Italy — and in part, I guess, because the Dream Team players were the type of people who would drive a Maybach straight into a wall if it would help them win a Jenga game.
With the amount of talent in today’s NBA, what if every All-Star game became a “riotous battle” like that Dream Team scrimmage? What if, instead of becoming a barrage of uncontested dunks, the All-Star Game became 24 players deeply focused on winning, 24 players talking trash and trying to one-up each other and actually attempting to play defense?
I understand why All-Stars take it easy — fear of injury, desire for a bit of rest during a long season, parties and after-parties that probably leave more than a few All-Stars hungover or at least not feeling 100%. I am not naive enough to believe any of that will ever change. But that doesn’t stop me from salivating whenever I close my eyes and imagine what a fierce, tightly-contested All-Star Game would look like.
P.S. — That last sentence was very over-dramatic. I don’t actually close my eyes and imagine fierce, tightly-contested All-Star Games, nor would I salivate if I did. That would be kind of strange.