I began playing organized basketball at the age of six. As a third grader, I was with the fifth and sixth graders; in fifth grade, I was playing with the middle school kids. I continued playing through my senior year of high school.
It was all very structured and regimented. Practices all through the winter. Camps and traveling teams in the summer. Open gyms and walkthroughs for the team in the fall and spring. I loved it, but it wasn’t very loose.
Meanwhile, a group of kids, all of whom I had known for years but was not particularly close to, none of whom could handle the discipline and constricting nature of the school squad, would get together and play ball in the parking lot of a church in town. There were several courts in the area, including one that attracted talent from surrounding areas, but the one at the church was different because the rims there were seven feet.
These guys would get together and play three-on-three but with the added bonus of being able to throw lobs and block opponents at the rim. For a group of suburban white kids that considered dunking a tennis ball an accomplishment, this was as close as they’d get to feeling like superstar athletes. Every once in a while I would join these games, just to feel that way. Catching a perfect alley-oop is an amazing feeling, regardless of the circumstances.
That’s why I love the NBA All-Star Game.
For eight long months, NBA players are engaged in a multi-dimensional chess game every night, running complex sets on offense and constantly rotating and reacting on defense.
For one night, the best basketball players in the world all gather on the same court and they’re allowed to just mess around and play.
It’s an exhibition. I want to see Steph Curry shoot from 50 feet. I want to see Zach LaVine throw down a ridiculous dunk. I want to see the best players do what they do best without having to worry about the downstream effects. Things like LeBron James and Kobe Bryant matching up in the closing moments or Michael Jordan hitting a fadeaway over Shawn Marion are so memorable.
Those types of moments are why I’ve always loved the All-Star Game.
In 1987, I remember watching Isiah Thomas throwing a pass off the backboard to Michael Jordan.
I had never seen a pass off the glass before (there was much less creativity and offensive freedom in the ‘80s). This was a play that never would have happened in a real game.
In 1992, three months after he shockingly retired due to his HIV diagnosis, Magic Johnson came back and hit some ridiculous shots to take home MVP honors.
There are so many major memories — MJ owning the weekend in Chicago in ’88; Kobe and Shaq sharing MVP honors in ’09; Marvin Gaye’s national anthem in ’83 (and, on the flip side, Fergie’s in ’18) — but I even appreciate just the random smaller moments, like Steph lying down to avoid yet another Giannis Antetokounmpo dunk or Dwyane Wade rewinding the clock and throwing it off the glass to LeBron in 2019.
I really, really enjoy the new format. I especially love the All-Star draft. Every year, it’s fun to watch pro players get picked like it’s a game on the playground and there are always funny moments, from Giannis proclaiming “It’s over” to hearing the Team LeBron starting five last year to this year when Kevin Durant avoided drafting James Harden and Charles Barkley proclaimed that “he got traded, he’s healthy now.”
The NBA season occurs under a microscope, with incredible expectations mixed with over-analysis of every game, move, and comment, so it’s nice to see everyone just play for fun.
Every trip down the court is either a flashy pass, alley-oop, or logo three? Awesome! I hope they shoot it from half court and dunk it from the foul line. I love the All-Star Game and I want it to live forever (although I preferred it when each player wore their team uniforms rather than All-Star ones).
I love the All-Star Game.
If you don’t, that’s cool. We’ll see you when the boring regular season resumes next week.
Christopher Pierznik is the worst-selling author of nine books. Check out more of his writing on Medium. His work has appeared on XXL, Cuepoint, Business Insider, The Cauldron, Fatherly, Hip Hop Golden Age, and many more. Follow him on Facebook or Twitter. Please feel free to get in touch at CPierznik99@gmail.com.