OT: The NBA All-Star Game returns to Indy

The weekend will contain events at three different locations throughout the city. Photo courtesy of the NBA

JAKE KAUFMAN | STAFF REPORTER | jfkaufman@butler.edu 

Overtime, or “OT,” is an opinion column series where the Collegian takes national sports headlines or polarizing topics and gives them a Butler-centric angle

For the first time in nearly 40 years, the NBA All-Star Game is being hosted in Indianapolis. The eventful weekend will start on Thursday, Feb. 15, and go through Sunday, Feb. 18. 

Beyond the fact that this is the first time the All-Star Game has been in Indy since 1985, many other factors at play will be sure to make it a historic event. LeBron James will play in his NBA-record 20th All-Star Game in 20 seasons, while four players — Jalen Brunson, Paolo Banchero, Scottie Barnes and Tyrese Maxey — are playing in their first All-Star Game. The weekend will also have the first ever NBA vs. WNBA 3-point competition and nine-time All-Star Anthony Davis and six-time All-Star Kawhi Leonard are returning to the event after two years of missing the weekend. 

Another major change to this year’s All-Star game is that after six years of captains choosing the teams for the game, the NBA is returning to the traditional East vs. West showdown. Additionally, the league announced the end of the 24-point target score “Elam” Ending — where in the fourth the teams shoot for a determined score as opposed to playing a timed quarter. 

Despite being known as a “basketball state,” the Pacers have struggled for years with filling seats, ranking 27th out of 30 teams in team attendance the last 10 seasons. With the team having a rising superstar in Tyrese Haliburton, senior sports media major Tyler Etcheson hopes that having the All-Star Weekend in Indianapolis can bring a larger audience to the city’s NBA team. 

“Anytime you can garner any excitement around something in a city like Indianapolis, you’re going to draw attention,” Etcheson said. “With the Pacers becoming one of the better teams in the East in the future and the Fever having the number one pick, you can see them both trying to build up this excitement of having All-Star Weekend here.” 

Additionally, there have also been signs of improvement in attendance this season during the inaugural In-Season Tournament (IST). While the Pacers ended up losing in the championship to the Los Angeles Lakers, the crowds during the IST were very energetic, as Etcheson recalls. 

“I got to work two or three of the home [in-season tournament games], and it feels like a different atmosphere and environment in there,” Etcheson said. “It feels like the fans are really behind supporting this team this year, and you can feel a different energy in the stadium each game you go to.” 

As noted, there are several changes in this year’s All-Star Weekend format, most of which have received mixed reviews and opinions. Etcheson is content with the return to the East vs. West and the end of the Elam Ending, while junior sports media major Caleb Groce likes the unique feel of the captain method. 

“I did like the backyard style, recess, captain picking,” Groce said. “That was a cool little tradition. The target score also meant that the end of the quarters actually had more energy and it provided much more of a relevant game.” 

Indiana also decided to take a unique approach to the Saturday night events. As opposed to hosting both the Saturday night events and Sunday’s All-Star game at the same venue, which most cities have done in recent years, the Saturday night events will be held at Lucas Oil Stadium. It is a sign that the NBA may be leaning towards trying to make Saturday night more of the main event. 

One of the biggest critiques of the NBA All-Star game in recent years is the lack of effort that players have given during the game. There is hardly any defense played, few plays run nor any consistent aspect of team basketball. Even in the high-scoring current NBA, the scores in the All-Star Game are something else. While the average score for a team in an NBA game in the 2020s is around 113 points per game, the average score for a team in the last four All-Star games is just over 164 points per game. Senior biology major Noah Pitlik has a pretty simple explanation for the lack of effort on defense.

“I feel like if the players don’t feel like there are no stakes for them to need to play hard, then they are not going to,” Pitlik said. “Why risk getting hurt if you can just mess around? I feel like they’re not going to seriously try unless they implement some rule or some reward that makes them play with more effort.” 

The truth is that while the NBA All-Star itself is far from perfect, it is still an entertaining product that has value as opposed to the Pro Bowl, which has truly become a joke of an event. While everyone wishes that the players in the game would go all out for 48 minutes, it is understandable why they don’t. You get to see the 24 best basketball players in the world and seven of the 75 greatest players ever go against each other. It is the first All-Star weekend in Indianapolis in almost 40 years and it should be a memorable one, to say the least. 


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