The NBA All-Star weekend came to a close Sunday, Feb. 14 following the Western Conference’s All-Stars’ defeat of the Eastern Conference All-Stars in an exhibition game composing of some of the league’s best talents. The jam-packed weekend was highlighted by incredible dunks, immensely talented shooters, the always amusing All-Star Celebrity Game and the 65th All-Star Game.
All-Star weekend hasn’t always been filled with such a variety of entertainment. In fact, many events were introduced and have gone through a number of formats as a response to declining viewership and ratings of the All-Star Game itself. The NBA’s course of action in implementing new features to the weekend festivities has proven to be a hit for the league and broadcasters.
The NBA All-Star game was first introduced in 1951, but it wasn’t until the ’80s that the league introduced the Slam Dunk Contest and Three-Point competition. The two games stand in almost stark contrast to one another. The dunk contest showcases the raw athletic potential of its athletes and leaves viewers in awe that the human body can reach such incredible highs. On the other end of the spectrum, the Three-Point Challenge displays the pure skill that players have developed from countless hours spent perfecting their games in the gym.
In 2003, the NBA introduced the Celebrity All-Star Game. Celebrities from wide-ranging fields such as government, entertainment, retired NBA legends and WNBA stars typically compose the rosters. I think the game is wildly successful because it reaches audiences who have little to no interest in watching basketball. For instance, Justin Bieber participated in the 2011 celebrity game and put on a pretty respectable show. Despite his mediocre performance and place on the losing side, the pop icon was named MVP as a result of his legion of fans swarming the vote. While I’m making very sweeping generalization, I think it is safe to say that Bieber’s demographic and the NBA’s demographic don’t overlap that much, so the relationship between the two was beneficial for both. The NBA gained an audience it was desperately trying to reach in children and young adults by making the connection with Bieber, and he used the nationally broadcast game as a platform to “sell” himself to his publics. This year, the Celebrity All-Star game audience continued to grow and continues to be a hit for the league.
For the NBA, adding these events opened up more opportunities to generate revenue during a period in which no games are played. For instance, this All-Star weekend was flanked by two days rest before the All-Star game and three days after it. That was six days of no regular season action. From the players’ perspectives, the All-Star break is a chance to rest and get away from the grueling work and travel they experience. By packing the weekend with events, the NBA can give back to its employees in time away, which keeps them happy.
What started as a dream game showcasing the best players in the NBA has turned into three-day extravaganza for the league. The festivities brilliantly allow the NBA to reach new audiences, maintain good relations with current audiences, and satisfy its employees with a week-long break in the middle of the year. The NFL could learn a thing or two.