The 2017-18 NBA season is well underway, and the league is still looking for ways to bring back the glory days when massive international stars turned professional basketball into a cash cow and even an agent of international relations. In those days, the NBA All-Star Game and its day-before draw, the Slam Dunk Contest, were must-see TV for countless basketball fans across the globe. Even people who may not follow all the teams and all the games tuned in to see larger than life superstars battle it out in, mostly, offensive showdowns.
But those days are somewhat in the past. Today, ratings are down overall, and interest in the NBA is up and down. Sure, there are marquee players that fans love or love to hate, but there’s not the crossover appeal of a time when NBA stars were actually guest starring on TV shows and in Hollywood movies. Now, the league is once again turning to its annual All-Star showcase in an attempt to re-energize the fan base. Instead of the tried and true “East v. West” format of previous years, this season, players will be able to “draft” their teammates. These captains may pick players from either conference, and it’s this added drama that the NBA hopes to draw interest.
And the All-Star game could really use some drama. The West has been dominant in recent years, winning six of the last seven, and scoring nearly 200 points last season. The All-Star game has always been an offensive show, but everyone involved thought that was a little out of bounds.
The change could not have come at a better time, as the West would have likely been even more dominant this season. While the East still has the Cavs’ LeBron James, former Eastern superstars such as Paul George, Carmelo Anthony, and Jimmy Butler all now play out west. Adding even more intrigue, fan votes will help decide the captains, though the easy bets are on Russell Westbrook and James.
Will the new format mix things up a little bit better? Will these offensive stars risk injury to play tough defense in order to make the games a little more interesting and win back the fan base? It’s like the NBA hopes so. Most remember that the real heyday started with the slick offensive powerhouse of the Lakers faced off against the hardscrabble hustle of the Celtics. Those Magic v. Bird finals series triggered a Renaissance of NBA fandom. It could happen again if the league could find a way to spark some magic.
Ronn Torossian is the Founder and CEO of the New York based public relations firm 5WPR: one of the 20 largest PR Firms in the United States.