On the heels of the NBA All-Star Game, which of the professional leagues puts on the best all-star showcase?
By Sarah Spain
The NFL Pro Bowl is a joke despite its idyllic location. I'd rather watch B.J. Raji and Vince Wilfork learn how to hula or view a Maurice Jones-Drew guided tour of Honolulu's best beaches. The NHL All-Star Game is fun to watch, but not a must-see. I'd rather tune in to the NHL's All-Star Game fantasy draft, in which the players sweat it out in the green room while two elected captains select their rosters for Sunday's game. MLB's Home Run Derby will keep me in front of the TV every year, but the All-Star Game itself doesn't offer much in the way of entertainment. Plus, it's impossible to watch the Midsummer Classic without wanting to beat your head against a wall over awarding World Series home-field advantage to the winning league.
When it comes to all-star festivities, the NBA is king. Basketball is the sport best suited to the all-star format: a glorified pickup game with more focus on the sizzle than the steak. Basketball purists might cringe at all the displays of matador defense, but the explosive dunks and high-flying alley-oops keep the game worth watching. And while the NBA Slam Dunk Contest doesn't have the same cache it did in the days of Jordan versus Nique, it's still a fun event that allows for a lot of creativity and some amazing displays of athleticism. As I said in "That's What She Said" a few weeks ago, I'd like to see the NBA ditch the East versus West setup and adopt the NHL's fantasy draft format, but I won't hold my breath. Even if things stay the same, the NBA All-Star Game is still worth a watch.
As an NFL fan and writer, the subject of all-star games is a bit depressing. The Pro Bowl is, by far, the worst for a million reasons and needs to be eradicated. Here are my suggestions for a new-look Pro Bowl.
The All-Star Game I am most jealous of is baseball's. The most glaring difference between it and other all-star games is awarding World Series home-field advantage to the winner. But even without that dangling carrot, the one-on-one nature of baseball ensures the game's participants will not slack off. A Prince Fielder vs. Roy Halladay matchup is going to be the same in terms of effort in the Midsummer Classic as it would be in the playoffs. Halladay will want the strikeout and Fielder will aim for the fences. Inherent pride, aided by an individual spotlight, kicks in.
The surrounding events of the MLB All-Star Game are also winners. I am particularly fond of the Legends Game for its unintentional celebration of an era when baseball was king. Even if you don't appreciate the good ol' days, you are pulseless if you don't appreciate Rollie Fingers' mustache.
By Kate Fagan
The NBA holds the coolest All-Star Weekend, and I'm not just saying that because I spent three years covering the 76ers. And I'm definitely not saying it because I've spent the previous few Februarys watching Dwight Howard dunk on an 11-foot rim and Kevin Durant hit bank shots from the stands.
When it comes to fan involvement and fresh ideas, the NBA's annual festivities beat out Major League Baseball (old-fashioned goodness), the National Hockey League (solid, but not eye-popping) and the National Football League's Pro Bowl (I've never watched one).
In the previous few years, the NBA has added the H-O-R-S-E shooting competition, the skill competition and the Shooting Stars competition, which includes WNBA players.
The NBA keeps its weekend fresh and invades its host city like a mini Super Bowl. That might not play well with the purists, but it makes those 48 hours the best of the midseason get-togethers.
By Jane McManus
It's clear which of the professional leagues has the worst.
Despite the NFL's ability to capture viewers and command ad revenue that might make Gary Bettman, David Stern and Bud Selig weep, football has yet to figure out a way to celebrate the best players each season with a proper all-star game.
A trip to Hawaii is nice, but the players in the Super Bowl wouldn't even dream of playing. And the format doesn't draw viewers. Could some of the most die-hard NFL fans even tell you when the Pro Bowl takes place? It turns out that it's more of an adjective than a game, as in "Joe Tight End is a three-time Pro Bowler."
Leagues like the NBA actually incorporate fans into the festivities with three-on-three basketball games and exhibitions, but football? Hawaii is nice, but it's a long way to go for most fans. And reporters. Few members of the media mean little press for such a big game.
The NFL has tried fudging the format, moving the game geographically, but it remains what it has always been -- largely irrelevant except as a ceremonial title.
By Adena Andrews
Sports are about entertainment. No matter which way you cut it, people watch sports to get away from their everyday lives. No league has grasped this idea better than the NBA. Its All-Star Weekend provides a three-day escape annually for fans who want to come. No other sport offers such an inclusive weekend with high-quality events catering to its fans.
Entertainment aside, in the NBA, being an All-Star actually means something to players. You won't find them dodging the All-Star Game like players in other leagues (MLB, I'm looking at you). NBA stars aren't playing tiddlywinks on the court during the game, like their NFL counterparts. Sure, the game lacks defense but the players are still competitive. That was evident Sunday night when Dwyane Wade gave Kobe Bryant a bloody nose as the West tried to hold onto its small lead in its 152-149 win. A CT scan later revealed Bryant had suffered a nasal fracture.
Though the game doesn't have any impact on the rest of the season, as baseball's does, that's OK. It's one game where we can take a break from the monotony of the season. We can see LeBron James and Dwight Howard on the same team. Steve Nash can hit Blake Griffin for the alley-oop. It's every hoophead's fantasy come to life.
Because of its ability to entertain and the importance it holds with the players, the NBA All-Star Game is hands down the best all-star game around.
By Amanda Rykoff
I know you'll be shocked to hear I'm selecting Major League Baseball as the best all-star celebration. Even though I have a major issue with the fact that an exhibition game determines home-field advantage in the World Series (just typing that statement now makes me angry), I still love the game and the related events.
I might be biased as a baseball addict and Yankee fan, but the 2008 MLB All-Star Game at Yankee Stadium will always be one of my top sports highlights. Baseball fans enjoyed four days of fun and festivities in New York City.
It started with a gala at the American Museum of Natural History on Saturday night. The Futures Game on Sunday, which highlights some of the top up-and-coming minor league talent, proved to be a treat. Chris Rock, Billy Crystal, Whoopi Goldberg, Ozzie Smith, Wade Boggs, Paul O'Neill and Tim Raines headlined the All-Star Legends and Celebrity softball game. The weekend had already been a blast and we still had the Home Run Derby and actual All-Star Game ahead.
As most of you recall, Josh Hamilton put on one of the most impressive displays of power at the Home Run Derby, causing Yankee Stadium to shake with cheers. What a thrill it was to be there in person to witness that scene. I worried the actual All-Star Game would be a letdown after the Derby excitement, but a 15-inning, walk-off thriller capped off one of the best celebrations of baseball I've experienced. We even sang "Take Me Out to the Ball Game" a second time during the 14th inning stretch.
The American League win didn't help Tampa Bay in the World Series against the Phillies, but it did prove to be the perfect send-off for the old Yankee Stadium.