The first NBA All-Star Game took place in March of 1951 in Boston, Massachusetts. At this point in time there were only 10 teams in the National Basketball Association and one of them was the Tri-Cities Blackhawks. To say the league has come a long way since then would be nothing short of an understatement. The only name you might recognize from either roster would be Bob Cousy of the Boston Celtics as all other names have been lost in the wealth of old NBA lore. The Eastern All-Stars trounced the West 111-94 in the inaugural game which was immediately deemed a success due to the sizable crowd it drew that was three times average league attendance. While the teams have changed, the league and audience as grown, and voting is now done through tweets, one thing has always remained the same in regards to the All-Star Game. The best players from the Eastern Conference played the best players from the Western Conference. That tradition ended this week as the league announced that the teams will be picked by captains rather than conferences. The timeless adage is if it ain’t broke don’t fix it right? So what was broken with the All-Star Game? The West kept getting better and better until the league couldn’t hide it anymore.
The NBA All-Star Game historically is comprised of 5 starters and 7 reserves from each respective conference. After a wild summer of trades and free agent signings 3 of the East’s 12 All-Stars now are playing in the West this upcoming year. This would leave quite a void on the East’s roster and is fueling some of the speculation behind the leagues announcement that starting this year the All-Star Game participants will be picked by team captains rather than by conferences. While as a fan I think this is a great idea that will give a unique spin on the only weak cog in the best All-Star weekend of any of the four major sports leagues, as a cynic I’m obligated to think this the league trying to distract everyone from the growing gap between the two conferences. Because the simple fact is that the Western Conference is better than the East. Don’t believe me? Let’s take a quick trip down a very factual memory lane then. Since 2000 the West has produced the best team (won the NBA Finals) 12 times, twice as many as the East in that same stretch. Western Conference teams also averaged nearly three more wins than their Eastern counterparts last season, winning 246 of the 450 interconference matchups. Still don’t have you convinced? The West has the best of the best in the league with the top three finalist in MVP voting in 2017 and 4 of the top 5 finalists in both 2016 and 2015. If a certain player named LeBron James wasn’t in the East they wouldn’t even have a punchers chance in any statistic you can pull. So yes, the West is better…. so now what?
Now the All-Star Game will feature two teams picked by captains instead of by conference. Next we’ll be rid of conferences all together? Okay so probably not that drastic but what about a conference-less playoffs? Suddenly this doesn’t seem too far outside the realm of possibilities right? Reward the best teams with an easier first and second round matchups as opposed to the current reality where really good Western Conference teams beating themselves up while the East teams coast. While this may not come to fruition if the West keeps getting better eventually the league will have some serious decisions to make. For now the All-Star Game change seems like a good place to start.