NBA Reverses Course, Announces All-Star Game

Robert Musantry
Sports Business Editor

When the 2020-21 NBA calendar was published in November 2020, many changes were a part of the schedule due to the late start and various pandemic-related restrictions in NBA cities. While the teams would play in their own home arenas, the league still wanted guidelines in place in order to keep cases down just as they were able to do in the “bubble” site in Orlando to finish the 2019-20 season.

LeBron James, who spoke out against having an All-Star Game during the pandemic, will captain one of the All-Star teams this season (Photo Courtesy of The Athletic)

One event that was largely unchanged on the schedule when it came out was the All-Star Game, and the weekend full of events that surrounds it. The league penciled in the dates of March 5-10 for the All-Star break, shifting the game a bit later into the year from the original dates in February. The game and related festivities would be played in Indianapolis, hosted by the Indiana Pacers, as they had been assigned the honor years before.

But then, within a week of the schedule format being released, the league and the Pacers combined to announce that All-Star weekend would be cancelled as a whole. The official release stated, “Public health conditions prevented the Pacers, the NBA All-Star Host Committee and the NBA from appropriately planning and executing fan-focused All-Star activities in Indianapolis that were envisioned for this February,” officially saying what many expected, that the game could not go on during a pandemic. Further announcements later on detailed that the league and players did not want a large number of players travelling from across the country to one centralized location, and then back to their home teams after just a weekend. The timing would prevent thorough testing and bring almost the entire league into close contact with one another once the event had concluded.

The season went on after that point, with a myriad of games being cancelled or postponed due to teams having COVID-19 cases. Many saw this as a sign that having the All-Star Game cancelled was a good idea, but the NBA did not see it this way. Even after seeing regular season games being cancelled and many players, including LeBron James, speaking out against the idea of a centralized All-Star Game, the league went back on their initial announcement and revealed plans for a modified All-Star event in March.

“I have zero energy and zero excitement about an All-Star Game this year, I don’t even understand why we’re having an All-Star Game,” James said. Being the face of the league, and by far the biggest All-Star, this was a poignant statement. However, the league went ahead with the new plan, and fans will see top players compete on March 7th. The events that are traditionally played out over a weekend will all occur on one night, with the 3-point contest and skills competition happening before the game, and the dunk contest being displayed at halftime. This all will happen in Atlanta, instead of Indianapolis as originally scheduled, and will be raising money for Historically Black Colleges and Universities, known as HBCUs, as well as Coronavirus relief and vaccines.

The NBA has announced that further details will be provided soon, and the voting for All-Stars has already occurred, with James captaining one team and Kevin Durant captaining the other.


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