Glorified pick-up game lacks real glory

By H.Pewty

Despite being the third-highest scoring all-star game of all time, the 2023 edition of the NBA All-star Game (ASG) was a drab affair.

The NBA ‘s latest innovation of drafting the teams immediately before tip-off promoted the chance to see off-the-cuff team cohesion and raw intuition. Kudos to the NBA for trying to reinvigorate fan interest. At least they’ve acknowledged there’s a problem.

This enticing scenario where the best players in the world would have to quickly create chemistry on the spot seemed the ultimate litmus test of basketball IQ and pure skill. These guys are professionals, and they’d all display that elite inherent competitive nature, right?

Unfortunately, a lack of competitiveness and incentive was evidently displayed in the performances of the two teams. The motivations of the players were seemingly affected by the absence of teammate bonding and the creation of a team vision.

Ironic that the individual play that is celebrated in the NBA didn’t work on the big night. Because guess what? Basketball is a team sport. The players needed time for preparation and to create some form of chemistry. This is evident from the fact that only cohesive teams win the NBA championship every year.

If basketball really is a team sport, and if the best players in the world don’t compete once they’re all together, what kind of message is that sending to junior basketball players? There’s no point competing or helping your team?

As I’ve grown up watching the NRL, State of Origin has always been the ultimate showcase of the game’s talents, and it doesn’t pull any punches. It’s no exhibition match – it’s actually competitive. I’ve been spoiled seeing a smorgasbord of the best players go head-to-head and properly compete, even harder than normal.

The NBA All-star game might be a decent showcase for other countries, but not so much for Australia, as our sports-orientated culture encourages teamwork and giving your best. Our competitiveness can get a bit out of hand sometimes.

Look at the fuss we made over Sandpaper Gate – other countries caught for similar things don’t internally punish their players to such extent, that’s how serious we take competitive sport as a country. An exhibition game lacking in competition is an alien concept to us.

I think we need to disagree with NRL legend Wendell Sailor’s hyperbolic mantra of “there’s no I in team, but there’s five in individual brilliance”. We are a social species and at the heart of that I believe is teamwork. Or at the very least, mutualistic symbiotic relationships within our species. And team sport is meant to encapsulate these essences of humanity.

If the best players of one of the biggest sporting leagues on the planet can’t exemplify this, we need to head in a different direction. NBA State of Origin anyone?

Feature image: The ASG single game scoring record was broken by Jayson Tatum, a worrying recent trend of late. Photo: Erik Dost/CC/Wikimedia Commons 

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