The decision to not only hold an NBA All-Star Weekend in Atlanta, highlighted by the game itself on March 7, is as befuddling as commissioner Adam Silver’s efforts to triple-down on it. Last night, Silver spoke to Inside The NBA regarding the All-Star Game, and Ernie Johnson actually opened the floor, discussing his surprise before turning it over to Silver to expound on his decision as to why the NBA needs an All-Star Game.
Silver’s response was, “The fans.”
“All-Star is the No. 1 fan-engagement event for the entire season,” Silver told E.J. “For the league, it’s been a 70-year-tradition, something like 100-million people will vote for All-Stars. The highlights coming out of All-Star Weekend have historically generated in the neighborhood of one billion views. Something like 130-million people will watch the All-Star-Game on a global basis.”
Silver went on to highlight the initially mixed reactions to the NBA shutting down in March amid the COVID-19 outbreak and added that the NBA, “Should be judged ultimately by our ability to operate during a pandemic, not to shut down in a pandemic. Anyone can be closed. And for us, if we set out on a course, whether it was The Bubble in Orlando or this season, to present the league in as close to a normal state as possible. So for us, All-Star is part of our league, no different than the games we play, and I’ll just end by saying it begins and ends with the fans.”
You can listen to Silver say “fans,” and just replace that word with “money.”
This message also arrives days after Atlanta Mayor Keisha Lance Bottoms requested no fans come to the city for parties during the ordinarily festive weekend.
Included in her statement read: “I have shared my concerns related to public health and safety with the NBA and Atlanta Hawks. We are in agreement that this is a made-for-TV event only, and people should not travel to Atlanta to party. There will be no NBA sanctioned events open to the public, and we strongly encourage promoters, clubs, bars, etc not to host events in this city related to this game.
Well … you can see for yourself that, at least jokingly and or unofficially, that’s already started.
Had the All-Star Game simply remained in Indiana, where it had originally been planned, it might not be an issue. But Atlanta? We can’t expect Atlanta to go quietly about All-Star Weekend… It’s Atlanta.
Still, as seen in a search above, as well as through here, Twitter is letting Silver have it for the NBA’s decision to move forward with All-Star Weekend. This certainly won’t go quietly, and as much as the fans are highly regarded for this event, it mainly indicates that the financial gain (from viewers, sponsors, monetized internet activity, etc.) is too alluring to pass up. The NBA is a business, after all. You can label this as misguided, unsafe, or simply tone-deaf, but All-Star Weekend pushing through doesn’t make it the right or wrong thing to do; it just makes it American. No need to be surprised.