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How To Fix The NBA's All-Star Weekend

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Fans are looking for stars like Blake Griffin, LeBron James and Russell Westbrook in the dunk contest. (AP Photo) Fans are looking for stars like Blake Griffin, LeBron James and Russell Westbrook in the dunk contest. (AP Photo)

OKLAHOMA CITY – Every year, NBA fans look forward to the All-Star Break with great anticipation.

And every year there is the same generic "meh" feeling when it's over.

They get onto social media and bash the dunk contest for its lack of stars and the game itself for its lack of defense.

It's not that the NBA doesn't have a good thing going. It's just that it has kind of been that same good thing for quite some time now. And marketing/public appeal is all about keeping things new and refreshing.

Here are a number of possible ways the league could make the All-Star Break more interesting to the fans – some feasible and some maybe a little more out there.

The Dunk Contest

It's still a bit of a mystery why the big names have shied away from the dunk contest over the past few years. It could be that very fact itself – the contest has lost its prestige – creating a never ending cycle of consistently repelling the stars away.

Or some of the big stars say they don't want to get hurt on a contest that doesn't even mean anything for their team or season.

Here's the irony in that one: How many players broke their nose in this year's dunk contest? Zero. How many broke their nose in the game itself? One.

Some of the in-game dunks Dwyane Wade, LeBron James and others did in the game are just as likely to get them hurt as the dunks the younger guys were doing in the contest.

Possible solutions for fixing the dunk contest:

-Pay the stars a LOT of money. It's obviously not a matter of showcasing their talents, or else they would be out there already. Maybe $2 million, winner-take-all would entice a couple of them to join. Of course that would mean sponsorship through the roof, but it's worth a try.

-Have the amateur dunkers compete against the pros. In case you didn't know, the best dunkers in the world are not in the NBA. Every year the amateur dunk contest sees dunks that blow the pros' dunks out of the water. Why not take the two finalists from the amateur contest and stick them in the real thing? The fans probably won't have heard of Kenny Dobbs entering the night, but they would sure as heck remember him afterward.

-Fan Vote: Amateur vs. Dunk Contest vs. In-Game. This combines all three aspects. Take the winner of the amateur contest's best dunk. Add in the best dunk from the winner of the actual dunk contest. THEN, add the best in-game dunk from the All-Star Game itself (there are some good ones) and let the fans vote for the best one.

The Game Itself

Every All-Star game has the same story. The first 3.5 quarters are no-defense dunkfests. The final six minutes of the game, the competitive nature of the NBA's best players takes over and for a fleeting moment, we get to witness the greatest players in the world going at it full-steam. This is what everyone wants to witness for all four quarters.

Possible solutions for fixing the All-Star Game itself:

-Play for home-court advantage in the Finals. This isn't a novel concept, as several sports have tried this already. But you have to admit, that gives a legitimate, concrete incentive for the teams to try hard the entire game. Most All-Stars are already on teams who will make the playoffs anyway, so everyone in the game will realize that the outcome of the contest could indeed have an effect on their team's success.

-Have spots designated for defensive players. Ben Wallace was a four-time All-Star in the early-to-mid 2000s. He averages fewer than six points per game for his career. Shot blocking and rebounding (and an awesome afro) got him into those All-Star games, and he provided a much-needed dose of exciting defense. They should designate four All-Star spots to go to the league's best defenders. They wouldn't even have to run the floor. Imagine Serge Ibaka standing right underneath the basket the entire game trying to swat and goaltend everything that comes his way.

-Kick out the old guys and the unhealthy. No need for alarm – not trying to turn it into some exclusive utopia where only the elite survive. But here's the problem. Andrew Bynum started at center for the West but played six minutes. Steve Nash played five minutes. Dirk Nowitzki played 14 but stunk it up. These guys need to graciously accept their All-Star invites (which will still count) and then respectfully pass them on to younger or healthier players who will actually be able to compete. The rest and relaxation is understandable, but don't uselessly take up a roster spot if you aren't going to seriously compete.

-5-point half-court shot. Come on, you know this would be entertaining even if you don't want to admit it. Neither team would ever truly be out of the game.

The Rookie-Sophomore Game

This year, TNT tried to mix it up by drafting the teams instead of playing straight up rookies vs. sophomores. But here are some better suggestions for fixing the still-quite-young Rising Stars game.

-Play for contracts. Rather than teams deciding what their young players make, the collective bargaining agreements determine how much rookies make through their first three years. Every player drafted in the first round gets a set salary based on where they are drafted, with no exceptions. Take $10 million dollars and have it up for grabs every year, distributed accordingly (based on the original scale) among the members of the winning team's class.

-The Rising Stars Experimental Game. Turn the young guys into lab rats in some quirky science experiment of a game. Bring in special 15-foot rims and see who can still shoot the lights out. Or make the courts 200 feet long instead of 94. Or make the court extend 10 feet PAST the basket on either end, so that players can play around the back of it like in hockey. The possibilities are endless.

New Event Possibilities

Every event has to start somewhere. The Skills Challenge, Rookie-Soph Game and the Shooting Stars event are all relatively recent additions. Here are some more events they should at least consider adding.

-1-on-1. Take four guards, four wing players and four centers, and put them in three little semifinal brackets. Chris Paul vs. Derrick Rose winner takes on Russell Westbrook vs. Tony Parker winner. Kevin Durant vs. Kobe Bryant winner takes on LeBron James vs. Carmelo Anthony winner, etc.

-2-on-2. The rule here is that the 2-on-2 teams consist of players who are already teammates. Everyone likes to talk about who the best duo in the NBA is. Why not prove it on the court? Durant and Westbrook. James and Wade. Chris Paul and Blake Griffin. Derrick Rose and Luol Deng.

-Hot Shots. Every young player has done this at a basketball camp before. Different spots on the floor are marked with different values based on difficulty. A player has 30 seconds to shoot from wherever he wants, racking up as many points as possible. Add in some behind-the-backboard spots and half-court spots for entertainment.

-Gotcha/Knockout. Another game that most basketball players have played extensively in their lives. Everyone lines up behind one another at the 3-point or free throw line. When you make a shot, pass it back to the next person waiting in line. If the person behind you makes a shot before you do, you are out.

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