Mendoza: NBA All-Star hangs in the balance

Al Mendoza
·2 min read

Will LeBron James succeed in his call to scrap the NBA All-Star Game on March 7 in Atlanta, Georgia?

The All-Star has become part and parcel of NBA lore. It showcases the league’s best talents yearly, including dunking contests and a three-point shootout.

It is also the time that fans get to be the stars as they are allowed the luxury of selecting the players for the two opposing teams.

But all that could vanish into thin air as the fate of the NBA All-Star hangs in the balance amid the pandemic.

And why not?

With the coronavirus still raging worldwide, abetted all the more by new fast-infecting variants from the United Kingdom, South Africa and Brazil, cancelling the All-Star game would seem the more appropriate move.

For one, how can it be an All-Star Game when it is held minus the league’s No. 1 player, King James?

For another, several of LeBron’s fellow stars like Kawhi Leonard, James Harden and reigning MVP Giannis Antetokounmpo seem also bent on boycotting the All-Star show.

What is there to showcase if the certified superstars of the game are out of it?

James’s line that it will be a “slap in the face” to players should the show be staged jars the soul. He added he would only have “zero energy and zero excitement” because of the pandemic that had already cut short the season and forced “tight safety protocols on players.”

“I really don’t care about the All-Star game now,” said Antetokounmpo, the Greek pillar of the Milwaukee Bucks. “I want to get some break of five days, seven days, whatever the days are. I want to see my family (in Greece).”

Said Harden: “It’s draining to be playing a lot of games in a week. We need to kind of relax, be with our families and take a step back away from basketball.”

Leonard, the Clippers big gun, was harsh and blunt: “We all know why we’re playing it. There’s money on the line. It’s an opportunity to make more money—just putting money over health right now.”

Phoenix Suns’ Chris Paul, the NBA players union president, said: “Guys are entitled to their feelings... I think the job is to make sure our players are healthy and safe.”

This time, Paul’s leadership will really be tested.