After originally deciding to cancel the 2021 National Basketball Association (NBA) All-Star Game back in November of last year, the league, in agreement with the Players Association, changed its mind and decided that the game will take place on March 7 in Atlanta. Aside from the fact that the league may want to recover from its loss of revenue last season, having an All-Star Game this year makes little sense.
From a basketball perspective, an outbreak could seriously set back teams fighting for a playoff spot or better seeding. According to the NBA’s COVID-19 protocol, any player who tests positive has to sit out for at least 10 days and is unable to work out during that span. For a season in which there are play-in tournaments again, a team going without its best player for even just a week could mean the difference between having to play in the tournament or getting rest before the playoffs start.
Beyond the game itself, testing positive could have serious lingering effects on the players. Philadelphia 76ers guard Seth Curry tested positive in early January but has yet to feel like he is 100% again.
“Some of the big remnants is also just trying to get my energy all the way back. Some days I feel good; some days I’m just sluggish, and it’s like I got to take a nap all day, so it’s weird, but I’m grateful to be able to get up and get on the court every day and play,” Curry said.
While Curry’s case isn’t necessarily representative of every NBA player, it serves as yet another example of why the virus should be taken more seriously. Losing a player to COVID-19 is beyond losing an integral piece on the floor; the health of players is at stake here.
I’ll admit that a lot of my argument rests on whether an outbreak even occurs. One might point out a report from last week that there were zero new positive cases since Jan. 27. Also, I’ll concede that there are good reasons for having the game, as some money generated will be going to historically Black colleges and universities and COVID-19 relief.
But the argument could be made that these billion-dollar organizations should be dedicating money to those causes regardless of whether or not All-Star Weekend takes place. And with teams traveling across the country, even a single case could set off a cluster within a team. While cases are trending down, the variability that comes with travel makes it impossible to rule out the possibility that an All-Star does not have the virus.
We as sports fans should ask ourselves: What exactly is lost if there is no All-Star Game this year? Aside from a few exceptions, the game itself is rarely ever that fun to watch, as it’s usually an affair of which team can rack up the most points. I’m sure most sports fans can agree that debating and seeing which players make the All-Star team is more entertaining than actually watching them play in the game.
For the All-Star Game to happen would be a serious miss from a league that was given so much praise handling the pandemic last year. It would be the perfect example of the league picking and choosing when the rules should or should not apply. If players of opposing teams can’t hug after a game, then why let them share a court for a weekend? There needs to be more consistency in the league’s protocol, but I digress.
If the NBA has any care for the safety of its players, it should just let the players be selected as an All-Star for the honor of being one and hope that the game can be played next year.