Decision to play NBA All-Star Game draws mixed reception

Some players opposed to playing during a pandemic, while fans seem to be excited

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Photo courtesy of ClutchPoints

Los Angeles Lakers star LeBron James will lead his team against the Pelicans’ Zion Williamson and the rest of Kevin Durant’s team in Sunday’s NBA All-Star Game.

Dominic Aguilar, Staff Writer

The 2021 NBA All-Star Game is Sunday in Atlanta, where a weekend’s worth of activities will be squeezed into a single night because of COVID-19.

Regardless of the ongoing pandemic, concerns from players and Atlanta’s mayor Keisha Lance Bottoms, the NBA plans to push forward. Pregame festivities will consist of the skills competition and 3-point contest, while the dunk contest will serve as the halftime show. In the past, these events were a day before the showcase game at 5 p.m.

One of the most prominent voices in the league expressed his opposition to hosting this event during the pandemic, as well as in the middle of a shortened and crammed season to begin with.

“I don’t even understand why we’re having an All-Star Game,” Los Angeles Lakers star LeBron James told reporters after a game against the Denver Nuggets on Feb. 4. “I’ll be there if I’m selected. I’ll be there physically, but not mentally.”

Giannis Antetokounmpo, De’Aaron Fox and other players shared similar thoughts because they see the All-Star Game as a huge risk and waste of time. On the other hand, the financial impact for TNT and entertainment benefits of these events is too significant to put aside for some fans.

“I understand the players feelings, but they should be out there no matter what,” said senior Joseph Calderon, who has played basketball for Cal High.

Portland Blazers star Damian Lillard has a bit of a different viewpoint from most of his other colleagues. While understanding all the possible threats that the events could pose, Lillard recognized that not playing the game could have serious consequences for the NBA and himself.

“A lot of players are saying, ‘Why are we even having a game?’ And I understand that. If they said, ‘We’re not going to have a game,’ I’d be perfectly fine with it. I just had two newborns, and I would love to spend that extra time at home with my family,” Lillard told NBA writer Sean Highkin. “But, if they say we’re going to do it, I understand that because this is our job, and I understand that with the kind of money we make, you’ve got to make sacrifices.”

Some Cal High students are still in support of the All-Star game.

“Personally, I support it,” said senior Riley Hui, NBA fan. “But even if they run the event safely, it’ll still have an influence on all the fans watching.” 

Lance, the Atlanta mayor, strongly discouraged city businesses from hosting any events related to the game.

“Under normal circumstances we’d be grateful for the opportunity to host the NBA All-Star game, but this isn’t a typical year,” Lance tweeted on Feb. 16. “I’ve shared my concerns with the NBA and Atlanta Hawks and agree this is a made-for-TV event only and people shouldn’t travel to Atlanta to party.”

No tickets were sold for the game, and the players will only be able to leave their hotel for the event itself.

Even Los Angeles Clipper star Kawhi Leonard, who is known for being reserved, was straightforward and outspoken with his thoughts.

“We all know why we’re playing it,” Kawhi said during a Feb. 5 postgame interview. “It’s money on the line. It’s an opportunity to make more money. Just putting money over health right now, pretty much.”

The estimated amount of money to be generated from these events is about $60 million. The league couldn’t give that up so easily. Despite the unenthusiastic players and other criticism the league has been getting the past few weeks. 

It’s exactly as Leonard said.