As stars chastise the NBA for holding an All-Star Game in the first place, the league is preparing to add a slam dunk contest at halftime of the game reportedly slated to take place in Atlanta on March 7, ESPN's Adrian Wojnarowski reports.
The traditional All-Star weekend that was initially scheduled to take place in Indianapolis was canceled because of the COVID-19 pandemic. The league and the National Basketball Players Association reportedly agreed last month to a scaled-down event for Atlanta that will take place on one day instead of the annual Friday-Sunday celebration that encompasses a traditional All-Star weekend.
Dunk contest wasn't part of original reported plans
The intial reported plan included an East vs. West All-Star Game and a skills competition. Now, the league is working toward adding the dunk contest, which is traditionally the featured event of the league's All-Star Saturday.
LeBron, Giannis, Kawhi speak out against All-Star Game
While the union and NBPA president Chris Paul signed off on the All-Star Game, some of the NBA's biggest stars have criticized the decision. LeBron James called the event a "slap in the face" last week.
“I have zero energy and zero excitement about an All-Star Game this year,” James told reporters. “I don’t even understand why we’re having an All-Star Game."
James' Lakers are coming off an eight-week offseason after playing in the NBA Finals last season that concluded on Oct. 11. He's not the only vocal critic of the game. Giannis Antetokounmpo concurred.
"We gotta all follow the big dog [LeBron], man. The big dog says he has zero excitement, zero energy for the All-Star Game, I’m the same way. … I want to see my family."
Giannis shared his thoughts on the All-Star Game. pic.twitter.com/8Gk0QvC4XP
— SportsCenter (@SportsCenter) February 6, 2021
"We gotta all follow the big dog, man," Antetokounmpo said last week. "The big dog says he has zero excitement, zero energy for the All-Star Game, I’m the same way. Really, right now, I don’t care about the All-Star Game. We can’t see our families, I can’t worry about the All-Star Game, I want to see my family."
Kawhi Leonard was more pointed in his critique, accusing the league of prioritizing revenue over the health of its players as COVID-19 maintains its grip on the United States.
"It is what it is. We all know why we're playing it. It's money on the line. It's opportunity to make more money. Just putting money over health right now, pretty much."
Kawhi Leonard on playing the All-Star Game. pic.twitter.com/cjy7oUTxGV
— Tomer Azarly (@TomerAzarly) February 6, 2021
“It is what it is at this point," Leonard said last week. "We all know why we're playing it. It's money on the line. It's an opportunity to make more money. Just putting money over health right now, pretty much. We’re playing games now and it’s still a pandemic."
The league is planning to host the event after being forced to postpone 24 games less than six weeks into the season because of COVID-19 exposures and contact tracing. Meanwhile, the United States recorded 96,460 new confirmed COVID-19 cases and 3,167 deaths attributed to the pandemic on Tuesday as the coronavirus death toll in the country approaches 500,000.
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