NBA players push back against idea of holding All-Star Weekend during COVID-19 pandemic
By Gage Smith, Contributor
In the last 365 days of the NBA, we’ve seen a lot of firsts. The COVID-19 pandemic forced the league to undergo an unprecedented shutdown in March 2020, only to re-open in the Orlando bubble in June. 2020 also saw the first-ever NBA playoffs to run into the fall. The entire 2020-2021 NBA season is likely to be played without fans in attendance.
One thing, however, is looking like it won’t change: the very best players in the league will duke it out in a meaningless game with final scores not far off from a million points. Some prominent voices around the league aren’t happy about it, though.
The negative discourse started on Feb. 4, when star guard for the Sacramento Kings De’Aaron Fox called the idea of an NBA All-Star game this year “stupid.”
“If we have to wear a mask and all this for a regular game, then what’s the point of All-Star being back? Obviously, money makes the world go round, so it is what it is,” he said in a press conference after his Kings defeated the Boston Celtics.
The NBA’s original plan was to hold a normal All-Star weekend in Indianapolis this year, but according to IndyStar, the time to shine for the city of Indianapolis is bumped all the way to 2024.
Adam Silver, NBA Commissioner, said he was “disappointed that the NBA All-Star game will not take place in Indianapolis in 2021.”
While that’s a big hit for Indianapolis residents, fans in Atlanta and around the world aren’t going to be missing out on the festivities, as All-Star Weekend has been rescheduled to take place on Mar. 7 in Atlanta.
The NBA was willing to do so because holding the game in Atlanta would allow for a more toned-down weekend with stricter restrictions on travel.
According to ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski, safety protocols are to include “players arriving on Saturday and leaving on Sunday night under tight quarantines,” as well as “no international travel, daily testing for players and a requirement to return to home markets no later than the second day before the team’s first game after the break.”
These measures aren’t enough for the King, though.
LeBron James, the second leader in the NBA’s All-Star voting, said he has “zero energy and zero excitement” for the All-Star game this year. The location has something to do with it.
“We’re also still dealing with a pandemic, dealing with everything that’s been going on, and we’re going to bring the whole league into a city that’s still open,” he said. “I don’t even understand why we’re having an All-Star game.”
The NBA has been putting forth a massive effort to keep the league out of a bubble, even though the pandemic is still very much raging on in the U.S. Many teams have had to play games shorthanded due to players being pulled because of both direct exposure to COVID-19 and to implement contact tracing as a precautionary measure. James is “not very happy” about the safety risk posed by a potential All-Star game this year.
Celtics point guard Kemba Walker fully supports LeBron’s stance.
“I agree. He’s a smart man. He’s been around. He’s a leader. A lot of things he says are correct, man. He feels the way he feels,” Walker said of James.
“It’s out of my hands, and I’ll be there physically if I’m selected. I’ll be there physically, but not mentally,” James said.