The NBA All-Star Game — and All-Star Weekend as a whole, honestly — is supposed to be one of the best sports parties.
It’s a time when the biggest names in basketball from the past, present and future all come together in one place. This is an extremely special moment for the NBA.
The 2023 All-Star weekend definitely didn’t feel like it. The fans made this clear by not watching the game.
According to Paulsen’s Sports Media Watch data, viewership for the game hit record highs over the weekend. Sunday’s contest drew just 4.59 million viewers on TNT and TBS, which was a 27% drop from last year according to their data and the biggest drop since the 2000 All-Star Game.
“Ratings are down 29% and viewership down 27% from last year’s All-Star Game (3.1, 6.28 million). While viewership for the All-Star Game is trending down, this year’s declines are the steepest for the game since 2000 – the first All-Star Game after a year-long hiatus due to the 1998-99 NBA lockout.
There are a few factors at work here. The first is pretty obvious: the game lacked a lot of star power.
Kevin Durant and Steph Curry were both injured. Giannis Antetkounmpo and LeBron James left the game early with their own injuries. These are huge losses. That star power is a big part of what brings people to All-Star weekend. Without it, the game can certainly be a tough sell.
Players who participated giving the bare minimum of effort certainly didn’t help either. People logged out of the game because they had absolutely no reason to log in. Nobody wants to watch a “glorified lay-up line”, like Jaylen Brown described it.
It’s a big deal, though. The All-Star game is a huge selling point for the NBA when the league has its television rights negotiations. TNT would be ready to leave the league. The league is seeking a combined $50-75 billion from TNT and ESPN in their next TV deal, Front Office Sports reported.
It’s a long way from happening – the NBA continues to grow and has a amazing social reach. But the NBA has yet to give its television partners an incentive to stay. These numbers are not that.
There is no easy solution for this. You can’t just continually modify that lack of effort. It always comes back to square one.
The only way this changes is if players – literally – make an effort to change it. It’s on them. We’ll see if that happens.