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They’re the Captains Now: NBA All-Star Game Gets an Overhaul

The East vs. West format has been scrapped in favor of a playground style that will make for an amazing social experiment

NBA: All Star Game-Eastern at Western Bob Donnan-USA TODAY Sports

The NBA All-Star Game is evolving. And it’s getting a lot more fun.

Instead of an East vs. West matchup, teams will be picked based on playground rules, with two captains selecting from the remaining pool of players, according to an announcement by the NBA on Tuesday.

The initial All-Star voting process will remain the same as last season: five players (two guards and three frontcourt players) from each conference will be selected by votes from fans, players, and media, and the remaining 14 players will be chosen by NBA head coaches. But now the top fan-vote-getters in each conference will be enlisted to choose, fantasy-draft style, who among the remaining 22 gets to play for which team. Get excited!

The All-Star Game has become tepid. With no defense and no incentive to play hard, it’s turned into a glorified scrimmage. The game itself may not change much with the new rules, though the NBA also announced that it will make an unspecified contribution to charity, with the teams choosing the beneficiaries. In fact, the same number of representatives from the shallower East will still get in. Seriously, how many players from the West will get picked before a player from the East? Maybe this is the precursor to abolishing the conference system, both at the All-Star Game and for the league at large.

But in the meantime, at least the selection process will be fun. There will be players who won’t care where they get chosen, or at least say that they don’t through cryptic Instagrams or tweets. There will also be players whose permanent chip on their shoulder will be augmented once they see another player picked ahead of them.

We hear a lot about how teams passing on players in the actual draft affected guys like Draymond Green or Isaiah Thomas or even Rudy Gobert. This has a chance to do that on a smaller, more enjoyable scale. The NBA is already known for its large presence on social media, both from people inside and outside of the league. From trades to free agency to superteams and recruiting, relationships matter more in the NBA than they do in any other sport.

Now imagine all of the snipes and subtweets playing out on live TV. What happens when the aging superstar who shouldn’t be in the All-Star Game but gets voted in is picked last by his peers? Or when LeBron doesn’t pick Kyrie Irving? Will Kevin Durant or Steph Curry even consider taking Russell Westbrook if one of them is a captain? Could we get the full Banana Boat on one All-Star team?! Bring on the beefs and the pettiness that Basketball Twitter cannot get enough of.

Someone please make this draft a live, prime-time show. Give me a pregame show with predictions. Heck, even have former players come on to do mock drafts. Let’s go all in.

Congrats, NBA. You’ve made the All-Star Game relevant again.