Rather than divide us, sports must unite us, they said — and the NBA delivered Tuesday, announcing changes to the All-Star Game that do away with the event's usual format of splitting teams based on geography. Rather than field one team from the Western Conference and one team from the Eastern Conference, the league announced that players chosen to be team captains will be allowed to draft their own teams from a pool of All-Stars.
It works like this: Twelve players will still be selected from each conference as All-Stars. Five players from each conference will be selected per a weighted vote that is 50 percent fan choice, 25 percent player choice, and 25 percent media choice; these are the available starters. The top vote-getter in each conference will be a team captain. Head coaches from each conference will then select seven reserves, for a total of 14 available bench players.
Then, the fun begins: Each team captain will be able to draft his starters and reserves, playground-style, from the pool of chosen players, rather than have the teams be determined by only weighted vote and conference allegiance. That means the days of the Golden State Warriors packing four players onto one squad for the West may be over; current teammates may end up facing off, while old rivals could find themselves once again sharing a uniform.
Houston Rockets guard Chris Paul, acting as the president of the National Basketball Players Association, pushed for the change, ESPN reported. The new format will debut at the 2018 All-Star Game in Los Angeles on Feb. 18, with starters announced Jan. 18 and reserves announced Jan. 23.
In the meantime, let your mind whir with the possibilities. Kimberly Alters