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NBA All-Star Game: East beat the West 211-186. Did fans watch the game?


The Eastern Conference won the NBA's All-Star Game last night in Indianapolis in the highest-scoring game ever. They combined with the West to score nearly 400 points. Jesse Washington is here to talk about it. He's a senior writer for ESPN's Andscape. Jesse, 211 to 186 - that was the final score. Was that basketball that we saw? - because they weren't playing any defense at all.

JESSE WASHINGTON: Man, I really don't think it was basketball. It was embarrassing, and it was just sort of disgusting to those of us who really care about competitiveness and the integrity of the game - that you try your best when you go out there, and I think it's a bad look for the NBA. They're going to have to figure out something to do about this game. The viewers are going down. People don't really care as much. The dunk contest is not compelling like it used to be. NBA is going to have to do something.

MARTÍNEZ: Yeah, because here's the thing. Like, if you and I were to go out on a playground - right? - and try to match up with someone else playing two-on-two, we would still play defense - right? - 'cause we want to stay on the court. I mean, I don't understand this.

WASHINGTON: You know, I think that the explanation is one that I'm not happy to provide. And I think that these guys just don't care. They're so well paid. They're so famous. They don't need to do anything to get any attention or more accolades. They're scared of, I don't know, tweaking a pinky finger or something. And there's no competitiveness left. It wasn't too long ago when Kobe and Michael would go at it, when Dwyane Wade was like, I'm out here - Dwyane Wade broke Kobe Bryant's nose in an All-Star Game, and then Kobe later said, I loved it. So, you know, that spirit of the game is gone, and I think it threatens to carry over into the rest of NBA play.

MARTÍNEZ: See, that's the - yeah, that is the problem, right? When they don't care about playing the game, why should we care to watch it? I know last year's All-Star Game had a ratings low, right? So I mean if the players aren't into it, why should we be into it? Why should we want to turn on the TV?

WASHINGTON: Well, you know, if you guys had not called me and...

MARTÍNEZ: (Laughter).

WASHINGTON: ...Said that we were going to talk about it, I probably wouldn't have watched either. Yeah. Last year...


WASHINGTON: ...The viewership was an all-time low, 4.6 million. I'd be surprised if they crack four this year. Last year, Denver coach Michael Malone was coaching the West. He said, quote, "that is the worst basketball game ever played." This might have been the second worst.

MARTÍNEZ: So OK, two years ago, Jesse, the NFL decided to go with a flag football game for the Pro Bowl. They stopped pretending that it was an actual football game that they were playing in the Pro Bowl. So should the NBA maybe stop pretending that the All-Star Game is a real game and do something else? - maybe, like, what I just mentioned, like, a two-on-two or a three-on-three and make the pot, like, I don't know, 2 million, 3 million bucks - something like that.

WASHINGTON: Yeah. They got to do something, you know? They got to do something. I got a suggestion. How about the losers fly home commercial with no TSA PreCheck? You know, I mean, I won't put them in coach unless you lose by 20. I mean, we're at that point. It's getting desperate out here. NBA, please do something. These are the best basketball players in the world. We should be able to see something other than 211 uncontested points.

MARTÍNEZ: Do you think just All-Star Games in general are maybe a thing of the past? - because ratings go down for - like, for all the All-Star Games. And I think, as you said, players don't seem to care as much anymore. It's this weird game in the middle of the season when they're - maybe would like a break instead of actually playing basketball.

WASHINGTON: You know, I think they really care about being an all-star. You know, every athlete wants to be recognized as the best at what they do. Jayson Tatum was asked before the game what it would mean to win MVP of the game. And so, you know, I think that they do care, but they know that we can see them doing these superhuman things on our phones every day of the week. And so they don't care to do those things in the actual game. It's unfortunate.

MARTÍNEZ: Jesse, if you and I were to play a two-on-two, you know, I inbound the ball, then you just give the ball back. Just give the ball back. I'll shoot. You play D.


MARTÍNEZ: That's...


MARTÍNEZ: ...Jesse Washington, senior writer for ESPN's Andscape. Jesse, thanks.

WASHINGTON: Thank you.

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