* * *
What is your one lasting impression from NBA All-Star 2018 in Los Angeles?
* * *
David Aldridge: A much better All-Star product, both for the TV audience and those at Staples Center, on Sunday. NBA players are not just the best basketball players in the world, they’re among the greatest competitors in any discipline. And that competitiveness was not on display last year. This year, you saw great players giving a damn at the defensive end (and, also, referees who blew their whistles). The last image of Stephen Curry double-teamed on the sideline and unable to get off a last-second shot is a much better visual going forward than players standing woodenly as yet another opponent rose to dunk on them. But it will only last if players continue to put forth some defensive effort next year in Charlotte.
Steve Aschburner: The resuscitation of the All-Star Game itself. I’m not convinced the format change or the goosed winner’s share had anything to do with the more conscientious effort, especially on defense. I think there was embarrassment over the 2017 game that wasted everyone’s time and enough conversation about not repeating that mess that it got the players’ attention. Look, however we got there, it was a fine thing. Offensive maneuvers without resistance aren’t nearly as impressive, and ignoring one half of the sport entirely – defense – is a lousy way to entertain fans whether rabid or casual. Playing both ends of the floor from the start, throughout the game and particularly at the end demonstrated the All-Stars’ skills and capabilities better than any turnstile fake D ever did.
Tas Melas: The power of LeBron James. LeBron influenced the competitiveness of the All-Star Game by repeatedly saying that the fans deserved more in the weeks leading up to it, and then by imposing his will Sunday. When LBJ speaks, the world listens — and not only the basketball world. When he fired back at Fox News host Laura Ingraham for saying: “He should shut up and dribble,” LeBron also empowered those listening to pipe up for what they believe in. L.A. 2018 was peak LeBron transcendence.
Shaun Powell: Mine is the last few frantic possessions of the All-Star Game. We saw bodies on the floor, bodies on Stephen Curry while he tried to launch a desperate shot, bodies on LeBron James as he caught a beautiful pass for the eventual game-winning basket. The impression left by those who played in the game is that … they cared. Been a long time coming. Let’s hope, for the sake of the reputation of All-Star Weekend, that this becomes the norm and that players don’t need to receive a sign from LeBron to get their butts in gear.
John Schuhmann: Given how embarrassingly noncompetitive the 2017 All-Star Game was, I’ll remember the last five minutes of this one. Of course, when Team Stephen led by 13 with 6:30 to go, I was worried we’d never get anything all that intense. Up to that point, the game was better than last year’s, but not quite competitive enough. Team LeBron’s comeback saved it, and there’s nothing better than the best players in the world playing like they care.
Sekou Smith: The fact that LeBron James is still dominating the conversation on All-Star weekend some 15 years in is truly remarkable. His impact on the entire affair, from what goes on in the game and all of the storylines he drives off the court is undeniable. I remember when he was just getting started as the young, up-and-coming star who clearly had next after Kobe Bryant and his generation transitioned into the twilight of their careers. So to see LeBron now, the oldest player in Sunday’s game, and still as good as he’s ever been, is something. The All-Star Game ending on a defensive stop, with LeBron, of course, in the middle of the action, says it all. The league’s best player owned the league’s biggest weekend, yet again.