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The History and Evolution of the NBA All-Star Game

By Carlos Chacon

For just the second time in history, Cleveland will host the 2022 NBA All-Star Game this year for what should be another captivating display of the league’s best athletes just having fun and taking a quick midseason break. The All-Star Game has had a long and storied legacy since its inception in 1951, and now’s a great opportunity to look back on how the star-studded event has changed over the years and decades.

NitroBetting is ready to dish out some timely assists to our bettors all throughout the 2021-22 NBA season. This time, let’s take a quick breather from the intense action from the hardcourts and break down the history and evolution of the NBA All-Star Game in anticipation of the 71st installment of the event on February 20.

The History and Evolution of the NBA All-Star Game

The All-Star Game’s East Coast Roots

As soon as the Super Bowl ends, we all should turn our attention to the March Madness Tournament.

At the start of the 1950s, The NBA needed to draw even more attention to the league and decided to take a page out of Major League Baseball’s playbook by hosting an All-Star Game itself similar to the MLB’s Midsummer Classic. Thus, the first NBA All-Star Game was held in 1951 at the Boston Garden in Massachusetts, which would host the next year’s edition of the event as well.

In six of the first seven editions of the NBA All-Star Game, the event was held in either Boston (three in total) or New York (two in famed Madison Square Garden, one in Rochester), with the only exception being the third NBA ASG held at Fort Wayne, Indiana. Boston wouldn’t host another All-Star Game at the Garden until 1964, which also happens to be the last time that the city would hold an All-Star Game to date.

Missing Just One Beat

Throughout the league’s history, the NBA All-Star Game has only failed to deliver its exciting brand of elite-level exhibition basketball on one occasion, which was during the 1999 season that was shortened by the NBA lockout.

The 1999 NBA All-Star Game was supposed to take place in Philadelphia for what would’ve been a record-tying fourth time with New York City, leaving fans from the City of Brotherly Love feeling left behind on the landmark moment. Thankfully, Philly would host the event just three years later in 2002, with that edition of the ASG being significant as Kobe Bryant would end up winning the first of his record-setting four All-Star Game MVP awards (more on Kobe later as well).

Captains of the All-Star Ship

The biggest shakeup in the NBA All-Star Game’s format happened recently during the 2018 run of the event. That year, instead of the usual battle between the Eastern and Western Conference All-Stars, the league appointed two team captains to draft their own team to go up against the other.

Reviews of this revamped format of the All-Star Game have been received with relative praise, as the drafting process of the two team captains adds the potential of personal drama and biases of the two assigned team captains. And, as we’ll get into shortly, there’s been one man who’s making the fresh take on the ASG a must-watch affair.

As for the East vs. West battles of the past, the Eastern Conference has the edge over its rival from the other side of the country, 37-29. Only time will tell if the league will shift back to the traditional format of the event for a one-off occasion or with its full return as the default format. But as it stands, the glowing success of the draft version of the ASG has yet to go stale in the eyes of the majority of NBA fans.

LeBron’s Dominance at Full Display

18-time All-Star and living legend LeBron James has been appointed as a captain in all four installments of the new NBA All-Star Game format. The league could not have introduced his opening ASG bout against Steph Curry in 2018, as the rivalry between the Cavaliers and the Warriors was at its all-time high (pun unintended).

Although Steph would beat LeBron in the title-winning race between the Dubs and the Cavs during their fierce rivalry in the 2000s, it’s James who has the last laugh in terms of the All-Star Game, as he’s a perfect 4-0 as a team captain in as many runs of the event’s new format.

Furthermore, James won his third-career All-Star Game MVP during that bout against Curry four years ago. He’ll have another crack at winning his fourth hardware from the event to tie Bryant’s record that has stood since 2011 to further add to his claim as the real “King” of the ASG realm.

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