Updated: Mar 8, 2021
Screenshot From EA Sports NBA Live Mobile
Seen above is a facsimile of the court used for the 1996 NBA All-Star Game, played at the Alamodome in San Antonio. Just one look at the optics screams 1990s, the time of grunge music and Michael Jordan, the color teal and the birth of the Toronto Raptors and Vancouver Grizzlies. A lot of artistic impression went into it, the NBA font and logo looks glorious, and then there was the 'I Love This Game' mantra - a tag line of the era meant as a promotion all fans could get behind instead of a virtue signal. And look at the uniforms the All-Stars wore, along with those worn in Phoenix a year earlier. Here the 1996 outfits are shown against 1968 Cincinnati Royals outfits, a sharp look onto themselves. Take a look at the mid-court logo...
Yes, back in the days when creativity played a big part in designing All-Star Game, Final Four and Super Bowl logos. The 1990s NBA received a lot of play and recollection last year thanks to ESPNs 'Last Dance' documentaries featuring Jordan and the six-time World Champion Chicago Bulls. But the era represented so much more. Today Shaquille O'Neal, Charles Barkley and Kenny "The Jet" Smith are in the television studio, back in the day they were on the court. Shaq was tearing down backboards while Barkley did an ad campaign proclaiming himself 'as not a role model'. Looking for elite centers? Take your choice between Patrick Ewing, Hakeem Olajuwon, David Robinson, Alonzo Mourning or Dikembe Mutombo, a great humanitarian who remains relevant today in his own ad appearances. Players such as Dennis Rodman, Gary 'The Glove' Payton and Charles Oakley made their mark with elite defense. Other stars included Clyde Drexler, Anfernee Hardaway, Tim Hardaway, Larry 'Grandmama' Johnson, Mitch Richmond, Reggie Miller and a long-time duet out of Salt Lake City known as Stockton to Malone. Other fan favorites such as Manute Bol and Muggsy Bouges represented opposite ends of the height spectrum. By 1995 Kevin Garnett burst onto the scene and another rookie out of the Philadelphia high school ranks arrived a couple years later named Kobe Bryant. It made me want to run to McDonald's to rip open a pack of those 1992 Dream Team trading cards. Rodney King and the O.J. Simpson saga occurred during the decade and had its overtones, but no one really cared about race or nationalities watching the on-court product.
Fast forward to the current day, here is how the court looked in Chicago for the 2020 ASG..
Not bad, nice incorporation of the Chicago skyline, the city's colors and the six-pointed stars. Just a far cry from the 1990s and the All-Star uniforms have lost creativity, focusing on team logos of individual participants. This year's game originally scheduled for Indianapolis pays homage to Historically Black Colleges and Universities and is well-intended.
Then there was the infamous 2020 bubble court (except for superimposed team and ad logos seen on TV) - bland except for one loud social justice message.
It is not a coincidence that Sunday's All-Star game was dropped on Atlanta, as it gives Lebron James and others a chance to spike the basketball over Donald Trump's loss in the presidential election, along with the narrow defeats of Kelly Loeffler and David Perdue in the January Georgia senate run-offs. The NBA's get out the vote campaigns loomed large in dictating the results.
Today's stars including LeBron, Stephen Curry, James Harden along with coaches such as Gregg Popovich and Steve Kerr get paid in part due to huge profits made in China where Uighurs of the hundreds-dollar shoes the players wear are employed in forced labor camps. China is also where much of the NBA's world popularity resides and where a killer pandemic unleashed upon the rest of the world in 2020 played a part in undoing the sitting United States president. The nightly barrage of three-point shots and dunks will continue to evolve the league - let's just hope that someday soon fans can just Love This Game Again.