De’Aaron Fox may have been the first NBA star to question the league’s decision to put on the All-Star Game this season, but he is no longer the biggest. Over the past few days, a handful of players who would be atop anyone’s Top Whatever Players In The League list have come right out and said that this whole thing is stupid.
LeBron James, Giannis Antetokounmpo, James Harden, and Kawhi Leonard have all expressed varying degrees of displeasure at the idea of playing in the All-Star Game. James and Antetokounmpo both spoke of their total lack of enthusiasm for the game, Harden bemoaned a missed opportunity to get some rest in the middle of the season’s condensed schedule, and Leonard had the most pointed criticism. From ESPN:
“I mean, we all know why we are playing it. You know, there’s money on the line,” he said. “It’s an opportunity to make more money. … Just putting money over health right now, pretty much. Yeah, we are playing games now, and it is still a pandemic. We are doing all these protocols and rules, so it doesn’t really surprise me.”ESPN
“Just putting money over health right now” reads as a pretty damning indictment of the league from one of its most important players, and one that could easily be applied to the decision to play any games this season. Everyone knows the truth of the matter, but it’s still something to see a star player just come out and say it.
Why some players would be so vocally against playing the All-Star Game but seemingly comfortable with playing a condensed regular season isn’t too hard to figure out. The burden of prioritizing money over health in the form of a regular season schedule is one that falls on the shoulders of every player in the league, whereas the All-Star Game requires extra participation from a select group of players for the monetary benefit of all. What that select group is starting to realize, perhaps, is that it’s very difficult to turn the greed spigot off once you’ve agreed to turn it on.
This doesn’t necessarily make them hypocrites. Yes, they signed up for a season of NBA basketball, and that’s something that includes an All-Star Game, but that doesn’t mean that the “money over health” compromise needs to be made every single step of the way. An All-Star Game doesn’t really “mean” anything less than a regular-season game in the context of a deadly pandemic, but that’s not a compelling reason for having one anyway.