NBA significantly changes All-Star Game format, Kobe Bryant to be honored

Kobe Bryant during the 2011 NBA All-Star Game (Credit: Getty Images)

The National Basketball Association has announced sweeping changes to the format of the 2020 NBA All-Star Game, which is taking place on February 16 at the United Center in Chicago.

According to the league, the tweaks are designed “to increase the level of competition throughout the game, provide additional excitement at the finish and make the outcome of every quarter count for charity.”

The changes will also honor Los Angeles Lakers legend Kobe Bryant, who died last weekend along with eight others in a helicopter crash in California. Bryant earned 18 NBA All-Star selections during his illustrious career, had a record-tying four NBA All-Star Game Most Valuable Player awards, and more recently had transitioned to a diversified career in business and content development.

In this year’s NBA All-Star Game between Team Giannis and Team LeBron – Giannis Antetokounmpo of the Milwaukee Bucks and LeBron James of the Los Angeles Lakers are the team captains – the first three quarters will each become mini-games for charity, all of which will start scoreless and last 12 minutes.

At the beginning of the fourth quarter, the game clock will be turned off and a Final Target Score will be set. The Final Target Score will be determined by taking the leading team’s total cumulative score through three quarters and adding 24 points – the 24 representing Bryant’s jersey number for the final 10 seasons of his NBA career.

For example, if the leading team has 100 points through three quarters, the first team to 124 points will win the All-Star Game.

Though the dual scoring format for the exhibition is decidedly unconventional, there is a significant charity element involved. The team that has the most points after the first quarter will win $100,000 for its designated Chicago-based charity, and same will apply to the second and third quarters. The winning team of the All Star Game will earn an extra $200,000 for its charity. If scores are tied, the $100,000 will roll over to the next quarter.

If one team wins each of the first three quarters and reaches the Final Target Score first, $500,000 will be donated to the winning team’s charity and $100,000 will be donated to the losing team’s charity.

“We’ve been very focused on making it more competitive, making it more exciting and making it fun,” Byron Spruell, the NBA’s president for league operations, told AP. “And we’ve had a great collaboration with the union. For this year’s game, we really focused on what new things we could do to make it a really competitive game where each quarter mattered in this case.”

For now, the changes are a one-year experiment. “If successful, I would imagine we keep it moving,” Spruell added.

The format switch represents the NBA’s latest efforts to maintain excitement and interest in the All-Star Game, which changed in 2018 from the traditional Eastern Conference v Western Conference format to players being chosen from the pool of selected All-Stars by team captains, who are the top fan vote-getters from each conference. Last year’s All-Star Game Draft was televised for the first time, something which will continue this year.

The NBA added there will be multiple additional tributes throughout the All-Star Weekend to Bryant, his 13-year-old daughter Gianna, and the seven others who lost their lives in Sunday’s helicopter crash.

Meanwhile, according to reports, the NBA’s salary cap for the 2020-21 season is expected to be $115m, which is up from this season’s $109m mark but down slightly from an original projection of $116m.

The downgraded expectations are said be in part due to economic fallout from last fall’s controversy in China surrounding a tweet from Houston Rockets general manager Daryl Morey supporting Hong Kong pro-democracy protestors. League commissioner Adam Silver said the league suffered “substantial” financial losses due to the ramifications of the tweet.