Mike James (with the ball) is one of the EuroLeague stars who are in favor of holding an all-star game. Source: Imago Images
Mike James (with the ball) is one of the EuroLeague stars who are in favor of holding an all-star game. Source: Imago Images

Should the EuroLeague have an All-Star game?

Basketball OlyBet 22.02.2024

European basketball looks poised for change in the near future, with the potential merger of two continental cups, the expansion of the EuroLeague, and therefore the likelihood of a change in its format. Could one of the new additions to the European basketball calendar be a EuroLeague All-Star game?

Currently, there isn’t one, and many leagues around the continent do not host an All-Star game. Looking at the top European leagues, such a show is put on only in France. This season’s edition was won by Team World, led by Monaco’s superstar Mike James, and also featured a slam dunk contest, three-point competition, and the skills challenge. The event was a success, played in front of 15,843 spectators in the packed Accor Arena in Paris.

James was the MVP in Paris:

Other top leagues once had their own version of the NBA’s All-Star Weekend. The Bundesliga’s All-Star game in Germany was last played in 2019 but failed to continue due to scheduling issues and Covid-19. Italy’s Lega Basket equivalent concluded in 2016, and Spain’s in 2003.

All-Star games used to be a mainstay in European basketball. Between 1964 and 1995, the International Basketball Federation (FIBA) held show games between European Selection All-Stars and various opponents, which included USA select teams, European clubs, and national teams from the Old Continent or abroad.

Those games ran until 1995, with the players at times competing in exhibitions serving as farewell games for all-time greats.

FIBA came up with another name for its flagship exhibition game and adjusted it to fit its American prototype. Thus, the FIBA EuroStars was introduced in 1996, considered the equivalent of an NBA All-Star Game, with both teams made up of the top players from clubs throughout the continent.

Per Basketnews.com, players from leagues on the east side of Europe (Greece, Turkey, Israel, ex-USSR, and ex-Yugoslavia countries), regardless of their country of origin, went up against those who competed in countries on the west side of the Old Continent (Spain, France, Germany, Italy, etc.).

Let’s do it better than the NBA

Of course, from a European perspective, it’s understandable why All-Star games are not very popular here. Fans usually associate it with the NBA All-Star game, which has turned into a lackluster event in the last few seasons, with this year’s edition seeing 397 points scored and some highlights that… Let’s just say it was clear why the players and NBA’s commissioner Adam Silver weren’t happy with the game.

NBA 2024 All-Star game highlights:

Yet the idea of an All-Star game shouldn’t be dismissed in Europe. If done properly, the game itself and its supporting cast of contests can be very enjoyable and fun, even for the European basketball purist.

Imagine a three-point contest between Andreas Obst, Alex Abrines, Markus Howard, Alec Peters, and Keenan Evans. Or a dunk contest featuring Josh Nebo and Chima Moneke, who would surely put on a show.

Truthfully, the dunk contest has never been very exciting to me, but it could be fun with the right players. Instead of the skills challenge, which is rather dull, the EuroLeague could host a 1 versus 1 tournament. Imagine Mike James, Shane Larkin, Wade Baldwin, and others creating amazing offense when the pressure is off and they can simply enjoy basketball.

Of course, all the side dishes may taste delicious, but if the main course – the All-Star game, in this context – lacks flavor, the idea of a grandiose mid-season celebration of EuroLeague basketball would fall flat.

European basketball fans are a demanding bunch. In an All-Star game, they want to see effort on defense and would love to see a real matchup with genuine intensity, not two guys passing without dribbling until one ends up under the opponent’s basket. Such a move wouldn’t materialize in any amateur league!

Money would make the difference

But how can we ensure that the All-Stars are actually interested in winning the game and are willing to play with intensity? With money, of course.

The NBA’s All-Star game could have a prize fund of ten million dollars, but it probably wouldn’t change the game. Most All-Stars earn an eight-figure yearly salary, and earning just under one million per player won’t move the needle.

By the way, per the current collective bargaining agreement, participants on the winning team take home $100,000. Losers still get paid but leave with a smaller compensation of $25,000. Now, what will LeBron James do with $100,000? The man earns close to $50 million for this season alone!

In Europe, the impact of money is very different. On the Old Continent, contracts aren’t nearly as huge, with the highest earners pocketing around four million dollars per season. $100,000 has a lot more value in European basketball because, even for the wealthiest players here, this sum marks a significant part of their monthly salary.

A good example of how prize money motivates non-NBA basketball players is The Basketball Tournament (TBT), where 64 teams compete for the winner-takes-all prize of one million dollars. Plenty of EuroLeague stars, like Tyrese Rice and Kyle Hines, have spent part of their off-season playing in the TBT. Sure, a part of the tournament is the chance to compete with friends or college teammates, but overseas Americans usually have the prize money as the primary motivator.

Hines and James in the TBT:

Benefits of an All-Star Game

The French league All-Star game and its side contests provide a clear example that there is an appetite for showcase events. And when done properly, people will tune in and pack a big arena to see the best players with their own eyes.

It’s been written in the last year or so that there’s quite a lot of support for the EuroLeague All-Star game from the players’ side. Fitting a festival of basketball into an already hectic schedule won’t be the easiest task, but with the potential of EuroLeague expanding and therefore having a format change reducing the number of games, having an All-Star game shouldn’t be mission impossible.

The EuroLeague has gained plenty of fans over the past couple of years, with the competition becoming increasingly popular in many markets around Europe and North America. An All-Star game with some creative side contests like a 1 versus 1 tournament could really propel the EuroLeague to greater heights.

Having our own European All-Star weekend would also increase the EuroLeague’s revenue thanks to ticket sales, broadcasting rights, and sponsorships. A couple of years ago, it was estimated that the NBA All-Star Game Weekend was expected to generate 100 million dollars in revenue.

Of course, the revenue won’t be nearly the same in Europe, but even a fraction of the NBA’s income would be a nice chunk of money, as European club basketball is in a perennial financial crisis, with many teams losing millions of euros each year.

All in all, it seems like the EuroLeague’s All-Star game is not a matter of if, but when. As fans, we should approach it with an open mind because the event does have great potential if done right.


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