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NBA holding All-Star draft, using Elam Ending that honors Kobe Bryant

NBA commissioner Adam Silver with NBA All Star Game Kobe Bryant MVP Award trophy

NBA Commissioner Adam Silver talks about the NBA All Star Game Kobe Bryant MVP Award prior to events at NBA All-Star weekend on Saturday, Feb. 15, 2020 at the United Center in Chicago. (Chris Sweda/Chicago Tribune/Tribune News Service via Getty Images)

TNS via Getty Images

The NBA wants an All-Star game. The players’ union wants an All-Star game.

So, despite all the grumbling, an All-Star game is happening.

The league is trying to build enthusiasm for this year’s coronavirus-dampened event by supporting HBCUs, having captains pick teams and using an Elam Ending that honors Kobe Bryant.

NBA release:

The National Basketball Association (NBA) announced today that NBA All-Star 2021 will be held on Sunday, March 7 … in Atlanta, home of the Atlanta Hawks, where the league’s annual global celebration of the game will take place on one night for the first time, with oncourt action beginning at 6:30 p.m. ET on TNT. As part of this year’s events, the NBA and National Basketball Players Association (NBPA) announced that they will commit more than $2.5 million in funds and resources toward Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCUs) and support and awareness around equity and access to COVID-19 care, relief and vaccines.

TNT’s NBA All-Star coverage will begin at 5 p.m. ET with TNT NBA Tip-Off … followed by the … Skills Challenge and … 3-Point Contest starting at 6:30 p.m. ET. Coverage of the 70th NBA All-Star Game will begin at 8 p.m. ET, with … Slam Dunk taking place at halftime. The game will follow the same format as last year, with the teams competing to win each quarter and playing to a Final Target Score during the untimed fourth quarter.

The rosters for the NBA All-Star Game will be determined through the NBA All-Star Draft, where the two team captains will select from the pool of players voted as starters and reserves in each conference and make their picks without regard to conference affiliation. The captains will be the All-Star starter from each conference who receives the most fan votes in his conference. NBA All-Star starters will be announced tonight, Thursday, Feb. 18, at 7 p.m. ET on TNT.

In partnership with the Thurgood Marshall College Fund (TMCF), UNCF (United Negro College Fund), National Association for Equal Opportunity (NAFEO) and Direct Relief’s Fund for Health Equity, the NBA, NBPA and NBA All-Star 2021 partners … will highlight the importance of HBCUs and raise awareness around the disparate impact of COVID-19 on communities of color. In addition, All-Star will feature special performances by HBCU musical groups and unique storytelling and content by distinguished alumni and students.

For NBA All-Star 2021, the NBA and NBPA have established additional measures to supplement the league’s current Health and Safety Protocols. These include private travel to and from Atlanta, the creation of a “mini bubble” environment within a single hotel for players and coaches, and enhanced PCR testing. More information is available here. Additionally, for the well-being and safety of the greater Atlanta community, there will be no fan activities, ticketed events or hospitality functions as part of All-Star.

Though previous reporting said the All-Star game would return to an East-vs.-West format, having captains pick teams always made more sense. The All-Star draft is an entertaining event that can be televised while physically distancing. It should have been a no-brainer in These Times.

Lakers star LeBron James and Nets star Kevin Durant had healthy leads in the captain races. Final starter voting will be announced tonight.

I also appreciate the return of the Elam Ending. The All-Star game will end when a team scores 24 more points than the leading team had entering the fourth quarter.

But I’m surprised the NBA still used 24, which was set last year to honor Bryant. The Elam Ending format traditionally was eight more points than the leading team had at the first whistle inside four minutes.

By using a higher number, there’s more room for variance in the length of the game. Last year’s fourth quarter reportedly ran more than 15 minutes of gameplay. Another long game is even more unideal in this rushed season when stars are already complaining about playing in the All-Star game.

That said, All-Star teams typically score 24 points more quickly than 12 minutes (the standard quarter length). This format could shorten the game – especially if players like LeBron and Giannis Antetokounmpo keep their word on not bringing energy and focus to the game. Last year’s defensive intensity won’t necessarily be repeated.

But as variance increases, so does the potential for a long game.

Though there’s something to still honoring Bryant by using 24, the NBA already found the perfect way to memorialize him in perpetuity.