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Scott D. Pierce: Do we need 17+ hours of NBA All-Stars on TV? Nope

Published February 13, 2013 1:36 pm

Sports on TV • As a bonus, you can hear Charles Barkley talk about himself for an hour.
This is an archived article that was published on sltrib.com in 2013, and information in the article may be outdated. It is provided only for personal research purposes and may not be reprinted.

TNT is planning more than 17 hours of coverage related to the NBA All-Star Game, which seems like a lot for a game that doesn't mean anything.

That's not a slam at the NBA in particular. With the exception of Major League Baseball, there aren't any all-star games that mean anything. (And MLB awarding the World Series home-field advantage to the league that wins its otherwise meaningless game remains a topic for debate.)

And the NBA All-Star Game might be the one contest that actually means more to the players than to the fans.

"The first one is always the most special," said ex-player/current TNT broadcaster Charles Barkley. "You take so many people with you. I took my mother, grandmother, my financial guy, my brothers."

"It was a dream come true," said TNT's Steve Smith, who called it a "highlight" of his career.

It's certainly a chance for the players to get some recognition, which they get so darn little of in the NBA. (That's sarcasm, folks.) And it can be fun to watch if you aren't a fan of defense or team play.

On Sunday, you've got the pregame (5 p.m.); the game (6 p.m.); and the postgame. But that's just part of the story.

But there's an argument to be made that the more interesting part of TNT's TV plan won't be All-Star Game itself. The rest of the schedule includes:

• The BBVA Rising Stars Challenge (Friday, 7 p.m.): Top young players on two squads chosen by Charles Barkley and Shaquille O'Neal play what amounts to, um, an all-star game.

There are no Jazz players on either roster, but there is one Utah tie. Karl Malone is scheduled to be a "guest analyst" on the halftime and postgame shows. Because a game like this really needs TV analysis.

• The State Farm All-Star Saturday Night (6 p.m.) will feature the Sears Shooting Stars competition; the Taco Bell Skills Challenge; the Foot Locker and the Sprite Slam Dunk Contest ... because you can never have too many advertisers.

There is, at least, competition here. There's an Eastern Conference vs. Western Conference angle, with points tallied throughout the evening and money raised for charity.

It was hard to argue with Barkley when he said, "Everybody loves the Slam Dunk contest." Just hope that team thing doesn't ruin it.

The defending champion, Utah' Jeremy Evans, will return to compete.

• If you enjoy seeing people sit around and talk about basketball, you'll want to check out "Open Court: All-Star" on Saturday at 5 p.m. Barkley, Miller, Steve Kerr, O'Neal, Kenny Smith, Steve Smith and Chris Webber will yack it up for an hour.

Because what an all-star game really needs is lots of pregam analysis.

• And if you enjoy Barkley talking about Barkley, don't miss "Sir Charles at 50," an hour (Saturday, 9 p.m. — time approximate) in which he reflects on his legacy as he approaches the half-century mark on Feb. 20.

I think I'll probably skip that. And I'm a fan of his work on TV.

Let's not be naitve. TNT paid boatloads of money to the NBA for the rights to the All-Star Game. And 17-plus hours of programming means that many more commercials to pay for it.

But it's still an awful lot of lot of TV surrounding a game that doesn't mean anything.

Scott D. Pierce covers television for The Salt Lake Tribune. Email him at spierce@sltrib.com; follow him on Twitter @ScottDPierce. —