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The NBA All-Star Game was difficult to watch, unless you’re a Celtics fan

Jaylen Brown (7) went shot-for-shot with All-Star Game MVP Jayson Tatum during a stretch in the second half last Sunday.PATRICK T. FALLON/AFP via Getty Images

The NBA All-Star Game last Sunday on TNT and TBS was an enjoyable watch if you’re a Celtics fan.

Jayson Tatum scored a record 55 points and departed with the Most Valuable Player award. Jaylen Brown scored 35 points and went shot-for-shot with Tatum during a stretch in the second half.

It was a nice night for the Green. That was not the case for the league, at least after viewership numbers were revealed.

The game broadcast tanked like it was vying for Victor Wembanyama, averaging a 2.2 rating and 4.6 million viewers on TBS/TNT, the least-watched and lowest-rated NBA All-Star Game of all time.


Per ratings guru Jon Lewis at Sports Media Watch, the previous lows were a 3.1 rating in 2021 and 2022, and a viewership of 6.1 million in 2021.

Ratings dropped 29 percent and viewership 27 percent year-over-year, the biggest decline since 2000. Last year’s All-Star Game had far stiffer competition than this year’s — the Winter Olympics in Beijing were under way at the same time on NBC.

The NBA’s numbers for the game — a celebratory event for the league — were so bad that commissioner Adam Silver, the league’s broadcast partners, and the Players Association really have no choice but to get in a room and figure out a solution. This isn’t working.

The obvious fix is to convince the players to treat it like a competitive game again rather than a your-turn, my-turn exchange of baskets where everything is an attempted highlight. The Tatum/Brown duel was fun for Boston fans, and there were even hints of defense being played, but there were eight other players on the court essentially standing around as extras in their scene.

It was jarring to see highlights on social media that night of the previous All-Star Game in Salt Lake City back in 1993. It looked like — get this — a real basketball game, with actual defense and rebounding included.


But it is understandable why players don’t treat it that way. They don’t want to get hurt in a glorified exhibition when nine-figure contracts are at stake, and who can blame them? And there are no actual stakes in the game, and as Major League Baseball proved with its silly, since-abandoned decision to attach home-field advantage in the World Series to the victorious league in its All-Star Game, there probably shouldn’t be any of real consequence.

Maybe the solution is to offer a cash prize — maybe a million bucks, to be divvied up — to the winning side. But would what is essentially a bribe make the whole thing feel inauthentic?

Do not take this not a screed against the NBA or its stars. I’m a huge fan of the league, and it does get a lot of the details right. (Having two players draft All-Star rosters is an original idea, well-executed.)

No league is more adept at social media, which might be part of the problem — why watch the entire game when all of the highlights are immediately online and YouTube will have a 10-minute rundown of the best moments posted by the morning?

The league’s social-media engagement and youthful demographics are the envy of every other professional sport. Yet the NBA All-Star Game draws a smaller television audience than the Pro Bowl, which has essentially become the NFL’s version of an elementary school’s Field Day.


Good luck to Silver and the NBA in trying to fix this. It was a blast watching Tatum and Brown go one-on-one. It was tedious watching everyone else stand around.

Appropriate punishment

Tony Massarotti had to face the music over inappropriate comments made on air.Barry Chin/Globe Staff

Tony Massarotti’s one-week suspension without pay for making a comment that had racist connotations on last Friday’s show was the appropriate punishment. The 98.5 The Sports Hub host deserves the opportunity to prove that his apology on Monday’s show was sincere and that his idiotic comment was a one-off rather than something that will reoccur. But I still wonder two things: Would he have said it if the men he referred to in his “joke” were white rather than Black? And how did a siren not go off in his head saying, “DON’T SAY IT! DON’T SAY IT!” when he made the comment? It’s stunning that he didn’t recognize that he was crossing the line in the moment.

Take out the trash talk

J.J. Redick’s “The Old Man and the Three” podcast has become an essential listen for NBA junkies, but his shtick trashing past NBA legends is getting tiresome. Back in May while appearing on ESPN’s dueling-blabbermouth program “First Take,” Redick dismissed Bob Cousy’s achievements by saying he was guarded by “plumbers and firemen.” While there’s probably some truth there, it’s not as if there was a higher league for him to play in, and besides, no one should ever insult Cooz. More recently, Redick threw shade at Larry Bird by suggesting the NBA game wasn’t as physical in the 1980s as it is now and he would struggle as a 3-point shooter in the modern game. Hall of Famer Dominique Wilkins offered a fitting response to that nonsense: “Redick doesn’t know what the hell he is talking about.” …. The Sports Hub recently re-upped midday co-host Marc Bertrand on a multiyear deal. Bertrand has been with the station since its inception in August 2009 and has co-hosted the top-rated “Zolak and Bertrand Show” since February 2015 … Am I the only one who thinks Chris Sale, colorfully candid when he chooses to be, could make an excellent analyst someday?


Chad Finn can be reached at chad.finn@globe.com. Follow him on Twitter @GlobeChadFinn.