The National Basketball Association is revamping the format for its annual all-star game in a way that will pay tribute to former league great Kobe Bryant who died tragically this week in a helicopter crash.
Essentially the two teams — led by Los Angeles Lakers all-star LeBron James and Milwaukee Bucks great Giannis Antetokounmpo — will compete to win three 12 minute quarters that will all begin with a 0-0 tie. The fourth quarter is where the Bryant factor will come in.
At the beginning of the final period, the game clock will be turned off and a “Final Target Score” set. That target will be determined by taking the leading team’s total cumulative point total through three quarters and adding 24 points. The 24 represents Bryant’s jersey number he wore for the Lakers during his final 10 seasons in the league. The teams will then play until either Team LeBron or Team Giannis reach the “Final Target Score” and will be crowned winners of the 69th annual NBA All-Star Game.
The winning team will also award $200,000 to a community organization to be chosen in Chicago, the site of the game. That donation is part of the more than $1 million will be contributed to Chicago community non-profit organizations through NBA Cares outreach program.
Other plans to celebrate Bryant’s life and career are still in development, which is only fitting as Bryant played in the game 18 times and was named the most valuable player for his play in 2008.
The new format and the Bryant tribute might boost the all-star game's recent fortunes on cable network TNT. Last year, despite being presented on two cable channels — TNT and sister network TBS — the game attracted 6.8 million viewers. That was down 11 percent from the year before and was the second-lowest amount of viewers since 2008.
Some of the reasons for the ratings decline was the move from broadcast networks to cable. In 1993, when the game aired on NBC, 22.9 million people watched. Ten years later, in its first year on cable and TNT the game pulled in 10.3 million. Its best performance in recent years was the 2011 event, which attracted 9 million viewers. The decline in viewership reflects the rise in "cord-cutting" by consumers.
The game will take place Feb. 16 at Chicago's United Center.