2015 NBA All-Star Weekend: Changes Coming To Rookie-Sophomore Challenge


The NBA is constantly changing and revising things during All-Star Weekend to keep the fans engaged. This season there could be yet another change on the horizon, this time for the BBVA Rising Stars Challenge in the 2015 NBA All-Star Weekend, known to many as the Rookie-Sophomore game.

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This game has undergone a number of changes since its inception in 1994, when it split rookies, regardless of conference affiliation, against each other. That format lasted for two years, until they decided to split the rookies based on the conference their team played in. Three years later, after the 1999 lockout, the format was tweaked yet again, this time adding sophomores and placing them in a game against the rookies.

They would alternate wins for the first three years, followed by sophomore dominance as they ripped off seven straight victories. The next two seasons the rookies won the game as the sophomores’ interest seemed to wane, which brought upon the change under which the game plays under now; celebrity coaches pick from a pool of rookies and sophomores with the only requirements to be met are position related.

It has been under that format for the past three seasons, but will undergo a change in 2015. This season rookies and sophomores will again be mixed, but it will be rookies and sophomores from the USA against rookies and sophomores from the rest of the world. With a record 101 international players from 37 different countries and territories being present on NBA opening night rosters, it is a good idea to feature them more. Even if it is just in an exhibition during All-Star Weekend, any exposure is good exposure as the NBA continues to grow overseas.

While this format would bring more intrigue than the one that celebrity coaches picked fantasy draft style, the need to push international players is not as imperative with the Olympics being as big as they are now, and the World Cup now televised. This is also a game that could get dominated by sophomores, as any first or second year player is eligible to be selected, there just is a three rookie minimum for the game.

The problem with that is that the sophomores that are being selected into this game have already made a name for themselves. There just is not much incentive for them to take part in the exhibition.

Because of that the NBA would be smart to just pit rookies against each other. Rarely do they make the All-Star game, so giving them their own showcase as a way for fans to see the future stars of the NBA makes sense. It would also give rookies who may be stuck behind more established players a chance to show off their talents you wouldn’t normally see on a regular Wednesday night during the regular season.

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While all of these ideas area gimmicky to an extent, the NBA should take it a step further and include the NBA D-League players. It is a goal of Adam Silver and the NBA to integrate the D-League into the game more, as more and more teams are beginning to have single affiliates where they can teach players singular systems and build a minor league of sorts like Major League Baseball has.

Why not place the NBA D-League All-Stars against an NBA rookie team? The D-Leaguers always have something to prove, and you know they would bring their A game, which in turn would make the rookies play at their top level. It would add a lot of intrigue to a game that is normally passed over by everyone other than the most hardcore of basketball fans. It is also a game that is not seen at any other time during the NBA season, which would bring a level of intrigue for the casual fan to see something different. Maybe that will be the next change the NBA makes to the Rookie-Sophomore matchup after this USA vs. World try runs its course.

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