The NBA All-Star One-on-One Tournament

I’m not just posting this clip because I have it memorized or anything. I promise it’s relevant.

The NBA Playoffs are over, and the Golden State Warriors are the reigning champs.  They proved to the whole world what real basketball fans already know. A great team will beat a great player every time. LeBron James played some of the best individual basketball that we’ve ever witnessed. He was so great that fans wanted him to win the MVP award in a losing effort, but the award went to Andre Iguodala; the epitome of a team player who sacrificed his minutes and individual statistics for a championship.  Still,  individual skills are important in the NBA, and perhaps they should be given their own stage.  After all, there are some questions that have gone unanswered in NBA history.

For example, who was the best NBA player ever at the game of one-on-one? Was it Michael Jordan, Julius Irving, or perhaps Allen Iverson? What about Kareem Abdul-Jabbar? What if a prime Larry Bird and a prime Magic Johnson played one-on-one on national television? Who would have won that bout?

Come on! Can we at least see the whole game?

Further, who is the best one-on-one player today? Is it Kobe Bryant or has James Harden surpassed him? What about LeBron James or Stephen Curry?  Can anyone beat Kevin Durant if and when he is healthy? All of these questions can be easily answered with one simple solution.

The next NBA All-Star Weekend should include an one-on-one tournament

We’ll never know. Let’s not repeat that with this generation.

We all know that basketball is a team sport, but it is also a sport of match-ups and isolation plays.  It is a sport where the greatest athletes cut their teeth and learned their best moves by playing against a single opponent in their driveways or at the park. Basketball thrives on America’s strong individualistic culture, and a game of one-on-one is the epitome of proving who can beat who without hiding behind team defense, screens, or elaborate offenses. It is the ultimate contest of wills and bragging rights.

This is not exactly team basketball, but it’s just as fun to watch.

The game of one-on-one is a staple of basketball culture.  Some of the NBA’ s all time best players were known for scoring on individual defenders. Michael Jordan was the best one-on-one player of all time with fadeaways, post moves, crossovers, acrobatic finishes, and thunderous dunks.In his prime, Kobe Bryant was his closest comparison; mostly because he emulated his game while utilizing post-moves he learned from Hakeem Olajuwon, a fantastic one-on-one player in his own right. In the paint, few could guard Shaquille O’Neal one-on-one due to his sheer dominance and deceptive quickness. By the three-point line, no one could stay in front of Allen Iverson and his all time best crossover (not a stat, but I challenge you to think of someone who mastered that move better). An All-Star One-On-One Tournament would have provided these players with a stage to showcase their talent, but we’ll never see it.

Name someone with a better crossover. Just try it.

Some of the NBA’s best players were also known for stopping great scorers. Dennis Rodman, Scottie Pippen, and Gary Payton were known for their relentless defensive pressure, and the one-on-one game requires good defense. Just imagine what it would have been like to pit Michael Jordan against Joe Dumars, Clyde Drexler against Scottie Pippen, Kevin Johnson against Gary Payton. What a showdown that could have been, but it will never be.

Let’s not pass it up for this generation.  The NBA must add an one-on-one tournament. Today’s NBA is perfect for an All-Star One-On-One tournament for four reasons:


People will watch it.

I would pay for a full game of these two. Just saying.

There is really no point in an All-Star event if it doesn’t bring ratings.  The All-Star Game is filled with flashy ball-handling, elaborate passing, and high flying dunks to please the viewers and nothing more, but it is a contest between divisions. An All-Star One-on-One Tournament provides a fresh change of atmosphere as an individual contest of wills that we have yet to see during All-Star Weekend, and people will tune in to watch the unique ways each player approaches the one-on-one game.

Don’t you want to see this before Kobe retires?

 We can finally see who would win between Kobe Bryant and Kyrie Irving. We can watch Stephen Curry and Chris Paul  engage in a battle of wits and dribbling prowess. These kinds of match-ups practically market themselves as we have seen with the Youtube sensation of individual showdowns during the lockout between Kobe Bryant and James Harden, LeBron James and Kevin Durant, Kevin Durant and Michael Beasley and Brandon Jennings against Josh Selby( part 1 and part 2). It would be a mistake for the NBA to not take this kind of popularity and use it for its own means when we already have proof of its immense potential revenue.

To be fair, Kyrie’s confidence was justified.


People will vote for it.

As long as he’s healthy, I would vote for Damian Lillard every year.

Obviously not every NBA player is a natural one-on-one scorer or defenders. Viewers can vote in who they want to see play one-on-one, and  they will likely pick the best scorers in the league. If players and coaches are allowed to vote instead, we will watch some of the best showdowns ever because they will vote from a perspective that the viewers lack.  There is room for viewer, player, and coach participation that rivals that of the All-Star Game, and any and all parties would enjoy the results.  It would also provide an All-Star event for players who were not voted into the All-Star game despite playing on an All-Star level(i.e.: Damian Lillard). Every player may not win an All-Star ballot, but some will still have a chance to prove their skills if we allow people to vote them into an one-on-one tournament against the best scorers in the league.  Some viewers might prefer voting for this event instead, especially if their favorite player did not make the All-Star roster.

I would vote for Dirk too. Can you name anyone who can stop him one-on-one?


Today’s players are built for it.

This is a small preview of what a duel between these two might look like.

The NBA is more guard oriented than ever. Our last two leading scorers were a point guard and shooting guard(shout out to Russel Westbrook and James Harden).Today’s most exciting players possess flashy ball-handling and creative forays to the hoop, such as (a healthy) Derrick Rose, Jamal Crawford, and Kyrie Irving to name a few. An All-Star One-on-One Tournament could provide a show like no other as we watch all of the different moves these players can cook up on the fly.

Brutal. I want more.

However, it is not just the guards who can entertain the fans.  Forwards like Kevin Durant, and Paul George who are all 6’8 or taller, but possess the ball wizardry and dexterity of any player half their size, would be a treat for any true fan of the game. Also despite what LeBron James has said in the past, we would all love to see him out there too. It can happen should he accept the challenge. Perhaps he might change his mind if Paul George participated.

Would this happen in a game of one-on-one? We won’t know unless they duke it out.


It can be used for a good cause.

Let’s face it. True competitors need a prize. The winner of the All-Star One-on-One Tournament may receive a large pot and donate to a charitable cause of his choice. Now we have bragging rights and money going somewhere worthwhile. If a player is passionate about a cause, he may compete harder to donate the money, thus providing a great show for the fans and sending a strong message that those in need are just as worthy of our attention as any professional athlete.

An All-Star One-on-One Tournament provides another chance for the NBA to give back to communities in need and raise awareness for important causes. It also provides NBA players a chance to not only voice their opinions on today’s issues but to use their talents to do something about them. Technically this idea could apply to any All-Star event, but it wouldn’t hurt to use it for an one-on-one tournament.  There are still many causes that go unnoticed and underfunded.

The NBA should take on the responsibility to create as many opportunities as possible to build awareness and lend a helping hand. You would be hard-pressed to find an avid basketball fan who would miss an one-on-one contest among the best scorers and defenders in the world. Actually, no true fan of the game would miss out on this event because it finally answers their questions with more than hypothetical talk. We would finally watch these players duel for bragging rights and a good cause.

Kobe’s one of the best at putting his money where his mouth is. Don’t you want to see him do it for the right reasons?

An All Star One-on-One Tournament would benefit the NBA and the game of basketball. More importantly, it has the potential to benefit those who go unheard and unnoticed. Give us an one-on-one tournament, NBA. This writer has sent his proposal and awaits your response.

Do you think the NBA should host an one-on-one tournament? If not, why? If so, who would you like to see? Share your thoughts in the comments below!

Who’s got next?

No Apologies,
G. Miller

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