Korea’s top basketball players, entertainers, and mascots all gathered in Seoul over the weekend for the 2015 KBL All-Star Weekend. The three-day event started Friday night at D-Cube, a state of the art shopping facility in Seoul’s Sindorim district.
On Saturday, The all-stars made their way to the hardwood at Seoul Samsung Thunders’ Jamsil Arena where the Korean national team took on the KBL select team.
And finally the weekend wrapped up Sunday when the KBL junior all-stars (under 28 years-old) took on the KBL senior all-stars (over 28 years-old).
Here’s a recap of each event.
When: Friday, January 9th, 2014
Where: D-Cube, Sindorim Station, Seoul
What: About 100 KBL fans sitting in front of a panel of KBL All-Stars waiting for something to happen. Each fan wrote their name on a post-it and placed it on a board. Each all-star chose one name and that one person could ask any all-star any question. The names continued to be drawn from the board, but now the lucky winner would get a chance to participate in a shoe-toss game with an all-star. Unless you were right in front, it was tough to see exactly what was going on but from what I saw, one player and one fan would attempt to kick their loosely placed shoe into a plastic bucket. The last contest was a one-on-one basketball shooting challenge on a fisher price net. The event wrapped up with fans lining up to get autographs from the KBL all-stars.
When: Saturday, January 10th, 2014
Where: Seoul Samsung Thunders’ Jamsil Stadium
Final Score: Korean national team – 112, KBL All-Star selects – 115
What: Back in October of 2014 the Korean national team won gold on their home turf at the 2014 Incheon Asian Games. The win was supposed to light a spark for basketball’s quest of the popularity it once possessed in South Korea. Instead, it was celebrated but soon forgotten. The KBL lost a huge opportunity to bank off of the national team’s success so this was their attempt to try and bring that back. But unfortunately the Korean national team who obviously have the best Korean talent from the KBL lost to “the rest of the pack”, two foreign players (Troy Gillenwater, Ricardo Ratliffe), Tony Akins (naturalized Korean), and Greg Stevenson (naturalized Korea) who would take home the game’s most valuable player award. The latter group would go on to beat Asia’s top national basketball team by three points.
Highlights: Greg Stevenson was the top scorer with 27 points. But a strong performance from KT’s Tony Akins who at one point hit three straight three-pointers was certainly noticed. For the most part, both teams took it easy avoiding unnecessary injuries which made for a boring game. In the final quarter, when the game was close, some players started trying hard, not too hard though. In the end, the foreign dominance of the KBL select team was too much for the Korean nationals to handle.
When: Sunday, January 11th, 2014
Where: Seoul Samsung Thunders’ Jamsil Stadium
What: This might be one of the strangest all-star concepts to ever exist in professional basketball. First fans voted the 10 KBL All-Star starters. They had to vote for five seniors and the five juniors. The cut off age for junior and senior was 28. We are not exactly sure what made the KBL decide to use ’28 years-old’ as the cut off age for junior and senior but that’s just the way it was. It made for awkward match-ups where teammates went head-to-head against each other (SK’s Aaron Haynes and Kim Sun Hyung, Mobis’ Ricardo Ratliffe and Yang Dong Geun).
Traditionally the KBL would ask the fans to choose ten starters (by position) and the league would place them on a “Dream” and “Magic” team. In China’s CBA, the all-star game uses geography for a South and North all-star game. The KBL could do this by categorizing Ulsan, Busan, Changwon, Jeonju, Annyang as South and Seoul SK, Seoul Samsung, Incheon, Wonju, Goyang as North. But that remains simply a suggestion with no plans to change the new
and improved Junior vs. Senior series.
Highlights: Just like most all-star games the KBL all-star game included A LOT of turnovers and absolutely NO defense at all. That is expected in any basketball all-star game. But the effort was lacking big-time. The majority of the game looked like a pick up game at your local YMCA. Each player receives about $1,000 USD for entering the KBL all-star game. But the players from the winning team receive a $2,000 bonus. That extra $2,000 was not enough of an incentive for the players to play competitively and risk a possible injury.
The story of the night belong to the Stevenson brothers. The two brothers who both became naturalized Korean citizens in 2010 but due to a KBL policy that bans a team from signing two naturalized players were never able to play together. Until tonight. Seeing how the two are Seniors (over 28) they were able to play on the same team for the first time since high school.
SK all-star Aaron Haynes had numerous attempts at a new high arching floater that escalated to about 20 feet into the air but failed to knock it down. Kim Sun Hyung hit a couple of dazzling reverse layups. But the the top performer was without a doubt Ricardo Ratliffe who went was playing on a different level than the other all-stars. He was actually playing to win.
Controversy: Reporters at the game had the task of voting for game’s Most Valuable Player award (I didn’t get a vote). This would lead to massive controversy from every single player, coach, and fan who was disappointed in the outcome. The media voted Kim Sun Hyung who scored 16-points as the MVP. But the real MVP was Ricardo Ratliffe who led all scorers with 29-points and set a KBL All-Star game record with 23 rebounds. Coaches from both sides were furious. They couldn’t believe it. In a post game interview with Kim Sun Hyung he said something along the lines of, “I honestly can’t believe Ratliffe didn’t get the MVP, I think I need to take him out for a dinner or something.” Ratliffe found no humour in being robbed of the honor.
Now the #RacistKBL hashtag might have been a bit harsh but he’s got a valid point. The KBL reporters and KBL obviously wanted a Korean MVP. But if you are going to allow foreigners to play in the league and participate in the all-star game then you need to allow for foreign MVPs when they deserve it. Out of the 63 MVP votes, Kim Sun Hyung received 39 while Ratliffe received 24. Fans blitzed to the comment sections of various Korean basketball media outlets to vent their rage for the deserving Ratliffe. The NBA uses social media allowing fans to vote for the NBA All-Star game MVP and while the all-star game is essential a showcase for the fans, this might not be a bad idea for the KBL to adopt.
Awkward: There was a moment in the second half during a timeout where both benches cleared and the KBL organizers forced players and coaches to dance with the cheerleaders and mascots. You could tell the players wanted nothing to do with it and the fans weren’t that excited about the scenario. Pro-tip for KBL organizers; leave the dancing to the dancers.
Halftime entertainment: This almost got more cheers than the game itself. A K-Pop group named Exid, known for their booty shorts and hip shaking moves, took center court and performed two songs. To me it seemed like the live crowd was more into this group of five girls than the 24 all-stars performing before and after halftime. I know the media was certainly excited to see the group. I believe if Exid on that media voting card they would have won the MVP award.
Winner: Anthony Richardson (Dongbu)
Korean dunker of the night: Jeong Hyo Geun (ET Land)
Performer of the night: Charles Garcia (Goyang)
*The real dunk of the night went to Leo Lyons*
Winner: Jarod Stevenson