Some Economics Behind the Unexciting 2017 NBA All-Star Game

The 2017 NBA All-Star game was its own microcosm of economics if you think about it. This year’s game especially showcased the laws of diminishing returns and marginal utility. The first law essentially means that as a person does something more or more within a specific time frame, the benefits he or she receives from it decreases, and the second law focuses on the change between each time the person does the action divided by the time interval of said actions. With these laws, one does not necessarily have to keep doing something less each time within a relatively short time frame. Rather, there is a general downward trend which is why they are known as “diminishing.”

Here’s a simple example: let’s say you’ve bought a box of new cereal. The following morning, you open it, pour yourself some, add milk, and take a bite. Before you’ve realized it, you’ve eaten two servings of now one of your favorite cereals. You eat two more servings the following morning for a marginal utility of zero units. 1.75 the next, indicating a marginal utility of -.25 units. Then 1.25 (-.5 units). Finally, only feeling the desire to eat one more serving, you finish the last serving of the box (-.25 units). You take a trip to the grocery store and decide to buy the cereal again and eat another serving hours later. You don’t eat another serving for another three days, and it takes you a week more than the first time you bought it to finish the box.

Supply and demand are at the heart of economics, and they can be applied to the game. The 192 – 182 score and the fans general sentiment of boredom reflect supply outpacing demand, that is the supply of points and highlights and the audience’s demand for them. This demonstrates the importance of defense in general and in this regard especially during the final minutes of a close game because it keeps the supply of points and highlights down and reduces one’s entertainment fatigue.

We may see this happen with future all-star games. Should the combined score for 2018 for example be similar to this year’s, expect people to remark that its entertainment value is similar to 2017’s game. However, if the score is significantly lower while the teams’ individual scores remain close, I believe people at least will say that it is more exciting than this one.


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