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The 2023 NBA All-Star Game was such a dud that the league felt the need to change the format coming into 2024. The All-Star Draft? Gone. The Elam Ending? Gone. For the first time since 2017, the league moved back to its classic format. East vs. West. A fully timed game. In doing so, the league hopes to recapture some of the magic that made old All-Star Games special.

One player who participated in many of those All-Star Games has a simpler solution. Larry Bird appeared at the Legends Brunch on Sunday in Indianapolis and made a simple request of the 24 players who will take the court Sunday night. "The one thing I would really like to see is they play hard tonight in this All-Star Game," Bird said. "I think it's very important when you have the best players in the world together, you've gotta compete, and you've gotta play hard, and you've gotta show the fans how good they really are."

Bird wasn't the only NBA luminary to tacitly acknowledge what a disappointment the 2023 All-Star Game was. Commissioner Adam Silver admitted that people were "uniformly critical" of last year's All-Star Game at his Saturday press conference, and that he expected a better game on Sunday.

He might be right. All-Star Game effort tends to come and go in a cycle. In 2020, for example, the game was widely viewed as a success because the newly implemented Elam Ending helped push the players into an exciting finish. But it's been four years and the league has already ditched the concept. Perhaps the embarrassment of last year will convince the players to try harder this time around, but history suggests that once that fervor dies down, the effort will subside with it.

Maybe another format change could fix this. Plenty of fans have called for a Team USA vs. international players All-Star format that might actually engender rivalries. Maybe a big enough cash prize could do the trick. But ultimately, it's on the players. They're the ones that decide how interesting an All-Star Game will be, and no matter what changes the league makes, nothing matters if they don't play hard as Bird hopes.