Baseball and basketball are games that kids play. They are simple in concept, and have lots of positions available to let lots of them all play at the same time. The Home Run Derby and Dunk Contest are the peak of "watch me do this" that every kid has when hanging out with their friends. We all wanted to be the kids that could hit the ball the farthest or jump the highest. It was fun.
You would think that in the professional leagues that the spirit of fun would remain. To a degree it does. I am not saying that the players that take part in the Home Derby or Dunk Contest don't want to win, because they do. They are giving it all they have and to them I say thank you. Thank you for still being that kid on the playground or field that loves the game.
Then there are the others that should be in these contest that just aren't. Why was the 1988 NBA Dunk Contest so good, it was Jordan vs Wilkins. Headliners face to face in a winner take all format. Why were the 90's home run derbies so good? Okay steroids, but also Ken Griffey Jr., Mark McGwire, Sammy Sosa, Barry Bonds, Cecil Fielder, and Cal Ripken Jr. all played in several of them. There were stars every year doing what they do on a stage that had kids like me breathless.
The Derby and Dunks were fun for a long time. Then something happened to change it. Someone said, "It will mess up their swing" or "they could get hurt", or "he just was not the same after the contest" and the fun stopped. The big names that had done it, stopped. There were some holdouts like David Ortiz but he is already retired. Can you name off the top of your head the winner last year, or even the two finalist? Todd Frazier lost to Giancarlo Stanton.
There is always a changing of the guard in sports. Maybe baseball and basketball are going through that right now. This could be the start of a new golden age for both leagues. In 15 years we could be talking about how Stanton is a Hall of Famer and was a joy to watch. Only time will tell, but I just don't see it.