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Not just America's game anymore — Is it time to pit the USA vs. the world in NBA All-Star Game?

Mark Cuban, the outspoken owner of the Dallas Mavericks, has said that next week's All-Star weekend will be as big of a party as today's Super Bowl.

As farfetched as that may seem — since the midseason exhibition basketball game has nowhere near the import as the NFL's winner-take-all title game — the All-Star weekend is truly as big as it gets for the NBA.

Each game in the best-of-7 NBA Finals, of course, has more meaning from a competitive standpoint than the All-Star Game. But the Finals lack the pre-determined location that allows celebrities, fans and corporate types to turn Super Bowls and the NBA All-Star Games into long party weekends.

And while tens of millions fewer fans will tune into the All-Star Game on TNT than will watch today's Super Bowl on television, there will actually be more folks watching live next week.

In fact, the All-Star Game will draw at least 90,000 and perhaps more than 100,000 — because it is being played in the new Cowboys Stadium in Arlington, Texas. League commissioner David Stern said Friday it will be the largest crowd "in the history of the world."

And he'll be right, at least for basketball. The current record crowd for basketball is 78,129 set during a college game played at Detroit's Ford Field in 2003.

But while the All-Star Weekend is a chance for the NBA to showcase itself, the game is usually dreadfully dull. Sure, there are plenty of offensive highlights, dunks and such. But little defense is played and the game often becomes a joke, with players on both teams not particularly interested in winning or losing.

Every so often there are different suggestions as to how to make all-star games more meaningful in basketball and other sports. Major League Baseball, for instance, decided to determine the World Series' home-field advantage on which league won their midseason classic following a debacle of a 2002 game that ended in a tie.

But giving the home-court advantage to the winning conference in the NBA is not a valid idea. Each NBA team plays every other team in the league at least twice, and the home-court advantage in the Finals simply goes to the team with the better regular-season record — as it should.

But an idea that could add some motivation and pride in the game for All-Stars has been bandied about for a few years. Rather than dividing the stars into conferences — East and West — the teams could be more like the Olympics or the Ryder Cup. That way, national and international pride would be on the line.

One team would be made up of American-born players, with the other team filled with foreign-born stars.

That idea would have been ludicrous 15 years ago, of course, since there were few NBA players — let alone stars — that were foreign. But that has been changing in a hurry. Basketball, once dominated by the USA, is now played across the globe.

This year, in fact, a record 83 foreign-born players from 36 countries began the season on NBA rosters. An All-Star team comprised of those guys could, no doubt, compete with a team made up of Americans.

Of the 25 All-Star players this year — initially 12 in each conference, with Chauncey Billups added to take the place of the injured Chris Paul — five were born outside of the U.S.

Steve Nash (born in South Africa, raised in Canada), Dirk Nowitzki (Germany), Tim Duncan (Virgin Islands), Pau Gasol (Spain) and Al Horford (Dominican Republic) are already 2010 All-Stars.

But there are plenty of others who just missed the cut like San Antonio's Tony Parker (Belgium-born French citizen), the Bucks' Andrew Bogut (Australia), the Bulls' Luol Deng (born in the Sudan, current citizen of Great Britian), the Rockets' Luis Scola (Argentina), Toronto's Andrea Bargnani (Italy), Denver's Nene (Brazil), the Spurs' Manu Ginobili (Argentina) and the Grizzlies' Marc Gasol (Spain).

There are other foreign stars that aren't having quite as good of years this season, but still have played at an All-Star level in the past — including the Jazz's Andrei Kirilenko (Russia) and Mehmet Okur (Turkey), the Hornets' Peja Stojakovic (Serbia) and the Raptors' Hedo Turkoglu (Turkey).

Then there are other foreign players who are starting to make a name for themselves like the Bulls' Joakim Noah (France), the Knicks' Danilo Gallinari (Italy), the Kings' Omri Casspi (Israel) and even the Suns' Goran Dragic (Slovenia), who recently torched the Jazz for 32 points.

The list could go on, but suffice it to say that a solid team of stars could be made out of foreign-born players.

There are pros and cons to changing the All-Star game to make it USA vs. the rest of the world. The biggest thing in favor of it would be to make the games more interesting and competitive since there would be pride on the line.

The Americans, at least for now, would be heavily favored and would want to prove that the best basketball players on the planet are still "born in the U.S.A." — to borrow a line from Bruce Springsteen.

But the underdog international team would play with fire and perhaps a chip on its shoulder, trying to show that basketball is really a worldwide sport and that America doesn't own the market on star players.

Blowing up the tradition of pitting the two conferences may worry some, but that's not the main problem. The biggest deal would be that the foreign players would be overly represented as All-Stars with the Americans under-represented. That's because less than 20 percent of the NBA is currently foreign born.

This year, for instance, seven American players who made the All-Star team wouldn't have made it, while seven foreign players who didn't make it would fill in.

At this point, it's probably not fair to divide the All-Stars up by nationality, but as the NBA continues to add foreign talent, it may make sense in the future. Perhaps when there are 100 or more foreign players — out of the 450 players in the league — it will be time to give this idea a try.

After all, it couldn't help but make the actual All-Star Game more competitive and fun to watch.

e-mail: lojo@desnews.com