The 63rd annual NBA All-Star Game will be played in New Orleans on February 16th at the New Orleans Arena. The All-Star Game comes with a weekend's worth of competitions (14th-16th), a fan festival (13th-16th at the Ernest N. Morial Convention Center) and a grassroots community program. Essentially, New Orleans can add hosting the biggest NBA festival of the year to its 2014 calendar.
This will be the second time that New Orleans hosts the NBA All-Star Game, with the first time being in 2008. As NBA commissioner David Stern said, "There is no better place to celebrate and showcase the NBA than in New Orleans, a city with a rich tradition of hosting major events that is second-to-none. Our 2008 NBA All-Star festivities proved a terrific experience for everyone involved, and we anticipate 2014 will be even better."
New Orleans welcomes All-Star weekend, as high-profile NBA players and businesses will be gracing the city, providing a highly-coveted week-long economic boost. As Mayor Mitch Landrieu said "We are pleased to add the 2014 NBA All-Star Game to an already unprecedented lineup of international events being hosted in the city. Commissioner Stern and the NBA have been unbelievable partners for New Orleans. NBA All-Star 2014 will once again put New Orleans on the world stage and give us an opportunity to showcase our city's comeback." The NBA All-Star weekend is about more than just the game.
NBA Cares is a branch of the NBA that does grassroots work in different communities. During All-Star weekend, NBA Cares sets up numerous projects within the host city. In 2008, NBA Cares spearheaded the All-Star Day of Service that helped do community work in New Orleans, with over 2,500 people taking part. This year, NBA Cares will again team up with schools, government, and local non-profit organizations in New Orleans in order to leave a positive footprint in the community.
NBA All-Star weekend consists of multiple basketball events leading up to the big game. Friday night starts off the festivities with the Rising Stars game. The Rising Stars game starts with a pool of 18 of the best sophomores and rookies who are then selected by captains as if in a pick-up game.
Starters this year from the Eastern Conference include LeBron James (MIA), Paul George (IND), Carmelo Anthony (NYK), Dwyane Wade (MIA), and Kyrie Irving (CLE); starting from the Western Conference are Kevin Durant (OKC), Stephen Curry (GS), Kobe Bryant (LAL), Blake Griffin (LAC), and Kevin Love (MIN).
Saturday night starts off with the Shooting Stars competition. This unique contest features teams of a current NBA player, a WNBA player and an NBA Legend shooting shots of increasing difficulty, with each shot having to be hit by one of the team members. The team that finishes the course the fastest wins the competition.
The next event of the night is the Skills Challenge, which is a guard-centric challenge that requires the players to play through a "timed obstacle course." Contestants are some of the top guards of the year. There are two rounds, with the top two players of the first round advancing, and the winner of the second round being the champion.
The following contest is the Three-Point Shootout, which may be the most prestigious competition of the weekend. The event consists of players shooting from five-different spots from behind the arc, with each station containing a rack that has five basketballs. The first four balls are all considered regular one point shots, while the last ball, designated by the red/white/blue colors of the ABA, is called the "money ball" and is worth two points, adding some intrigue to each rack. Ryan Anderson's streak of playing in the last two shootouts is in jeopardy, as he is currently out with a herniated disc, but Anthony Morrow, who participated in 2012, could be one of the six contestants invited and represent the Pelicans in this event.
The last contest for Saturday night is the NBA Slam Dunk contest, which may be the most iconic of the pre-game events. The Slam Dunk contest has created stars, with moments such as Michael Jordan and Spud Webb's soaring dunks in the 80s to Vince Carter in the 90s, to Dwight Howard and his cape, and Blake Griffin and his Kia sponsorship. The contest is filled with young players hoping to make a name for themselves, as well as fan-favorites excited for a chance to be in the spotlight.
Sunday afternoon, the NBA hosts a pre-game concert. While at the time of this writing the performers have not yet been named, last year's performers included Ludacris and Ke$ha.
The NBA Jam Session is an event that let's fans be participants in the action during All-Star weekend. This year, the event will be held in the Ernest N. Morial Convention Center. The event caters to local fans, as the ambassadors to the Jam Session are Pelicans players Anthony Davis, Tyreke Evans, and Austin Rivers. The event features "non-stop basketball" action that allows fans to play basketball all-day, as well as challenge their friends to skills competitions reminiscent to the ones that professionals will partake in throughout the weekend.
Fans will also get a chance to meet with current NBA and WNBA players, as well as NBA Legends Dominique Wilkins and Daryl Dawkins. All the players participating will sign autographs for free to anyone who has bought tickets to the Jam Session.
The Convention Center will also host the NBA Celebrity game as well as the official NBA All-Star Practice. Tickets for those events will be sold separately.
The All-Star game pits the best players of each conference against each other, with the fans choosing the starting five for each team. Once the starters are picked, the coaches will select the rest of the roster. While the game is not often an exhibition of fundamentally sound defense, it is an exhibition in the unique talent these players have. The game has delivered iconic moments, such as T-Macs pass to himself off the backboard for an alley-oop, and in New Orleans first All-Star game, LeBron James cementing his MVP (and the Eastern Conference victory), with a thunderous dunk with under a minute left in the game. While the early season voting returns have not been favorable for Anthony Davis, there is a good chance the sophomore player makes his first All-Star team as a reserve, giving our city someone to cheer for at the game.
All-Star weekend is a fun time for fans of basketball living in the city, as well as for the players themselves. It is an exhibition of the best that the NBA has to offer both a city and its franchise. In 2010, Dwyane Wade won the All-Star Game MVP, leading the Eastern Conference All-Stars to a victory over the West by a final score of 141-139. James and Wade played great together, and the game would serve as a precursor to the duos teaming up to play and win multiple championships. So here's to you enjoying your NBA All-Star Weekend, and for next year Anthony Davis not being the only Pelican we get to root for in the game.
For more information on the NBA All-Star weekend and ticket prices please go to www.nba.com/allstar.