Wrapping up the NBA All-Star game: A success for Charlotte
Charlotte, you did it.
You hosted the NBA All-Star Game and did so with style and substance, capping a week’s worth of dunks and diversions without any obvious disasters.
The capper was Sunday night’s game, replete with one-name celebrities both on and off the court and won by Team LeBron over Team Giannis, 178-164. But the larger message here was that Charlotte could pull this whole thing off, and do it with aplomb.
Was there an occasional hitch? Sure. There were numerous roadblocks and plenty of traffic, as is inevitable when you have an influx of 150,000 visitors. And you could spend a lot of money in a hurry — the parking lot where I often park uptown hiked its prices overnight, from $10 one day to $50 the next.
But it felt safe when I walked around Charlotte after midnight, and it felt well-organized inside the arena, and it felt like people had a good time.
“Everyone around here is just so nice,” I heard one out-of-town visitor say to another, and yeah, that’s Charlotte. We can kill you with Southern charm when we need to.
“You’ve been tremendous hosts,” NBA commissioner Adam Silver said Saturday in Charlotte. Silver went on to praise all the police officers, hotel workers and restaurant employees who aided in what he called a “fantastic reception.”
As for the actual All-Star Game, well, it was about what you’d expect.
–amn, it’s really a shame that the world’s best talent can’t produce more of a truly compelling game, but that’s what happens when you’re missing a “D.”
Because all of the all-stars always make an unofficial deal not to contest anything in the paint so as to try and guarantee that no one gets hurt, dunks are incredibly devalued.
By about the 10th one in the first five minutes, a run-of-the-mill dunk gets no more than a polite golf clap. It takes something special on the court — Paul George’s 360-degree slam; Steph Curry’s four-point play and then his reverse dunk to close the game; Dwyane Wade’s brief speech to the crowd before the fourth quarter began; Dirk Nowitzki’s remarkable three-point shooting and “Name That Tune” playing during a timeout; game MVP Kevin Durant’s silkiness on the way to 31 points — to break through the occasional lethargy.
But there were enough of those kinds of moments — as well as an excellent and varied lineup of musical guests — to still make it feel special and remind you that this weekend was something you’d probably never see the likes of again in Charlotte.
Curry called it “an amazing weekend” and “pretty much everything I imagined it to be,” and that was after losing the game and shooting 6-for-23. He understood the symbolic importance of the game to the city where he grew up.
Few will remember who won this game in a week. As Kenny Smith, the former North Carolina point guard and NBA player turned TV star, told me before the game: “It’s more about a weekend of celebration than a weekend of ‘Who won?’ I mean — who won last year? Who knows?”
Exactly. But what people will remember is the way the weekend made them feel. For those who cared not one whit about the All-Star Game, it was undoubtedly a minor hassle.
For those who did care, however, I’m going to wager that most of them will leave with very fond memories.
At one point in the third quarter, they brought George Gervin, Magic Johnson, Allen Iverson, Julius Erving, David Robinson and Bill Russell onto the court. How could you not love that? And just when it seemed like Charlotte Hornets owner Michael Jordan wasn’t going to publicly say hello on what was his 56th birthday, he strolled out onto the court in the fourth quarter to ceremonially pass hosting duties onto Chicago, which will have the 2020 All-Star Game.
Should the All-Star Weekend be tweaked by then? Sure.
Saturday night’s dunk contest, for one, is too often a letdown and needs a major overhaul — it had far more misses than makes. As for the actual game, I prefer the old “West vs. East” format — it’s impossible to remember which players are on what teams now.
Also, the aforementioned lack of defense really is disconcerting. There were 275 shots taken Sunday night and only 15 personal fouls, because about 250 of those shots were completely uncontested. (Most of those other 25 came in the fourth quarter).
But in general, the NBA All-Star Game remains a pretty incredible show.
And, as a host, Charlotte did itself proud.