Oddly, the All-Star Game can get overlooked.
Don’t get me wrong, the All-Star Game is undoubtedly the pinnacle of All-Star Weekend, but there is so much going on — Jam Session, media availabilities, press conferences and more — the actual game can get lost in the hubbub that is All-Star Weekend.
This happened this past Sunday, as I woke up early in the morning asking myself if it really was the last full day I had in Houston. Three days felt like three hours, and the once great wonder that was the 2013 All-Star Game was now upon me.
I get up, get dressed, pack my laptop, grab my credential and other various essentials and head out to the Jam Session a few hours before the game.
Jam Session was a good time, and as a fun event for the fans proved to be a worthy appetizer for the main events. Dunking on lowered rims, playing NBA2K13 against strangers on big screens, playing on an actual NBA (although not actual size) court, the huge NBA Store and free autographs from current players and legends are all offered during this four day festival.
Like Major League Baseball has with its All-Star FanFest, Jam Session serves as a fan-friendly carnival of sorts, an affordable good time for those wanting to be part of the All-Star experience. I spent my time dunking on a lowered rim (height of the basket will not be revealed), checking out the NBA Store — which, although large in space, disappointed in quality — and watching the likes of Chris Mullin, Dikembe Mutombo, Ron Harper and Detlef Schrempf play in a game benefitting the Special Olympics.
Harrison Barnes served as a coach for one of those teams as well.
I leave the Jam Session — held at the George R. Brown Convention Center just two blocks from the Toyota Center — and head to the arena for an early dinner and communal discussions with my media mates.
The media room at Toyota Center was large, and with hundreds of media from all over the world, it had to be. It was dressed up nicely, even if it was in the basement of the arena. Wi-Fi was solid throughout (unlike at Oracle Arena), the food was more than edible (pasta, BBQ chicken, BBQ pork and salad) and the TV’s constantly looping NBATV/TNT were a nice touch.
After I eat dinner (Note: I didn’t stuff my face, even if I wanted two more servings of pasta and salad, probably not a good look stuffing your face pre-game and drooling on your laptop during the game), I head upstairs. Up to this point, I hadn’t really explored Toyota Center, I just went from service elevator and a few steps towards my section. So, I decided to walk around the main concourse for a little while before walking to my seat.
This is where the art of “people watching” turns really fun. There is no greater groupie spectacle than All-Star Weekend, and today was Sunday, the game, the apex of the entire week, and it didn’t disappoint. I strolled the main concourse with my backpack on, iPod off and my eyes wandering about. What a sight to behold.
If you have an Instragram account (odds are you do), are aware of the hip-hop culture or just enjoy the females (or all three), you have a good idea of the type of women strolling through Toyota Center. Short skirts, tight pants, high heels and enough jewelry to rival my tuition costs were all present on the main concourse. Not unexpected by any means, if you’re a groupie (or want a baller, same thing), you know the deal, you know the look and you know exactly you’re doing.
I’ve been to clubs in San Jose, San Francisco and other various establishment throughout the Bay Area. If you have too (or just have a pulse), you know the usual collection of women that walk through those abodes. Well, just imagine that, but 1000 times more elaborate, voluptuous, shiny, clingy, cleavage-y (not a real word, I looked it up), fleshly, sensual; whatever verb you can possibly think of to describe these type of women.
And this was just the main concourse.
I digress from the concourse, head to my seat — Row 4, Seat 12, baseline section — and sit down for what I know will be an amazing event. The NBA, more so than any other league, focus on making their games into events. They always succeed, attracting the likes of moguls, entrepreneurs, actors, actresses, artists and anyone in between. This is why the All-Star Game has turned into an entire weekend, not because of the additional revenue (although that’s a large part of it), but because the people demand it.
The people demand to be entertained, and while baseball might be America’s past-time and football brings in the most money, basketball seems to have the most fun. Regular season games have halftime shows, themed nights, free pizzas, bobbleheads, stuff thrown into the stands and much more. Why? Because in the end, the NBA wants it to be a show, an unforgettable event you’ll just have to tell your friends about.
With that in mind, not all entertainment is good entertainment as the whole weekend was full of questionable musical acts: Ellie Goulding, Phillip Phillips, Fall Out Boy and Ke$ha just to name a few. As a sport so engulfed in hip-hop culture, why have these people mar the evenings with their out of place songs? Hopefully Adam Silver (or whoever makes these decisions) will choose better musical acts for the festivities next year in New Orleans, because this year’s was disgraceful.
After John Legend performed The Star Spangled Banner beautifully, it was game time. I had previously mentioned this entire weekend being one surreal moment, a dream of mine, and as tip-off occurred, with the All-Stars finally on the floor and the ball in the air, it really hit me. I was watching the All-Star Game from media row, talking to my media cohorts, tweeting my thoughts (for better or worse) and enjoying every second of it.
The game begins, the stars are on the court and the main event has finally begun. Dunks, nifty dribbles, incredible dimes and Dwight Howard threes follow, but the main question Warriors fans were asking themselves was: when will David Lee enter the game? With 9:23 left in the second quarter, Lee finally graced the Toyota Center floor, the last player on the West to enter the game.
To no one’s surprise, Lee was largely a non-factor in the game. He finished with just over 13 minutes, six points, two rebounds, two steals and one turnover. The highlight of the night was an alley-oop dunk with the assist from Chris Paul, one of Paul’s 15 assists of the night, good enough to earn MVP of the game. It was an admirable effort from the Warriors forward, he’s no superstar and was never going to get major minutes, but at least he made the box score.
As with most All-Star Game’s, the intensity is ratcheted up in the closing quarter as the game gets close and conference pride takes precedence. The East looked largely disinterested most the game, with LeBron James and Kyrie Irving providing most of the highlights. Like last year’s game, there was one specific sequence including James that would be discussed at length in the days following. Worthy or not of the discussion, it was the highlight of the game and something Lakers fans will hold onto for (at least) the rest of this season.
With the West up 134-126 with 2:40 to go, James was trying to bring his team back. With Kobe Bryant guarding, James goes left off a Bosh screen, pulls up from just inside the three point line and blocks the jumper. Bryant, intensifying his efforts as he usually does, defended James to a tee, moving above the Bosh screen to block the bigger James. Seconds later, Bryant does the same as James drives left, gets caught in the air and is blocked by a devouring Bryant (the more impressive block of the two).
The end result never matters, it’s the individual moments that are created during the game that do. Bryant’s block on James, amidst all the discussion of Michael Jordan’s career, his comments regarding which he’d rather have (a blasphemous statement on multiple levels) and on the day of his 50th birthday, turned out to be the game’s shining moment. The play brought the loudest “Ooooohhhhs” of the night and was highly talked about on the social platforms and SportsCenter that night.
Just a great sequence by Bryant.
Sadly, the game has to end. The West beat the East 143-138 and Chris Paul was named MVP of the game win what was an exciting display of current, future and once great talent. As media members begin file out after the game, I stay for a few extra minutes, soaking it all in. The weekend was finally coming to an end, such a bittersweet moment in what was an incredible experience.
I head downstairs to the interview room at Toyota Center where a select number of players were to have their press conferences. First up was the MVP Chris Paul, who, as usual, came off extremely humble and grateful for his MVP. James Harden was next, fashionably late to say the least. He mentions how great it was to share the floor with former teammates Kevin Durant and Russell Westbrook, going to so far as to say he missed doing so.
After the press conferences I head back to the media room, grab my things and continue to depart the Toyota Center. I take the elevator up to the main concourse, slowly walk out the side doors of the arena and wish my final farewell to Houston. I snap a few final pictures and walk to the shuttle back to my hotel. That was it. All-Star Weekend was over. What a journey it was.
I will forever be grateful for those that made this possible. This was an experience I will never forget. It was always a dream of mine to be a sports journalist, whether it was conducting interviews, watching the games or going to press conferences, the allure of being a reporter was always there. Some might disagree, hell, some reporters might disagree, but I find this job to be a blessing. The people I met and the knowledge I gained will forever be beneficial to what I hope will be a long career in the business.
I understand how lucky I was to do this, to go to the events, meet the people I have and share my words with you. I don’t take any of it for granted. Houston was great to me, this site and network have been great to me and I often wonder how what once was a dream became a reality. All of it has been a blessing. Thank you.
“Success is getting what you want, happiness is wanting what you get” ― W.P. Kinsella