Sunday Musings: An NBA All-Star weekend takeaway

Ben McLemore and Shaquille O'Neal during the 2014 Slam Dunk Contest. (Photo: James Ham)

NEW ORLEANS – All-Star weekend is one of the true treasures of the sporting world.  It’s a show of the best of what the NBA has to offer in a single jam-packed weekend in the middle of a busy season schedule.

Not every team is represented like the Major League Baseball All-Star game, so there’s a much greater chance of every player deserving his spot in the festivities.  While the game itself is of no higher quality than the NFL Pro Bowl, the event is cherished by the players, who gladly accept the invitation.  You wouldn’t dare turn down a chance to partake in this party. No way.

From start to finish, the weekend features fan-friendly entertainment that celebrates the game in a special way. New Orleans is an absolutely perfect host city, and the people of this city really know how to open their doors to visitors.

Be it a po-boy sandwich at Mother’s or a stroll down Bourbon Street, New Orleans has a charm that is undeniable.  And then there’s the basketball side to the weekend.

Where else can you have an incredible conversation with a legend like Hakeem Olajuwan on the death of the NBA big man and then get bumped from an elevator the next day so that Kareem Abdul-Jabbar can board?  Everywhere you look, there is a recognizable face, be it a legend from Sacramento like Mitch Richmond or Louisiana native Bob Pettit welcoming the NBA to his city.

It is a who’s who of NBA past, present and future, and it doesn’t get any better than this.

For the young player making the game for the first time, it is a dream come true.  Getting that first call is an amazing experience that you never forget.

“It was great,” John Wall said.  “It shows me all the hard work and dedication I put in this summer really paid off.”

But it’s not only the young player that gets that coveted call for the first time.  Sometimes it is a veteran player who breaks through on a new team.  And it isn’t any less special.

“The great Dominique Wilkins greeted me,” Hawks forward Paul Millsap said.  “He was the first one to call and it’s something I’ll never forget.  It was a great moment.”

For the multiple-time All-Stars, it is time to reflect on where they started and how far they’ve come.  The journey from a 19-year-old rookie to a 30-year-old grizzled vet is just a blink of an eye in an NBA player’s career.

“It was the best feeling in the world,” veteran Chris Bosh said.  “I wanted to make it so bad and I put in so much work in the offseason and during the season to having those dreams and I’m always trying to follow those dreams.  To actually accomplish it, it was a great, great feeling.”

For an NBA legend, All-Star weekend is a chance to remind everybody who and what you were back in the day.

“I’m the greatest dunker of all time, what’s up with that,” Dominique answered when he was mentioned as one of the greatest dunkers of all time.

The Sacramento Kings were represented by rookie Ben McLemore in the Sprite Slam Dunk competition, something that he’ll remember for the rest of his life.  It was a magical weekend that ended up being a perfect birthday gift for the now 21-year-old wing.

“Man, I had so much fun,” McLemore said following the dunk competition.  “Win or lose, I had fun tonight.  This whole weekend I’ve had fun.”

How would you like to be able to tell your grandchildren that you were once judged in an NBA dunk contest by Dr. J, Magic and Dominique?

For a player like DeMarcus Cousins, who is having a career year, there is a bitterness to not being included in the fun.  It would’ve been a prime opportunity to showcase his game on the league’s biggest stage, but there will be more chances.

“I think DeMarcus has been having an excellent year, and I think he should be here,” Dwight Howard said.  “But he has a long career ahead of him.  He’s going to continue to get better.  He’s going to continue to lead his team and I’m looking forward to seeing him here.”

The grand take away from All-Star weekend is that the NBA knows how to put on an event.  From the incredible media access, to the Naismith Hall of Fame finalist announcements, the event is a carefully orchestrated three days of pure basketball joy.

With a new arena on the horizon, Sacramento will fight for a chance to host the NBA’s biggest showcase in the near future.  There is no way that California’s capital city can match the vibrant night life of the Big Easy, but an event like this is transformative for a community.  It is a chance for a city to better define who and what it wants to be.  It is a chance for a city to grow and come together as one big welcoming party for the basketball world.

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About: James Ham

James Ham provides coverage through news analysis and in-depth interviews with Kings players and staff. James is also one of the producers behind the award-winning, independent documentary "Small Market, Big Heart". James graduated UC Davis with a degree in history and is happily married with two children.