Legends and All-Stars and Hospitality, OH MY! If there were such a thing as sports fairy tales, then I just lived through a real life version of one. Anyone who’s a basketball fan knows that NBA All-Star Weekend is where all die-hard fans hope to go, and I got to experience it: Bucket list item checked!
Read on for details on my epic journey through the 2014 NBA All-Star Weekend!
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Bright Young Stars
On Friday, I traveled to a magical and far away land called New Orleans to kick off an amazing weekend of NBA All-Star fun! Leaving a snow covered Charlotte to make my way to a 60+ degree day in the Big Easy was definitely a sign from above that this was about to be the best weekend ever!
Once at my hotel I met with NBA Events to grab my credentials for the night’s main event: The BBVA Rising Stars Challenge. On my way to the Smoothie King Arena I took in some of the sights and sounds of NOLA including a gorgeous view of the skyline, a glimpse past a very raucous Bourbon Street and a beautifully lit up Mercedes Benz Superdome.
Inside the arena the court was buzzing, the league’s most talented rookie and sophomore players were warming up for, what turned out to be, an offensive spectacle (136-142) and a fast-paced, fun game. It turned into a mini three-point shootout that got the crowd on their feet as Tim Hardaway Jr. and Dion Waiters made it rain down threes. Local favorite Anthony Davis just about brought the house down when he threw down a monster dunk earlier in the game.
Many former and current players were in attendance including Dwight Howard, Kevin Durant and James Harden, who were there to cheer on their fellow teammates, and fan favorite, Dikembe Mutombo who was nice enough to pose for a picture!
Saturday proved to be even more amazing than Friday. In the morning I boarded the pre-arranged transportation (walking in heels was out of the question) that took me directly from my hotel to the New Orleans Convention Center and home of the 2014 NBA Jam Session. It was a short ride, and I got to meet other NBA fans from all over the country, including a young military couple from Kentucky who were at the NBA All-Star Game to celebrate their one year anniversary. (HAPPY ANNIVERSARY GUYS!)
Once I entered the Jam Session, I immediately went into sensory overload (in the best kind of way). Everywhere I turned there were games to be played, prizes to be won and tons of NBA All-Star merchandise to be bought! But first thing’s first..
…NBA All-Star Practice!
I made my way to the Sprint Arena, a relatively intimate setting to store all of that All-Star starter power, just in time to see the East All-Stars practice! While I have favorites on the East and West, it was definitely part of my sports fairy tale to see these All-Stars up close and in person. LeBron James, Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh are obviously all comfortable with each other, being teammates and all, but it was a treat to watch all of the All-Stars having fun and laughing while practicing on court!
After practice wrapped I headed back out to enjoy the rest of the Jam Session. Throughout the rest of the day there were appearances by Hall of Famer George Gervin, Stephen and Dell Curry, Dwight Howard, Blake Griffin, the NBA Finals Trophy and so much more!
All-Star Saturday Night
For most fans it was straight to the Smoothie King Center for the evening’s festivities, but with NBA Events I had a VIP Pre-Event Hospitality Party to get to at the Superdome! I was immediately blown away by the hospitality venue. It was beautifully decorated and outfitted with a fully stocked bar, games, TONS of delicious food, a replicated basketball court that had ample seating for guests, and loads more.
Soon after arriving, a crowd was gathering in one section of hospitality because NBA Legends Bruce Bowen and A.C. Green had arrived! Both Legends were a blast to be around, they signed autographs, posed for pictures with guests and joked around with each other too!
After I’d had my fill it was time for the Saturday Night All-Star Events. Typically I’m stoked for the dunk contest but this year I felt like the three-point shootout and Kendrick Lamar’s performance right after really stole the show! Shooters in the Three-Point Contest really got the crowd going and when Marco Belinelli and Bradley Beal sent it into a tiebreaker round everyone basically lost their minds. Ha!
Kendrick Lamar’s performance rocked, and he had everyone in the arena on their feet, including fellow rappers Drake, Diddy, and Nelly among others.
As if this weekend couldn’t get any better, Sunday had arrived and that meant it was time to get ready for the NBA All-Star Game! After spending a couple hours at the Jam Session and collecting pictures and autographs from NBA All-Stars Kevin Durant, Michael Carter-Williams, Kevin Love, and more it was time to head to the VIP Hospitality Lounge once again.
The gorgeous space included extra seating for guests, a breath-taking ice sculpture and food selections which were even more impossibly delicious than the day before, with offerings of New Orleans classics, yummy desserts and more.
Before you could blink, Hall of Famer Dominique Wilkins was in the building! Guests queued up for an autograph and picture with Wilkins who chatted away happily with fans. Just a few minutes later, four-time NBA Champion Horace Grant was in our VIP Hospitality too. Both Legends were extremely personable and hilarious, as they bantered with fans of different ages and one another. SO many NBA Legends, so little time!
63rd NBA All-Star Game
No one wanted to miss a second of the highly anticipated pre-game concert, so at 7 pm we all made the short walk to the Smoothie King Arena. Once inside it seemed like you could barely throw a basketball without hitting a player or celebrity—the place was packed!
All of a sudden the lights dimmed and smoke starting coming from the stage, Pharrell was performing! As if they were trying to set a Guinness World Record for the most awesome performance ever, he brought out surprise guests: Diddy, Nelly, Busta Rhymes, Snoop Dogg, Chad Hugo and that awesome hat!
He took two breaks, first to introduce the Eastern and Western Conference All-Stars. Kobe Bryant, who was not able to play due to injury, still appeared to thunderous applause as they announced the lineups. Fans on both sides were going nuts for their teams and players! Selena Ryder and Gary Clark Jr. wowed the crowd with renditions of the Canadian and U.S. National Anthems respectively, and then it was game time!
The action was non-stop, with the announcer entertaining fans with various games, kid and dance cams, interviews with players and more in between breaks and time-outs.
The half-time performance was incredible. The energy of the performers was off the charts and the collaboration between Gary Clark Jr., Janelle Monae, Earth, Wind and Fire, Trombone Shorty and Orleans Avenue and Dr. John just about brought the house down. Combined with the steal and dunk from John Wall the start the 2nd half the Smoothie King center was electric!
Since we all saw the game either in-person or on TV, I won’t bore you with the details, but the rest of the game was as exciting as any I’ve ever seen! With numerous records broken, and the East staging a comeback to win and break a 3-year losing streak, it was one of the most competitive and exciting All-Star Games in years!
We all were excited to cheer on the new commissioner as he presented Kyrie Irving with the MVP trophy. Guests who opted for the on-court experience got to hang out and watch all of the post-game action including the post-game on court interviews and behind the scenes goodness such as the ESPN crew doing their post game analysis. Guests were also treated to players coming back through the tunnel to rejoin their families and friends, and then it was onto the court for a picture with NBA Legends Darryl Dawkins and John Starks!
From there it was a short walk back to VIP Post-Game Hospitality for delicious gourmet food, dessert and beverage offerings and a luxurious place to unwind. After we were all shuttled back on our private transportation buses directly to our hotels where we could reflect on the amazing weekend we’d all just experienced!
You Can Have A VIP Experience Too
Like everyone else, I’ve been to basketball games and I’ve seen some premier matchups, but NOTHING comes close to the experience of an NBA All-Star Game and what the weekend entails! It was truly a once-in-a-lifetime experience (that I would love to replicate)!
If you weren’t able to make it to this year’s NBA All-Star weekend it’s not too early to start planning for your 2015 trip. The 64th Annual All-Star Game is set to take place in New York City between the iconic Madison Square Garden and Barclays Center, and it will be one that no basketball fan should miss.
What was your favorite part of the 2014 NBA All-Star Game? What would you change for next year’s game? Do you want to go to the 2015 NBA All-Star Weekend? Share your thoughts below!