HOOPS AND HOLLERIN’: NBA All-Star Game in Vegas was a rollicking party, Feb. 18, 2007
Vegas on steroids — that’s one serious bacchanal.
We reveled in it 12 years ago this month as the 56th annual NBA All-Star Game roared into town, triggering a mega-wild weekend highlighted by a citywide party, a globally-viewed game and the NBA’s immersion in the Las Vegas community through numerous charitable endeavors.
With the Las Vegas Convention and Visitors Authority (or LVCVA, which produces Las Vegas Newswire) leading the charge to secure hosting duties for the big game, we scored two big “firsts”: Las Vegas became the only city without an NBA franchise to welcome the game; and UNLV earned a spot in the basketball history books as the only college campus to do likewise, at the Thomas & Mack Center. Nifty!
Out-of-town partiers — by LVCVA’s estimates, 83,450 of them — flooded our clubs, restaurants and streets, leaving behind $207.3 million to pour into our coffers. Celebrities, many hosting their own shindigs, descended upon us in droves. Among them: Prince, Eva Longoria, LL Cool J, Jay-Z and Beyonce, 50 Cent, Steve Carell, Cameron Diaz, Michael Jordan, Shaquille O’Neal, Barry Bonds, Gary Sheffield, Shane Mosley, Reggie Bush and P. Diddy.
NBA fever had spread everywhere: Adidas ads were draped over the side of the Luxor and Bally’s, with others depicting NBA players adorning MGM Grand and Mandalay Bay; the MGM lion wore an Adidas jersey (we’re guessing size XXXXXXXXXXXXXXX-L.)
Throughout Las Vegas, the NBA proved an impactful presence via its “NBA Cares Community Caravan,” a project that produced 20-plus events including reading rallies, basketball clinics and Habitat for Humanity home-building.
Among the notable events were a players’ visit to Sunrise Children’s Hospital; setting up a “Learn & Play Center” — with donations of computers, literacy and scholastic resources and a refurbished basketball court — at Mabel Hoggard Math & Science Magnet Elementary School; a celebrity poker tournament; and an “NBA Jam Session” of interactive basketball activities between players and fans.
Oh, and there was also … the game — and the price explosions that accompany events of this magnitude. Tickets? They skyrocketed up to as much as $15,000 per. Special edition NBA jackets were peddled for an astronomical $35,000.
Exuding his typical panache, Wayne Newton launched the game festivities belting out “Viva Las Vegas.” Halftime entertainers included Christina Aguilera, Toni Braxton and Cirque du Soleil. Oh, and just for kicks and laughs, an odd footrace was held between 44-year-old TNT analyst Charles Barkley and 67-year-old NBA referee Dick Bavetta, climaxing with the former planting a smooch on the lips of the latter.
And on the T&M hardwood — with nearly 16,000 fans looking on, millions tuning in on TNT and ESPN Radio, and international coverage reaching 210 countries in more than 40 languages — the action was rockin’.
In a contest in which the Western Conference pounced on the Eastern Conference for a 153-132 victory, Amar’e Stoudemire scored 29 points and Carmelo Anthony contributed 20 points for the West. On the Eastern side, some dude named LeBron James racked up 28 points, Dwight Howard tallied 20 points, and a gentleman named Kobe Bryant advanced from 11th place to 10th place on the all-time all-star scoring ledger, leapfrogging over Magic Johnson.
That weekend, Las Vegas and pro sports had a memorable encounter that is remembered as a prelude — a big-league dream that eventually came true. “The game legitimized Las Vegas as a major-league city,” says Oscar B. Goodman, who was the mayor of Las Vegas when the NBA and its all-stars dropped into town., and is now the host committee chairman of the LVCVA, serving as a high-profile tourism ambassador for Las Vegas.
“For (NBA) Commissioner David Stern to have blessed it was a major breakthrough.”
Today, the Vegas Golden Knights of the National Hockey League do us proud, especially after an historic rookie season last year in which they reached the Stanley Cup Finals. Meanwhile, construction continues on the Las Vegas home stadium for the Raiders of the National Football League, who will begin play here in 2020. We’re now also home to the Las Vegas Lights FC of the United Soccer League and — though we’re yet to get an invitation to join the NBA — we can claim pro hoops status via the Las Vegas Aces of the WNBA.
“It’s not if, but when the NBA and MLB (Major-League Baseball) will follow,” Goodman adds.
We made it to The Bigs. And we’re staying there.
To offer feedback on this story or suggestions for future stories on Las Vegas Newswire, contact Managing Editor Steve Bornfeld at SBornfeld@lvcva.com.