Shooting Stars

NYC hosts NBA All-Star Game for first time in 17 years

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The NBA All-Star game is coming to New York City for the first time since 1998.  Much more than just a game, All-Star festivities will take place for a week, and will not be held in one arena, as has been the custom.  The game will be held at Madison Square Garden, but events will also take place at Barclays Center in Brooklyn, as well as other venues in Manhattan and Brooklyn. The All-Star game, pitting the best players in the league against each other, takes place on Sunday February 15th.  Though this is the centerpiece of the weekend, there are plenty of opportunities to be a part of the fun.

The events kick off with the NBA House, or more accurately, the NBA Houses – interactive festival sites that allow fans to play games, win prizes, and meet NBA players and legends.  A daily program of customized activities along with skills challenges and live entertainment will make this one of the highlights of the week. The Manhattan location will be the Skylight at Moynihan Station, located directly across 8th Avenue from Madison Square Garden.  Brooklyn’s House will be at the Paramount Theatre on the campus of Long Island University-Brooklyn, a short walk (or one subway stop) from the Barclays Center. The NBA House experiences will be open from Tuesday, February 9th (Brooklyn location begins on Wednesday, February 11th) through the game on Sunday the 15th.  Tickets are $10 in Brooklyn, $20 at the Moynihan Station location.

Things heat up starting on Friday night when Madison Square Garden will be hosting the Sprint NBA All-Star Celebrity Game.  This is always a great opportunity to see stars of movies, television, and music show off their basketball skills.  Knicks star Carmelo Anthony and Knicks super-fan Spike Lee will be coaching one team while ESPN stars Mike Greenberg and Mike Golic will lead their opponents.  Rumored participants for this year’s game include Nick Cannon, Common, and Ed Burns, as well as two-time game MVP Kevin Hart.  Past participants in this game include Justin Timberlake, Justin Bieber, Pitbull and Dr. Oz.  They will team up with former NBA legends, current WNBA players, and other surprise guests.  The celebrities’ game tip-off is at 7pm.

Following the Celebrity game, the BBVA Compass Rising Stars Challenge takes place at 9pm at Barclays Center.  The top first and second year NBA players, as chosen by the league’s coaches, get a chance to show off for a national audience. Some of the top players in the NBA have participated in this game, including Anthony Davis, Blake Griffin and Stephen Curry, all of whom are All-Stars this year.  This event is one of the most competitive of the weekend, as the game’s youngest stars can elevate their image as all eyes are on them.

On Saturday morning, the NBA All-Star Practice presented by Sean John at Macy’s will begin at 10:30am at Madison Square Garden.  Normally held in a convention center, this is the first time the practice will be held in a full-size arena, allowing for more fan attendance.  Tickets start at $15, and allow for the opportunity to see both the East and West All-Stars prepare for the big game.  Don’t expect to see lots of time spent on defensive strategies- the game is usually an offensive explosion!

State Farm All-Star Saturday Night is one of the highlights of the week.  Held this year at Barclays Center, this is an opportunity for some of the game’s elite to show off their individual skills.  The Taco Bell Skills Challenge allows the game’s best guards to show off ball handling, passing and shooting skills.  The Foot Locker Three-Point Contest features the top long-distance shooters competing against each other and the clock.  The grand finale is the Sprite Slam Dunk contest.  Historically this event has taken stars and made them immortals: Michael Jordan dunking from the free throw line, Dominique Wilkins famous windmill dunk, Dwight Howard coming out of a phone booth with a Superman cape, and Blake Griffin dunking over a car are just some of the most famous dunks that this year’s competitors will try to outdo.  The events start at 7:30pm and will feature a number of celebrities in the building, and all of the All-Stars attend, whether or not they are participating in the evening’s events.

Sunday afternoon will feature another first, as Barclays Center will host the first ever NBA D-League All-Star game.  The developmental league acts as a minor league for the NBA, and a number of current players honed their skills in this league.  This is an opportunity to see future NBA players, including some from the league’s newest team, the Westchester Knicks.

Finally, the main event takes place on Sunday at 8pm, as Madison Square Garden hosts the NBA All-Star game. The game was last held in NYC in 1998, and the MVP that night was Michael Jordan.  Basketball’s greatest players acknowledge that there is nothing like playing at the “World’s Most Famous Arena.”  They will all want to shine on the game’s flashiest stage, so be sure not to look away, as you may miss an amazing moment.  All of the game’s biggest stars will be here: LeBron James, Kobe Bryant, and Kevin Durant will all look to capture another All-Star game MVP, while Stephen Curry and Knicks star Carmelo Anthony will be among the players looking for their first trophy.

If you aren’t able to snag a ticket to any of these events, you are still in luck.  New York City has some of the greatest sports bars in the world, and you can find the perfect venue for all of your basketball viewing.  The 40/40 Club (6 West 25th Street) is an upscale sports bar that combines the warmth of a NYC penthouse with the glamour of courtside seats.  The multi-level space has 4 state-of-the-art video walls, over 30 55-inch flat screen TVs, and an amazing jersey collection.  Feel like a superstar as you drink, dine, and enjoy the game in the club co-owned by Jay-Z. The Ainsworth (122 West 26th Street) is a great combination of prime sports viewing (with multiple high-definition televisions and a state of the art sound system) with an incredible menu and phenomenal specialty cocktails.  The menu features a fusion of classic American fare with exotic herbs, spices and ingredients, and has such great dishes as a Mac and Cheese Burger, Tuna Tacos, and terrific St. Louis Ribs.

If you are looking for a “traditional” sports bar, check out Professor Thom’s (219 2nd avenue). Despite being home to Boston sports fans here in New York, Professor Thom’s has plenty of viewing options, including booths with a private television.  Check out the upstairs bar area, and definitely order the nachos- it can feed a small army of sports fans!

The NBA All-Star game is one of the most entertaining events of the sports calendar.  High-scoring games are the norm, and fans are often on their feet cheering the exploits of the world’s best basketball players.  The events that surround the game are just as exciting: world famous musicians will perform before and during the game, the Slam Dunk contest is legendary, and the crowds will be littered with celebrities.  The fact that this is all taking place in New York City means that this will no doubt be the NBA All-Star week that all future games will try to emulate.  For further information on any of the All-Star game events, go to nba.com.  For tickets, check ticketmaster.com or see your hotel concierge.

UNIFORMS

One of the great traditions of the NBA All-Star game involves the players’ uniforms.  Most years, the NBA will take elements of the home city and work them into the overall design of the apparel. This year is no different.  The overall design of the uniform uses the Knicks name and number font, and has a herringbone pattern on the East and West patches that pays homage to the court at Barclays Center.  All uniforms are adorned with 5 stylized stars representing each of the five NYC boroughs.  The stars have patterns inspired by characteristics of each borough: Brooklyn’s cobblestone streets, Staten Island’s waterfront, Manhattan’s historic checker cabs, Queens’ World’s Fair Unisphere, and a record album representing the birth of hip-hop in the Bronx.  In addition, the All-Star game has adopted the NYC subway as its overall visual theme.  A full line of souvenirs is available at each NBA House as well as at the NBA Shop on 5th Avenue in Manhattan.  Bloomingdale’s will also be featuring pop-up shops in their 59th street and Soho locations.  Retro jerseys, vintage graphic T-shirts and accessories will be available, along with special All-Star and Knicks & Nets merchandise.  NBA star (and fashion icon) James Harden is set to appear at the 59th street flagship location on February 12th, with other in-store events being planned.