The Jakarta Post
Gearing up: Preparations inside the Staples Center in Los Angeles, the United States, prior to the NBA All-Star Skills Challenge, Three-point Contest and the Slam Dunk Contest last Saturday. (JP/Primastuti Handayani)
The NBA invited The Jakarta Post to experience the NBA All-Star weekend in Los Angeles, California. Here is the report.
Call me a country bumpkin — or a ndeso to borrow a word from President Joko “Jokowi” Widodo — but breathing the same air as the King of Wakanda, the Black Panther himself, Chadwick Boseman was an overwhelming experience.
Numerous celebrities I had only ever seen on TV or in movies, such as Jamie Foxx, Kevin Hart and Queen Latifah were all in the same place as me: The Staples Center.
That is one of the perks of attending the NBA All-Star weekend, which this year happened to be in Los Angeles, the City of Angels, where all the celebrities live in their mansions either in Malibu, Beverly Hills or other uptown areas.
The city was hosting the All-Star weekend for the sixth time and as the capital city of entertainment, people were willing to dig deep into their pockets to get the best seats — hopefully somewhere near legendary actor Jack Nicholson or former California governor/action movie star Arnold Schwarzenegger.
Forbes reported, quoting Vivid Seat’s website, that the most expensive ticket for Sunday’s game went for US$12,799 for a loge level seat at center court (compared to last year’s most expensive ticket in New Orleans of $5,200).
The match was broadcast to fans in 215 countries, according to the NBA, through their international television and digital partners, including vidio.com and O channel tv in Indonesia.
Almost everyone in LA that weekend greeted visitors with the question: “Are you here for the NBA All-Star weekend?”
Banners were hung all around Los Angeles International Airport, while billboards were visible all the way to downtown and hotels had signs promoting the event. Even taxi drivers were eager to chat about it.
Beginning from Friday there were numerous side events, including that day’s highlights, the Celebrity Game and the Rising Stars Game.
The Celebrity Game saw team Clippers — whose members included Foxx, eventual MVP Quavo of rap group Migos and Property Brothers host Drew Scott — win 75-66 over team Lakers, whose lineup included Canadian singer-songwriter Justin Bieber, Chinese-Canadian actor-singer Kris Wu and retired NBA player Tracy McGrady.
Outside the Staples Center, there were outdoor stages for local performers, where people could spend their weekend in the sunny but slightly chilly air. One could feel the real LA vibe. Loud music blared from the stage speakers and even from portable speakers of passersby. People filled the streets as they walked toward to the Staples Center in downtown Los Angeles and police even blocked some roads near the arena to make way for pedestrians.
Daylight delight: An outdoor arena is set up to accommodate visitors in the afternoon before the NBA All-Star weekend in Los Angeles on Feb. 15. (JP/Primastuti Handayani)
On Saturday, fans flocked to the Staples Center, which has a capacity of around 18,000, to see some of the NBA’s finest show off their abilities in the skills, 3-point and dunk contests.
The athletes definitely knew how to combine sportsmanship, skill and entertainment.
One dunk contestant, Victor Oladipo of the Indiana Pacers earned the honor of receiving a Black Panther mask from Boseman, who sat courtside. Fans, of course, went crazy the minute they realized the King of Wakanda was present.
Luckily, Oladipo did not disappoint and dunked cleanly, earning a score of 40 points from the five judges: entertainer DJ Khaled, comedian Chris Rock, actor Mark Wahlberg, three-time WNBA MVP Lisa Leslie and NBA legend Julius Erving.
But the climax of the weekend was of course the NBA All-Star game. Featuring a new format in which both captains, Lebron James (Team Lebron) of the Cleveland Cavaliers and Stephen Curry (Team Stephen) of the Golden State Warriors, picked their own teams from the best the NBA has to offer, the match was worth the ticket price.
Fans stood up in their seats, cheering both teams as the final minutes became wildly intense.
The applause, the enthusiasm and the support were all good signs for the NBA.
“We’ll see how successful it is, but I think it’s already been met with a fair amount of enthusiasm from, of course, our team captains who then went about picking teams,” said NBA Commissioner Adam Silver.
“Again, it’s something new we’re trying, but there’s been a fair amount of chatter about it on social media as well, and the players seem to have embraced it. So I’m particularly thankful to the Players Association for their willingness to sit down with us and try something new so quickly.”
Kevin Durant of the Golden State Warriors said that new format “was cool and was different”.
“Obviously we always go East and West. But to play with Kemba [Walker of the Charlotte Hornets] and LeBron, and Bradley [Beal of the Washington Wizards] and guys in the Eastern Conference, you mix it up and kind of get to know them on a different level now. So when you play against them the respect level just rises up,” he said.
Both teams donated a total of $500,000 in prize money to charity. But that was not the only show of charity from the NBA players. Some also joined an event held by the Baby2Baby non-profit organization, where players filled backpacks with school supplies and clothes. The beneficiaries were not only children from LA but also those affected by hurricanes across Texas, Florida and Puerto Rico as well as fires in Northern and Southern California.
As the NBA is a brand in itself, merchandise was something all fans wanted to have. Fans immediately stormed the NBA store and other kiosks located inside the stadium to purchase the items they wanted.
While only several hundred meters from the Staples Center, people could easily find street vendors selling unofficial T-shirts and caps.
In addition to being home to the Lakers and Clippers basketball teams, LA is also home to NHL team the Anaheim Ducks, MLB’s LA Angels, NFL’s LA Chargers and soccer teams Los Angeles FC and LA Galaxy, to name a few.
While many may prefer to visit Beverly Hills or Hollywood, sports enthusiasts will no doubt take great joy in hopping between the different arenas and stadiums to enjoy the different competitions.
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