If you follow the NBA, you know by now that the association has decided to remove the 2017 All-Star weekend from Charlotte, N.C. The move reflected the NBA’s disapproval of House Bill 2, a newly enacted North Carolina state law that restricts the Charlotte ordinance in extending rights to people who are gay or transgender, particularly regarding bathroom use.
While controversial, the move was absolutely necessary from the NBA’s perspective. An entity as large as the NBA has the power to take an influential stand on pressing social and political issues. From its players to league executives, it is incumbent on every member of the association to stand in-arms with its fellow citizens, using the vast amount of resources at their disposal to make a positive impact on this nation and abroad. While I do sympathize for the Charlotte community and members of the Hornets’ organization, the reality is that keeping the All-Star weekend in Charlotte would simply be unacceptable and unfair to those affected by HB2.
That said, the question then becomes where to move the 2017 All-Star weekend. Rumors have surfaced that the NBA is considering New Orleans, the host of the 2014 All-Star weekend. While this wouldn’t be the first time New Orleans took what was once Charlotte’s, I feel that there are better options, so I’ll scratch the pseudo-Hornets off my hypothetical list.
As a Boston Celtics fan, I would love nothing more than to see the 2017 All-Star weekend in Beantown. The team is young and upcoming, the city is energetic and passionate and The Garden is historic. I also recognize that the winters are brutally cold and usually packed with snow — poor timing for a February weekend — and the confusing street layout would leave Boston with a city-wide traffic jam. However, the United States Olympic Committee has selected Boston as a possible destination for the 2024 Summer Olympics, so maybe I’ll hold onto the pipedream for now.
I truly believe that the best location for the 2017 All-Star weekend is Orlando. To begin with, the All-Star committee owes Orlando a favor after egregiously handing the 2016 slam-dunk contest to guard Zach LaVine instead of forward Aaron Gordon. I mean, Gordon managed to dunk the ball after sitting down mid-air and rotating the ball beneath his legs! To me, that’s an automatic win.
More seriously, Orlando is warm in February and is a great tourist spot. The humorous and lighthearted atmosphere in the Amway Center, led by their mascot Stuff the Magic Dragon, aligns exactly what the All-Star weekend is about — fun-filled basketball where both players and fans can forget about the grit and grind of the regular season for a weekend. By all accounts, Orlando’s 2012 host of the All-Star weekend was a major success, one that saw the Utah Jazz’s unheralded forward Jeremy Evans win the dunk contest and the Timberwolves’ forward Kevin Love win the three-point shootout at a staggering 6-foot-10.
But beyond all of that, in light of the tragedy that occurred in Orlando earlier this summer, hosting the All-Star weekend would provide some needed excitement and joy for the city. For that one weekend in February, we set aside our fandom, our lively passion and hatred, and come together, not as team-specific fans but as basketball fans. The weekend is about folly, festivities and the joy of watching young superstars showcase their talent against savvy veterans.
It is about Jordan’s last hoorah and about forward LeBron James’ last duel with guard Kobe Bryant. It’s the only time in the season where the epicenter of the NBA universe is truly defined, where rumors and speculation don’t exist; for that glorious weekend, we simply get to watch the best in basketball. Having the honor to host such an event would do wonders for the city of Orlando. While it certainly wouldn’t erase the horrific shooting from our memories, it would give Orlando a reason to cheer instead of mourn, a reason to celebrate instead of grieve, a chance to experience the happiness and excitement that the city deserves to feel again.
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