PHOTOS: Inside Spectrum Center as NBA All-Star Game caps busy, star-studded weekend in Charlotte
Near the end of each NBA All-Star Game, an owner or team executive from the host city hands off a commemorative basketball to a counterpart from the next site. On Sunday night in Charlotte, the crowd was especially enthusiastic about that moment because the hand-off came from Hornets owner Michael Jordan.
Jordan, who turned 56 on Sunday, received an ovation as he walked across the court and stopped to greet Chicago Bulls President Michael Reinsdorf with a basketball featuring the 2020 All-Star site, also the city where Jordan became a Hall of Famer by winning six championships during the 1990s.
The salute to Jordan came not long before Team LeBron wrapped up a 178-164 win over Team Giannis — last year the NBA went to a pick-up game version of the All-Star exhibition instead of the traditional East-West conference format — closing the book on Charlotte’s All-Star weekend with hotels and restaurants enjoying a surge in business in and around uptown and players and executives offering compliments.
Charlotte last hosted the NBA’s mid-season showcase in 1991. Jordan played in that game, entering his prime, while the hometown Hornets failed to put a single player on the All-Star roster. This time, Hornets guard Kemba Walker was one of the starters, though he struggled and finished with just 4 points.
The Charlotte Coliseum on Tyvola Road, since demolished, was where the ’91 game was played; Spectrum Center in uptown, host of the All-Star Rising Stars game, skills competition and Sunday’s 68th All-Star Game, opened 14 years later.
Not that anyone cares who wins an All-Star Game, but Team LeBron, as in James, trailed by as many 20 points Team Giannis, as in the Milwaukee Bucks’ “Greek Freak” Giannis Antetokounmpo, before coming from behind to win. Charlotte native Stephen Curry, a three-time NBA champion with the Golden State Warriors, finished with 17 points but struggled by shooting 6-for-23 from the field. Even so, he finished the game with an exclamatory slam dunk for Team Giannis, whose namesake scored 38, including a replay-worthy dunk on a bounce-pass alley-oop from Curry.
Curry’s Golden State teammate, Kevin Durant, won game MVP honors by leading Team LeBron with 31 points.
In the days and months ahead, business, tourism and political leaders will sift through the details off the court to determine whether the All-Star weekend met expectations. A Charlotte Regional Visitors Authority-backed economic analysis of spending by the NBA and visitors will be completed later this year.
Coming into the weekend, organizers estimated 32,000 room nights would be filled at area hotels as part of an anticipated $100 million overall impact.
Viewership numbers weren’t immediately available, but in recent years 7 million to 8 million people in the U.S. have watched the All-Star Game, with millions more tuning in for the dunk and 3-point contests on Saturday night. TNT carries all of the major All-Star weekend events.
Movie director Spike Lee sat courtside, as did singer and actress Janelle Monae (“Hidden Figures”) and numerous notable NBA alums. During one timeout, Hall of Famers David Robinson, Allen Iverson, George Gervin, Magic Johnson and Julius Erving gathered around 85-year-old Boston Celtics great Bill Russell on the court for a photo op that elicited a roar from the crowd.
Curry, whose brother Seth plays for Portland (he joined Steph in the 3-point contest), considered the Hornets’ role as host a success.
“It’s an amazing weekend to be back in Charlotte and pretty much everything I imagined it to be,” Curry told reporters afterwards. “Having my family and friends, people I grew up with kind of come out and celebrate how influential and important Charlotte is to me and my entire family.”
Curry’s father, Dell, still ranks second in career points for the Hornets, who he played for from 1988 to 1998. Dell Curry retired in 2002 and currently is a team ambassador and TV analyst for the Hornets.
Spectrum Center is owned by the city but operated by the Hornets. Beyond the standard NBA regular season schedule, which resumes Friday vs. Washington, the uptown arena is set to host the CIAA Tournament at the end of this month and the ACC men’s basketball tournament March 12-16. In other words, All-Star weekend may be finished, but there is still a lot of basketball to come in Charlotte this year.