In 2017 Charlotte will be the center of professional basketball. If it happens in the NBA, it will happen here.
The publicity the NBA All-Star Game generates will be good for the city. It will be good for the city unless we figure that because of the attention more people will want to move to Charlotte and as a result we tear down more buildings to build more apartments.
Along with attention, the game will attract basketball stars, comedians, musicians and actors and people who want to be around basketball stars, comedians, musicians and actors.
We’ll get interesting guests. When Charlotte hosted the game in 1991, I was standing near the court at Charlotte Coliseum and saw a guy that looked familiar. The man’s appearance is distinctive, but I didn’t see him as a basketball fan. I saw him as somebody who was instrumental in helping develop the music and theatrics that would become rock ’n’ roll.
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“Good Golly Miss Molly” Georgia’s own Little Richard was hanging out at courtside.
The best musicians in town that weekend were Bruce Hornsby and Branford Marsalis, whose rendition of the national anthem was understated and therefore powerful. I can still see them. Luckily, I can still hear them, too.
The NBA All-Star game is a celebration of the sport, and the closer you get to it the bigger it is. Introduced before the game 24 years ago were Michael Jordan, Magic Johnson, Bernard King – so glad ESPN remembered King in its 30 for 30 series – James Worthy, Brad Daugherty, Karl Malone and John Stockton. To see those players in your town is moving no matter how many games you’ve seen.
The East won 116-114 primarily because MVP Charles Barkley, then of the Philadelphia 76ers, scored 17 points and grabbed an amazing 22 rebounds.
Dominique Wilkins, one of the sport’s all-time great leapers, went up for a dunk everybody would remember, and everybody did. He missed by a foot. When Wilkins, who played for Atlanta, returned to the bench, his teammates crushed him. They continued in the locker room after the game. Wilkins, a good guy, shook his head and laughed.
The Hornets were represented in the Slam Dunk Contest by Rex Chapman and Kendall Gill. By ’91, stars had begun to stop showing up to dunk. The lone big name was Shawn Kemp. He finished second to Dee Brown. Chapman was third and Kenny the Jet Smith was fourth.
More entertaining then, as now, was the Three-Point Shootout. Chicago’s Craig Hodges went on a tear and in the second round scored 24 points, 10 more than anybody else. He hit his first 19. Fans were as loud as they were all evening, screaming with every shot.
What you got for Hodges, Steph Curry? Curry was 3 years old at the time, so he probably did not have much.
We presumably will see Curry in ’17. Most of us will see him on TV. Time Warner Cable Arena will be jammed with sponsors as well as season ticket holders. Fans that want to get a better look can linger downtown and hope to encounter somebody they’re accustomed to watching on TV.
They also can go to Fan Fest, which likely will be at the Charlotte Convention Center. The events there will cater, as they should, to kids, and feature games as well as the game’s history. It will be like a basketball theme park.
Events change. The NBA adds them and drops them. But one event that’s likely to endure is the Rising Stars Challenge, which matches first-year players who theoretically are up and coming against their second-year counterparts.
The Hornets always have a player or players compete.
Festivities will be more memorable if by 2017 one of Charlotte’s young players finally has risen and plays in the All-Star Game.
Sorensen: 704-358-5119; firstname.lastname@example.org; Twitter: @tomsorensen