1-on-1 with NBA Commissioner David Stern
It used to be all about the game but at some points this weekend, the actual game might seem secondary.
That’s just the way the NBA’s All-Star Weekend has evolved over the last many years. The annual game between the Eastern Conference and Western Conference still matters. It’s still the main event. But the weekend leading up to it has become almost as big.
“It always surprises me when I get into town, how big the event has become,” NBA commissioner David Stern said on Thursday, before officially kicking off the NBA Jam Session at the George R. Brown Convention Center.
“The WNBA and NBA Cares opportunities, the legends coming for their brunch … it takes on not only a sense of a family reunion because of the legends but really brings us to the global proportions of the game. International broadcasters come in, international licensees, international sponsors. It’s very much a global event now.”
Remember when All-Star weekend was about the actual game?
It’s OK if you don’t. It’s been a long time since it’s been that way.
This year, Houston will play host to the All-Star Game, sure, but the city will also host a series of events leading up to the game on Sunday. First, there’s Jam Session which kicked off Thursday. Then, there’s the NBA Cares’ day of service, the NBA Developmental League All-Star Game, the celebrity game, the Rising Stars Challenge, the skills and dunk competition, the pregame concert.
And then, finally, after all that’s done, the All-Star Game will tip off at the Toyota Center on Sunday night at 7 p.m.
“It used to be an All-Star game. Period,” said Stern, who never envisioned the event becoming this big. “And we would put everyone, all the players, all the guests, all the media, everybody. Now we need 6,000 hotel rooms for foreign media, domestic media for licensees and sponsors, legends, for WNBA players, for NBA players for Friday night and Saturday night and Sunday night and celebrities and all the people that make this spectacular Jam Session possible. It’s not even comparable. This is a reflection of the growth of the league and what the people of the NBA and what our players and our people of our league do to keep this league at the forefront of being a huge basketball showcase.”
The NBA’s commissioner was quick to rattle off some of the numbers that show the league’s growth. He pointed out that the All-Star game has become a global event and that 215 countries and territories will be able to watch the All-Star Game in 47 different languages.
“The game itself was a great game now and was a great game then,” Stern said. “But in terms of the number of countries that are going to see it. ‘Hello, world,’ says Houston.”
And Houston is a perfect place to host the event, Stern said. This year will be the third time the city has hosted the annual affair and the first time since 2006. Stern joked that the last time the city hosted the game, he didn’t even have an email address. He admitted that he probably did, but he wanted to make his point: the game has come a far way in a short amount of time but Houston remains a prime location to hold the event.
Stern pointed to the modern Toyota Center, the plethora of hotels in the downtown area near the stadium and convention center, the easy and accessible transportation and the “hospitality-centric nature” of the city as reasons Houston is an ideal host.
So, as of Thursday night, how was Houston doing as a host city?
“Houston is terrific as always,” Stern said. “They always have been.”