On tomorrow, thousands will begin their descent on Nawlens (New Orleans) for the 2008 All-Star weekend, an event WP columnist Mike Wilbon so eloquently coined “Black Thanksgiving.” and what Page 2’s Bill Simmons called “Hip hop Woodstock.” If you remember, it was only a year ago that the game was held in Las Vegas and, depending on who you talk to, was either a huge success or complete disaster. While it brought in nearly $100 million in revenue, there were over 400 arrests. Most notably, it was the beginning of the end for Pacman Jones as he “made it rain” all the way out of the NFL.
There’s no doubt the NBA is a “black” league so-to speak. The majority of its players are African-American and many of the fans are as well. Recently, All-Star weekend has been a destination of choice for young black folks. It has surpassed Memorial Day and the 4th of July. The hip-hop community comes out in masses and can be seen at events and sitting courtside for the actual game. But the fact remains, the money and influence still comes from white fans and that’s evident from the front office to the majority of fans in the stands. So, to some, the NBA’s image is again on shaky ground.
The always controversial Kansas City Star and FoxSports columnist Jason Whitlock compared attending All-Star weekend in Vegas to walking the grounds of a maximum security prison. Of course, he received intense criticism from critics who believed he was a “sellout” and over exaggerated things.
Look, whenever a large group of people get together, black or white, there will be issues. The reality is though, because of the spotlight and amount of money involved, the NBA All-Star weekend will be heavily scrutinized by those in the media and in public opinion. Can things be changed to make the event safer and run smoother? Of course. But there has to be some personal accountability on those who attend to behave properly.
Some have suggested having All-Star weekendin New Orleans is disaster waiting to happen. While the N.O. is still struggling post-Katrina, if there’s one city that can handle a big event it’s the Crescent City.
I’ll reserve my judgement until after this weekend. Until then, if you’re heading to the ‘Nolia, have a ball!