2024 NBA All-Star Weekend Column

Indy puts on All-Star Spectacle



For the first time in nearly 40 years, the NBA All-Star Weekend returned to Indianapolis. I had a chance to take part in all of the festivities, and over the course of the entire weekend, I continued to feel a sense of pride in the great state of Indiana. Indianapolis has always been a great spot for major sporting events, and that standard was continued this weekend.It all started with Reggie Miller’s press conference on Friday. The former Pacer legend told us: “When you think about basketball, you think of Hoosiers and you think of Indiana. It’s really special for the All-Star Game to be at the place I call home.”After that, I started to make my way around the city to check everything out. I’ve never seen so many basketball goals in my entire life. The city also featured lots of great artwork, live music in different spots, as well as games and activities for people of all ages. The NBA Fan Experience at the Convention Center was a big hit for thousands of fans. There were a ton of current and former NBA players making appearances all three days, and a lot of great things for basketball lovers to enjoy.Friday night, I went to Lucas Oil Stadium to watch some of the Celebrity Game, then headed over to Gainbridge Fieldhouse for the Rising Stars Challenge. Current Pacer Bennedict Mathurin won the Rising Stars MVP, giving the host team a great start to the weekend.On Saturday, the media doors opened four hours before All-Star Saturday Night began at Lucas Oil. I wanted to get there early to take everything in. The LED Court was truly special, and one of the highlights of the weekend. I was pretty mesmerized with the floor the entire night, which made the in-person experience even more enjoyable. Other cities have just been in one location for All-Star Weekend, and Indy wanted to set another standard by having events in two stadiums. I’ll be interested to see if that becomes the new norm in other cities.The Pacers trio of Tyrese Haliburton, Myles Turner, and Bennedict Mathurin won the Skills Challenge, which was capped off by a Haliburton dunk to seal the victory. The dunk contest has been lacking for several years, and it wasn’t a great competition this year, though still enjoyable to watch as 6’2 Mac McLung won it for the second straight year. One of the highlights of the weekend was watching Steph Curry vs. WNBA star Sabrina Ionescu in a separate 3-point challenge. Sabrina used the WNBA ball, but shot from the NBA 3-point line and gave the greatest shooter of all time a run for his money. Curry won 29-26 as Sabrina made as many 3’s as all of the other NBA players from the other competition.Sunday night was the actual game at Gainbridge Fieldhouse. Taking some video down on the court before the game was another highlight. As the players started warming up, celebrities started filing into their seats. Spike Lee, Ivanka Trump, Russell Wilson, Common, and several others walked by before taking in the action. Babyface did a great job with the National Anthem, and Jennifer Hudson put on a great show at halftime. The game itself followed a recent trend of zero defense, which was disappointing. On the bright side, Pacers star Tyrese Haliburton put on a great show and was deserving of the MVP award, though he finished 2nd in that voting.

I can’t imagine the amount of prep work and the amount of people that were needed to put on this event. Even if you don’t care much for All-Star games in general, it just hits different when it’s in your state. I’ve covered hundreds of Pacer games in Gainbridge Fieldhouse over the years. But during the incredible intros on Sunday night, I took a moment to look around and take it all in. The building that’s become a second workplace to me was all dressed up. It felt like all the cool kids wanted to come over to our house to play. It felt like a well deserved spotlight for the arena, the city, and the great people of the state. This weekend was a true celebration of the game, and fans should be proud. As we all know, to 49 other states, it’s just basketball. But this is Indiana.