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Dennis Cox, Reporter

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This past weekend, Charlotte, N.C. hosted the NBA All-Star game for the first time since 1991. Anyone who lives near the city knows far too well how boring it is most of the time; so I jumped on the chance to experience Charlotte as if it was a real ‘big city’. If you live within the 100 mile radius around Charlotte and you didn’t make the trip for All-Star Weekend, you definitely missed out.

The All-Star game, which was played Sunday evening, consists of 24 of the NBA’s biggest stars from the Eastern and Western conferences. The fans vote on their favorite players, and the two athletes with the most votes are established as captains. Each captain picks 11 other players for their team. Basically, the NBA brings all of its stars together to party all weekend.

This year’s captains were LeBron James of the Los Angeles Lakers and Giannis Antetokounmpo of the Milwaukee Bucks. Now I don’t have anything against the “Greek Freak”, but I find it questionable that LeBron James was chosen as a captain after missing 18 out of the 59 games the Lakers have played this season due to injuries…

The All-Star game is not the only event celebrated during the NBA’s biggest weekend, though. The skills tests and celebrity All-Star game were orchestrated on Saturday, which included one of the most popular events: the NBA dunk contest.

Jayson Tatum, the 20 year-old small forward from the Boston Celtics, beat out seven other players to win the Taco Bell Skills Contest. Joe Harris of the Brooklyn Nets beat out Kemba Walker, Damian Lillard, Steph Curry, and six other players to win the Mountain Dew Three Point Contest.

Hamidou Diallio, the 6 foot 5 guard from the Oklahoma City Thunder, vaulted over the 7 foot 1 monster Shaquille O’ Neal to win the Slam Dunk Contest. Paul George, Diallio’s teammate and a former contestant of the Slam Dunk Contest himself, called Diallio a “freak of nature.”

Friday night, the most talented first and second year NBA players came together for the Rising Star game. Team USA, consisting of players from the United States, faced “Team World” consisting of players from-you guessed it- around the world.

I spent pretty much all weekend in Charlotte, but I don’t have ridiculous amounts of money to spend, so I missed out on actually attending the All-Star game. Nosebleed tickets were going for thousands of dollars. I was, however, able to score tickets to the Rising Stars game.

In a game overflowing with blossoming talent, Kyle Kuzma of the Los Angeles Lakers was voted MVP. John Collins, representing the Atlanta Hawks, slammed down two monstrous dunks to get the crowd off their feet with excitement. Trae Young, Collins’ teammate from Atlanta, let out some nostalgic vibes with his Muggsy Bogues handles in the Hornets’ arena.  

The arena was packed. If you’ve ever been to a regular Hornets game, you know they never fill up the seats. All-Star weekend had the Spectrum Center overflowing. I could barely get close to any Kemba Walker posters because it was so hard to move around. (If you ever go to Spectrum Center, you have to kiss at least one poster with Kemba Walker, because he is the only thing keeping the franchise alive.)

The weekend’s excitement extended far beyond Spectrum Center, though. Nike and Jordan set up a towering pop-up shop in the Mint Museum, along with their collaborative set-up with Foot Locker: “House of Hoops: Courtside.” The Courtside shop was established in the parking garage directly beside the center of the action: Spectrum Center.

Nike brought down a team of highly respected designers and artists from around the country to work on customizing shoes in the House of Hoops shop. With any purchase of an all-white Nike shoe, the team offered a free customization session to give the shoes some “704” flare.

I bought some Air Force 1s to customize on Saturday, and I was able to talk with some of the designers. They range from tattoo artists to fashion designers, from Atlanta to New York City. They had a heat press system to put different pre-made designs on the shoes, as well as an airbrush to create an original design if the customer desired.

Mountain Dew, Express, New Era, and Puma are among the many other businesses that rapidly set up their own temporary stores for the weekend. I would never wear anything from Puma, but their shop’s design was interesting. They had a big party on Saturday night, too.  

I ran into a few celebrities as well. Thursday night, Jayson Tatum was in the House of Hoops shop for an interview, and I was able to meet him with my sister. I ran into Vlade Divac three times. Divac, the player who the Hornets acquired in exchange for Kobe Bryant back in 1996, now serves as the General Manager of the Sacramento Kings. After running into him a couple months ago when the Hornets played the Kings, Divac has become an idol among my friends and me.

Late Saturday night, as I walked back to my car with my friends, I ran into “The Beard” himself- James Harden. When my friend, Brandon, asked for a picture, Harden responded with, “Not right now,” before briskly walking away, as if he would ever see us again… Brandon still hasn’t gotten over it.

Finally, at 8 p.m. on Sunday evening, the festivities culminated with the much-anticipated All-Star Game. With a phenomenal opening performance by rapper Meek Mill to rile up the crowd along with the concurrent introduction of the NBA’s best and brightest, Charlotte was ready to watch the basketball game.

Team Giannis started off on fire as Giannis himself threatened the safety of the backboard with his ridiculous dunks coming again and again. Antetokounmpo went on to score 38 total points as the leading scorer of the game.

With Antetokounmpo’s team leading at the half, Charlotte was blessed with a legendary performance by North Carolina native J. Cole. Cole performed wearing his vintage Hornets windbreaker to show some love for the city.  

The MVP award, however, went to Kevin Durant. Down by 20 points, Team LeBron was in desperate need of a miracle, which came in the form of Durant’s methodical 31 points.

Team LeBron secured the win over Team Giannis 178-164 after a nail-biting comeback.

The Charlotte Hornets resumed their regular schedule on Feb. 22, 2019 as they faced the Washington Wizards.

As Charlotte relaxes after a weekend of excitement and insomnia, its natives are left restless with anticipation for the NBA’s next visit to the “704”. As long as Kemba keeps winning us games, we might have a chance at seeing that happen sooner rather than later.

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