Taking a page from the NFL, the NBA has sought to put its own All Star Weekend in warmer climes over the last decade. After visiting the then-named Arena in Oakland in 2000, the NBA held the All Star Game in Philadelphia and Washington the subsequent two years before settling on Sun Belt cities for the last decade. This weekend’s events at Houston’s Toyota Center mark the second time in eight years that Houston’s played host. Los Angeles has already hosted twice since Staples Center opened, and New Orleans will do it twice in seven years with next year’s edition.
With NBA All Star Weekend set for the middle of the season instead of the NFL’s season climax in the Super Bowl, the timing lends itself to a more scaled down spread of activities. At 3-4 days, it’s half the length of Super Bowl week (the week after the conference championship games is something of a dead week). Predictably, it has far less projected economic impact (~$100 million) than a Super Bowl ($200-300 million), though the cost to host ASW is at least proportionally less than the Super Bowl.
Even if economic impact is distilled only into direct spending in a region of $50 million or less, it’s still an impressive figure for only a few days and brings each host city an impressive amount of international attention due the high numbers of global media usually in attendance.
As with the Super Bowl, the NBA looks for cities where the game can be hosted at a modern arena, with a number of peripheral events hosted nearby at a convention center. Also preferred is a downtown location with lots of hotels and nightspots for current and former players to host their own activities.
The exceptions of the past decade have usually been experiments. 2007 had the game in Las Vegas, which is not a city with a NBA team but has most everything else the NBA wants in terms of amenities. Unfortunately, the weekend might have been a little too hot for the NBA, making the likelihood of a repeat performance in Sin City slim. 2010’s ASW was held at Cowboys Stadium in Arlington, TX, and according to reports went much better than the weather-marred Super Bowl the following year. Mavericks owner Mark Cuban has started lobbying for the DFW area to host again, but with the game(s) held at American Airlines Center instead of Cowboys Stadium.
Other hosting years have usually followed a script.
- Celebrity game
- Rising Stars (rookies and sophomores) game
- D-League skills & dunk contests [held at secondary arena]
- D-League All Star Game
- Dunk, 3-point, and skills contests
- All Star Game
With a new arena, the Warriors and San Francisco would be well-positioned to enter a rotation of frequent ASW hosts, along with LA, Houston, New Orleans, and Phoenix. Positioned to compete with SF are Dallas and Orlando (which have hosted recently), and maybe Miami (which hasn’t) and New York (with two arenas). In conjunction with shared-hosting duties of the Super Bowl that could start in 2015, it’s an impactful combination even if each event is awarded only once a decade.
The main Saturday and Sunday events are typically held at an existing NBA arena like the ones I’ve mentioned. The secondary events are usually held at a nearby convention center. SF could try to use Moscone Center, but I’m not sure how that would work with the columns in Moscone’s North Hall and the low ceiling in the South Hall, and small footprint at Moscone West. Instead, the secondary events could be pushed to the Bill Graham Civic Auditorium.
The Bay Area has only hosted the All Star Game twice, in 1967 at the Cow Palace and the aforementioned Oakland Arena gig in 2000. Besides SF’s dependence on a new arena, Oakland would probably need an adjacent or nearby convention center to host ASW on its own, which could come in the form of a retractable domed stadium that City Hall fancies. The NBA isn’t too keen on making promises in advance of All Star Weekends the same way the NFL and MLB do with the Super Bowl and baseball’s All Star Game, so it’s not something to bet on.
And let’s not forget that Sacramento also wants to host an All Star Game if it gets a downtown arena. With a convention center near either the Railyards or Downtown Plaza sites, Sacramento would be well-positioned for a bid, if not the most desirable of locales.