Texas senior Damion James will play in the NBA next year, and maybe one day he'll even make it to an All-Star Game. He at least has a leg up on the current All-Stars who will converge on North Texas in the next few days as the parties gear up for All-Star Weekend.
James and the Longhorns christened Cowboys Stadium as a basketball venue in December versus North Carolina, in front of nearly 40,000. NBA-produced blueprints for the court construction and seating arrangement for the 2010 All-Star Game were used for the inaugural game.
"It's amazing what money can do," James said, having sized up the $1.2 billion stadium from the raised platform playing court. "I think we can fit my hometown inside this place."
It'll be intimate. It'll have an energy that's hard to replicate for basketball. This is something that we've planned on and hoped for.
”-- Cowboys owner Jerry Jones
Forget James' hometown of Nacogdoches, Texas. It would take all of Nacogdoches County along with the residents of neighboring Rusk County to fill Cowboys Stadium. For Sunday's All-Star Game, the first in North Texas in 24 years and the first in a football stadium since 1996, more than 90,000 fans will file into the house that Jerry Jones (and the city of Arlington) built.
It will easily set a world record for attendance at a basketball game, shattering the 78,129 that saw Kentucky play Michigan State at Detroit's Ford Field in 2003.
Jones, the Dallas Cowboys owner, and Dallas Mavericks owner Mark Cuban collaborated to make basketball history possible at the world's most talked-about football stadium. Both visionaries have touted the possibility of drawing a crowd of 100,000.
"Instinctively," Jones said, "if you can say 1-0-0, it slides out better than 9-0."
The NBA has taken a more a cautious approach, careful not to upset the city of Arlington fire marshal and other officials concerned with overcrowding, as was the case when more than 105,000 jammed the stadium for the Cowboys' home opener last September. However, ticket sales have already blown by initial league estimates of 85,000.
No matter the attendance, Jones said, "It'll be intimate. It'll have an energy that's hard to replicate for basketball. This is something that we've planned on and hoped for."
Intimate? Inside a stadium boasting 3 million square feet?
Well, that depends on whom you ask. Some fans at the Texas-UNC game remarked how cavernous the stadium felt, even with the upper deck curtained off. For Sunday's All-Star Game, the stands will be filled to the roof, almost 300 feet above the court.
There's 85,000 people. It's not like there are just good seats and bad seats. ... It's more about the scene and the event than it is the game.
”-- Mavericks owner Mark Cuban
Yet high-powered binoculars won't be a necessity. Thanks to Jones' prized possession, the world's largest video boards, everyone gets a crystal-clear view of the action.
The dual high-definition screens stretch 60 yards, or 86 feet longer than the playing court itself. Plus, four smaller video boards -- the ones used on the outside plazas during Cowboys games -- will hang below the massive screens to give those in the lower-bowl sections and temporary floor seats a better view of instant replays and in-game entertainment.
"What I think is going to be real exciting is the dynamic of the competition at floor level as it will relate to the big digital board," Jones said. "And I like the way we've used the boards that were out on the plaza. They were designed so that we could take those boards and put them under this board."
The actual court arrangement is nearly identical to the system implemented by the NCAA for its basketball regional rounds and the Final Four played in football stadiums, such as last year's Final Four at Ford Field.
At Cowboys Stadium, which will host an NCAA regional in 2013 and the Final Four in 2014, the court will sit on a platform above the Cowboys' blue star on the 50-yard line.
Temporary seating surrounds the court, rising up until it meets the lower bowl. It renders some seats obsolete and others with obstructed views, which is why Ski Austin, the NBA's executive vice president of events and attractions, spent days trekking around the stadium to determine which seats can't be sold and to figure out ways to add others.
Cuban isn't as concerned with sight lines. Unlike at the NCAA tournament, where the majority of fans are there to watch the action on the court, Cuban said the All-Star Game is more about the action going on around the court.
"There's 85,000 people," Cuban said. "It's not like there are just good seats and bad seats. ... It's more about the scene and the event than it is the game."
Also unlike the NCAA tournament, which has fallen in love with high-occupancy football stadiums for its marquee events, Austin said that despite the tremendous ticket sales, the league will continue to keep its midseason showcase at its team's arenas.
"We're not going to be out looking for other football stadiums to be in. Final Fours are hosted by the city, All-Star Games are hosted by the teams," Austin said. "This was just a unique opportunity. We and the Mavericks agreed that this would be a special kind of experience, and we had a lot of cooperation from the Cowboys."
The Pontiac Silverdome (1979), the Hoosier Dome (1985), the Kingdome (1987), the Astrodome (1989) and the Alamodome (1996) have preceded Cowboys Stadium as All-Star hosts.
The Astrodome crowd of 44,735 will hold the All-Star Game attendance record for a few more days.
"It's exciting for me," Jones said. "I think it's going to be a great venue for basketball and for basketball fans."
And it will assure that North Texas doesn't wait another 24 years for the NBA All-Star Game to return.