L.A. knows how to party like an All-Star
A warm welcome awaits next year's event -- no cars required
DALLAS -- The adage in Los Angeles is that everyone needs a car and anything worth seeing is 30 minutes from downtown. But next year, when the city hosts NBA All-Star weekend, the longest trip anyone might have to make from hotels to events and parties is across the street.
The 60th NBA All-Star Game will be played next year at Staples Center, with the NBA All-Star Jam at the adjacent Los Angeles Convention Center. The recently built L.A. Live, a 4 million-square-foot, $2.5 billion complex across the street, includes a Ritz-Carlton and JW Marriott and more than a dozen restaurants, bars, clubs and theaters.
The only reason to leave downtown Los Angeles during next year's All-Star Weekend might be to soak in the sun-kissed twists and turns of the Pacific Coast Highway or visit Mickey and Minnie at Disneyland. It will be a far cry from Dallas, where American Airlines Arena was a 10-minute drive from the media hotel, the Dallas Convention Center was a 15-minute ride and Cowboys Stadium was a 30-minute trip without traffic. That was, of course, for those who actually made it to Dallas after a snowstorm delayed and canceled hundreds of flights into the city.
Before Sunday's game, fans had to brave temperatures dipping below 30 degrees as they waited to enter the stadium. Meanwhile, in Los Angeles, temperatures hovered around 75 degrees.
Dallas may hold the record for the largest crowd ever to watch a basketball game, drawing 108,713 for Sunday's event, but no city can compete with Los Angeles' ability to throw a party.
Next year's All-Star Game will be the fifth held in Los Angeles, the most for any city, and second in Staples Center in the past seven years. It will be the first major sporting event that AEG, which owns and operates Staples Center and L.A. Live, has bid on and will host after the completion of L.A. Live last spring.
"We actually tried to bid on the Finals but [NBA commissioner] David [Stern] assured me that despite what is occasionally written those are not awarded but earned," Tim Leiweke, president of AEG, said last year. "So we did the next thing and went after the NBA All-Star Game.
"When we built the [L.A. Live] campus in conjunction with the city we built it for big events and with the hotel opening and the rest of the campus being finished this was the first major event that we went out and bid on and the first major event that we were awarded. We certainly feel the pressure and will try to live up to the expectations for 2011."
The schedule will mimic past years', kicking off Friday, Feb. 18, at Staples with the Rookie Challenge and Youth Jam, followed by Saturday's skills challenge, shooting and dunk contests and the All-Star Game on Sunday. The Convention Center will house Jam Session, Friday's celebrity game and Saturday's H.O.R.S.E. competition, All-Star practices and D-League All-Star Game.
There are discussions to have the players stay at the newly built Ritz-Carlton, which will open in March. The media are crossing their fingers that they will be staying at the adjacent JW Marriott, which opened last week.
No matter how those arrangements are settled, Los Angeles Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa is just happy about the event and the revenue it generates for the host city.
"Anybody that brings a $100 million to my town at a time when the economy isn't doing very well is always welcome," said Villaraigosa last year. "This will be a great shot in the arm and a great opportunity for us to show off L.A., particularly downtown L.A. All I ask is that everyone spends as much as they can in our town."Arash Markazi is a reporter and columnist for ESPNLosAngeles.com.