Drexler, Armstrong help NBA unveil New Orleans All-Star logo
NEW ORLEANS -- Flood-damaged Charity Hospital, where pro basketball Hall-of-Famer Clyde Drexler was born in 1962, remains a vacant shell, sitting in limbo until state officials figure out what to do with the historic, deco building.
A few blocks away is the New Orleans Arena, which next February will host an event that Drexler hopes will help revitalize the city of his birth.
During an NBA-run basketball clinic for children Tuesday on the campus of Tulane University, Drexler and second-year Hornets player Hilton Armstrong helped the NBA unveil its new logo for the 2008 All-Star Game.
The symmetrical, circular logo incorporates much of New Orleans' heritage, with two fleur-de-lis symbols, eight brass horns and fringe detail that resembles the cast-iron lace adorning French Quarter balconies.
Drexler said it was important to him to be part of promotional events surrounding the All-Star weekend in New Orleans, a city where he lived as a toddler and returned to often to see relatives after his mother had moved to Houston.
"Any time I'm here it's like home," Drexler said.
He said the NBA's decision to bring the All-Star Game to New Orleans is "extremely important, one, from an economic standpoint, and two, to show that the city is recovering and that people are investing time and energy into events in the city.
"That's huge," he continued. "This city is known for tourism, so you want everyone to come back."
Some in pro basketball, including NBA players' union chief Billy Hunter, have questioned the wisdom of bringing the NBA's All-Stars to New Orleans, where police have struggled to get violent crime under control in certain neighborhoods.
But most of the violence has involved criminals fighting each other. Serious crimes committed against tourists have been rare, according to police, and Drexler said he senses that most players look forward to spending All-Star weekend in New Orleans, with its renowned restaurants, music clubs and casinos.
"The players are excited to come to New Orleans," Drexler said. "This city definitely needs the boost, so it couldn't happen at a better time."
In fact, the Feb. 17 game will cap perhaps one of the greatest opportunities a city that lives on tourism has ever had to showcase itself.
Starting in late December, New Orleans will host the New Orleans Bowl, the Sugar Bowl, the BCS Championship and, if the Saints repeat last year's success, a possible NFL playoff game or two. The 12 days of Carnival leading up to Mardi Gras begin in late January and run through Fat Tuesday on Feb. 5. Then the NBA's best come to town.
Meanwhile, the Hornets, back in New Orleans full-time for the first time since Hurricane Katrina struck Aug. 29, 2005, hope the buzz created by the All-Star Game renews interest in pro basketball in the region.
Drexler applauded the Hornets, who enjoyed economic success during the past two seasons in their temporary base in Oklahoma City, for embracing the challenge of returning to rebuilding New Orleans.
The Saints, which moved back to the city for the 2006 season, have been rewarded with unprecedented success, selling out the Louisiana Superdome on a season-ticket basis for last season and for 2007.
New Orleans "definitely has been a football town in the past ... but it was a pretty good basketball town," said Drexler, who said he remembers as a kid going to the dome to watch Pete Maravich play for the then-New Orleans Jazz.
The Jazz did well at the gate, sometimes setting attendance records, but left because their owner at the time, a Mormon from California, wanted to move to Salt Lake City.
The Hornets, however, were worst in the league in attendance in 2004-05, their last full season here. Then again, they were also the worst team on the court that season, winning only 18 games.
"Every city supports a winner. If you ever put together a team that's good enough to compete, they get tons of support from the locals. That's been proven," Drexler said.
"I'm biased because I'm from here. I like to see a team here. But as an owner you have to think of it from the economics and certainly it looked like it might have been more viable in Oklahoma City. But you've got to give [Hornets owner George Shinn] a lot of credit. He did the right thing. He brought the team back. So, hopefully, things will work out."
Copyright 2007 by The Associated Press