NBA All-Star weekend will begin on Friday at the United Centre in Chicago – where the league’s best players will compete in a series of challenges.
The average price for an All-Star Weekend ticket is close to $2000 making it the most expensive all-star event in recent years.
The last time the All-Star Game was hosted in Chicago was in 1988. That game included NBA legends Dominique Wilkins and Micheal Jordan.
The Friday events will include the All- Star Celebrity Game with ESPN analysits Stephen A. Smith coaching a team of amateurs against Michael Wilbon.
The Rising Stars game will end the night with the top 20 first and second year players in the NBA.
Ten players have been selected to participate as all-stars for the first time, the highest number of newcomers since 2002.
Toronto Raptors forward Pascal Siakam will make his first all-star appearance with teammate Kyle Lowry who has been named an all-star six times.
Josh Kern an editor for RaptorsHQ has followed Siakam’s rise from rookie to all-star.
“For a guy like that who wasn’t on the floor that much his first year and played a key role on the bench, then just a year later won the Most Improved Player award, and is now the Raptors top offensive option is impressive,” said Kern
Before the games begin, the NBA Hall of Fame Class of 2020 will be announced. The late basketball legend, Kobe Bryant, will be inducted during the ceremony four years after he retired in 2016 from the Los Angeles Lakers and three weeks after he died in a helicopter crash.
On Feb. 15 there will be a number of sponsored events including the Taco Bell Skills Challenge, the Mountain DEW 3-point contest, and the AT&T Slam Dunk competition.
Derrick Rose of the Detroit Pistons has pulled out of the Taco Bell Skills Challenge, due to an injury and will be replaced by Oklahoma City Thunder’s Shai Gilgeous-Alexander. Rose originally won the skills challenge back in 2009.
The last day of the All-Star weekend, Feb. 16, will conclude with the 69th NBA All-Star Game. League leaders, LeBron James of the Los Angeles Lakers and Milwaukee Bucks, Giannis Antetokounmpo were selected as team captains to represent the NBA east and west conferences.
James and Antetokounmpo chose the starting all-stars who will play on their teams on Feb. 6. The 14 reserves who will make up the bench were also chosen.
“I gotta go with Team Giannis for sure, LeBron made some pretty good choices pairing himself with his teammate Anthony Davis, but with Nick Nurse coaching I have to pick Giannis. Either team bring a good matchup,” said Kern.
Five-time all-star player, Damian Lillard of the Portland Trail Blazers will miss the entire weekend with a strained groin after facing the Memphis Grizzlies on Wednesday night. Lillard was supposed to participate in the All-Star Game and Mountain Dew 3-point contest.
“Obviously it’s something you look forward to for the festivities and having fun, but my health is first and I knew right away I wasn’t gonna be out there,” he said.
Lillard hoped that somebody who should have been on the list but never made it could replace him. He mentioned Devin Booker of the Phoenix Suns, who was a potential All-Star pick believed to be snubbed from the list. Booker was later announced to replace Lillard on Thursday morning.
“I’ve been there, I’ve done it all before. I’m sure I’ll have more opportunities,” he said.
Lillard will still be in Chicago, as he is scheduled to perform his music under his stage name, “Dame D.O.L.L.A”.
Before the games start this weekend, the Los Angeles Clippers will play against the Boston Celtics, and the Oklahoma City Thunder will face the New Orleans Pelicans.
After the weekend, the players will be given an opportunity to rest until Feb. 20 before NBA games resume on Thursday.