CHICAGO, Ill. — Fans from across the globe are calling Chicago home for this year’s NBA All-Star weekend, but next year Indy will be their stomping grounds.
Players are weighing in, while the Pacers learn how to get ready for this.
“I think it’s important to give everyone a chance to be able to embrace the fandom of All-Star Weekend,” explained Houston Rockets guard Russell Westbrook. “But I also think it’s important that the cities are prepared and have the hotels and venues for different people.”
“Oh for sure, I think it is going to be the best All-Star yet!” Pacers forward Domantas Sabonis said with a smile while basking in the glory of his first All-Star appearance.
A contingency of Pacers representatives and planners are in The Windy City trying to learn what they can. The event spans two Chicago arenas and multiple hotels. The Pacers believe they will have to utilize Lucas Oil Stadium and the Indiana Convention Center to pull their weekend off.
Given the chilly time of year, many fans took Uber and Lyft rides to each of the venues in Chicago, as the walks could be up to fifteen minutes or more with temperatures in the single digits and teens.
“What I think makes Indianapolis great is obviously the compact downtown,” added Todd Taylor, chief sales and marketing officer with Pacers Sports Entertainment. “You’re not going to get on a bus, you don’t really have to worry about transportation. You can walk around, pop into places.”
The NBA All-Star Game pulls fans and media from all reaches of the planet, with a particular emphasis on Europe and China.
“This gives a lot of people who would never ever think about coming to the state of Indiana a reason to come here,” said Taylor.
Former Pacers head coach Frank Vogel — now with the Lakers– is coaching Team Lebron at the All-Star Game, but he hasn’t lost his Hoosier ties.
“My family is upset with me that I had the best record in the league this year because we were hoping that maybe next year that we could do it, and we could all go stay at our house in Carmel and get to come home so to speak,” laughs Vogel.
Vogel went on to explain that NBA coaches are not allowed to coach the All-Star game back-to-back years, but he may go as a fan.
Starting this year, the winners of each quarter of the All-Star Game will get $100,000 to donate to the Chicago charity of their captain’s choosing. The 2020 captains are Lakers star Lebron James and Bucks leader Giannis Antetokounmpo. Pacers executives hope that will carry on next season with Indy’s local charities, but they say it’s ultimately an NBA decision to keep it going.