Despite ongoing concerns about the coronavirus pandemic and pushback from players, the NBA announced Thursday its plans to hold the All-Star game in Atlanta on March 7. Though Stephen Curry stopped short of a full endorsement, he made it clear he accepts the league’s decision.
“It’s a business and we understand that. We know what we all signed up for,” said Curry, who is expected to be one of five All-Star starters in the Western Conference. “We know it’s happening and we know we’re required and expected to be there, and that is what it is.”
Under the plan, the league will hold a scaled-down All-Star weekend during the midseason break from March 5-10. The All-Star game will tip off at 5 p.m. PT at State Farm Arena, home of the Atlanta Hawks. This year’s events will also include a 3-point contest starting at 3:30 p.m. PT and a dunk contest at halftime of the game, which will follow the same “Elam Ending” format as last year, with teams competing to win each quarter and playing to a final “target score” during an untimed fourth quarter.
This week, it was reported that Damian Lillard will participate in the 3-point contest. Asked if he would join Lillard in the event, Curry — who leads the league in points scored (869) and 3-pointers made (145) — was non-committal.
“We’ll see what happens,” Curry said after Wednesday’s win over the Miami Heat. “To be honest, haven’t committed either way yet.”
To safely facilitate the event, the NBA and Players Association will create a “mini-bubble” environment within a single hotel for players and coaches. Participants will fly private into Atlanta and undergo PCR testing daily.
While the Hawks last month announced plans to host a small percentage of fans at State Farm Arena for games, the NBA said there would be “no fan activities, ticketed events or hospitality functions” this year.
Although initial plans to hold this year’s All-Star weekend in Indianapolis were spoiled by the pandemic, the league pushed forward with the showcase in Atlanta, from where the event’s broadcast partner Turner Sports is based. According to The Athletic, All-Star weekend generates approximately $30 million in ad revenue for Turner. This year, the league announced it will commit more than $2.5 million in funds and resources toward Historically Black Colleges and Universities and support awareness around COVID-19 relief and vaccines.
“NBA All-Star in Atlanta will continue our annual tradition of celebrating the game and the greatest players in the world before a global audience,” said NBA commissioner Adam Silver in a statement. “In addition to the festivities on the court, the All-Star Game will honor the vital role HBCUs play in our communities and focus attention and resources on COVID-19 relief, particularly for the most vulnerable.”
However, several top players have expressed concerns with holding the All-Star game during the pandemic. LeBron James said it felt like a “slap in the face” to schedule the exhibition in the midst of a pandemic after players believed they were getting a five-day break. Kawhi Leonard argued the league was “putting money over health” and Giannis Antetokounmpo and James Harden said they would rather spend that time with their families.
Rosters for the All-Star game are determined by a combination of a fan (50%), media (25%) and coaches (25%) vote. Through the first batch of voting returns, Curry led all guards in votes and, as of last week, was third in total votes behind James and Kevin Durant. The leading vote-getter in each conference will select his fellow starters and reserves in a televised All-Star draft.
This is expected to be the seventh All-Star game appearance for the 32-year-old Curry. After making it each season from 2013 to 2019, his streak of six straight All-Star honors came to end when he missed most of last season recovering from a broken hand.
Contributed by local news sources