Photo Diary: Behind the scenes from 2014 NBA All-Star Weekend in New Orleans
NEW ORLEANS -- Every year, All-Star Sunday ends with the same feeling: We're done already?
A busy 72 hours is now in the books now that the East prevailed in a record-setting All-Star Game, with Cavaliers guard Kyrie Irving earning MVP honors, and Wizards guard John Wall took home the Dunk Contest title.
To cap this week's festivities, here's a quick photo diary from the weekend that was, with some behind-the-scenes shots from the All-Star festivities plus a few photos of host city New Orleans:
Shortly before All-Star Weekend, Pelicans owner Tom Benson announced that his team had agreed to a deal that would make the Smoothie King chain the naming rights sponsor for the New Orleans Arena. You couldn't miss the building's new signage.
Next door to the Smoothie King Center, and adjacent to the massive Super Dome, was this gigantic poster of Rockets center Dwight Howard on the Benson Tower. You could see it coming in from the airport or milling around the arena area. With Bulls guard Derrick Rose sidelined with a knee injury, Howard received top billing from Adidas, who had tons of All-Star promotional materials throughout the city.
Speaking of sneaker companies, Jordan Brand hosted events in a shop that included a next-generation hologram set-up. Fans could mimic the moves of Thunder guard Russell Westbrook, Clippers guard Chris Paul, Clippers forward Blake Griffin and Knicks forward Carmelo Anthony as the hologram version of the players explained how to execute a crossover or a spin dribble. Fans could then have their pictures taken flanking the holograms with blue screen technology. It's hard to tell from the picture above, but the holograms appeared as life-size to observers.
The Jordan event also showed off a look at these Special Edition Jordan XX8 sneakers. More details here.
One other cool detail from the Jordan experience: this "23" sculpture was composed entirely of parts from Jordan's signature sneakers throughout the years. For more sneakers from All-Star Weekend, click here.
Blazers guard Damian Lillard made history by becoming the first player to participate in five events over the course of All-Star Weekend. For the record, Lillard competed in Rising Stars Challenge, the Skills Challenge, the Three-Point Contest, the Dunk Contest and the All-Star Game (his teams won the Rising Stars and the Skills Challenge). He was given the A-list star treatment when it came to the size of his media mob during the major availability session on Friday.
Pelicans forward Anthony Davis was this year's youngest All-Star at just 20 years old but he handled the attention that came with being the hometown team's lone All-Star representative in stride. His signature "unibrow" was the subject of jokes throughout the weekend, including during in-game JumboTron features.
Heat forward LeBron James rolled in for his media session wearing sunglasses and headphones and he worked his way systematically through tons of questions about his "Mount Rushmore" comments and comparisons to Thunder forward Kevin Durant. There really wasn't much controversy this weekend, and the hype that surrounded James last year with the comparisons to Michael Jordan, who turned 50 in 2013, wasn't as overwhelming this year.
Anthony did his best to answer questions about New York's struggles and his future with the club but he seemed to hit his limit with the speculation when he started getting asked whether he would be traded before the Feb. 20 trade deadline. "I know for a fact I'm not going to be traded," Anthony said, finally, and that was that.
Pacers forward Paul George is becoming worthy competition for Thunder guard Russell Westbrook when it comes to the fashion game. This red and white polka dot shirt was the brightest gear we saw on Friday. For more All-Star Style Watch, click here.
Former NBA commissioner David Stern was elected to the Naismith Basketball Hall of Fame on Friday, and former All-Star center Alonzo Mourning heads up the list of 2014 finalists that will find out whether they've been selected for induction in April. A whole host of Hall of Famers -- including Calvin Murphy, George Gervin, Gary Payton, Karl Malone, Bob Pettit, and Hakeem Olajuwon were on hand for the Hall of Fame press conference. USA Basketball chairman and Hall of Fame chairman Jerry Colangelo was on hand as well.
Throughout All-Star Weekend, there was a nightly party hosted near the Smoothie King Center. On Friday night, these Mardi Gras Indians came through in full dress to put on a show for the assembled crowd.
It's hard to overstate how prevalent basketball legends are during All-Star Weekend. If you exit the hotel elevator, you're liable to run smack into Julius Erving, Shaquille O'Neal, Daryl Dawkins... who knows. It could be any of hundreds of players from past and present. The only things as ubiquitous as hoopers in New Orleans: huge rims and Cash Money music. Any time, day or night, the vehicles and their sound systems made themselves known.
This bad boy is an Alligator Sausage po' boy sandwhich from the Daisy Dukes diner, located near the hotel district that hosted the players and media. That's a lotta gator for one lunch.
Here's what the Dunk Contest looked like from the floor seats. Memo to Magic Johnson, Julius Erving and Dominique Wilkins: Down in front!
The 6-foot-7 Julius Erving and the 4-foot-10 Kevin Hart engage in deep conversation after All-Star Saturday night completed.
Sean "Diddy" Combs came through the Smoothie King Center's back hallway with his entourage and stumbled upon Jazz guard Trey Burke and Blazers guard Damian Lillard, who had just won the Skills Challenge. Diddy grabbed the trophy from Burke and pretended like he was going to steal it before stopping to take a photo with the rookie, who was happy to take the rapper up on the offer. Looking at the trophy, Diddy then quipped: "I don't even know what this is for."
As the official apparel provider for the NBA and All-Star Weekend, Adidas was seemingly everywhere in New Orleans. That includes an "Adidas in the Quarter" space that hosted events for players to meet fans and for media members to check out new product designs. This model was rocking the official All-Star Weekend hat at the "Adidas in the Quarter" location.
In addition to the All-Star Weekend gear, Adidas unveiled a host of sneaker designs tailored to New Orleans. Pictured above is an orange, spackled version of the "Crazy 8" sneakers. More details can be found here.
Sunday -- before the All-Star Game -- is always the best time to do a little sight-seeing. Having never been to New Orleans before, I engaged full tourist mode. Here's the St. Louis Cathedral that is right in the middle of the French Quarter action.
New Orleans' style and flair is well-known. Hats -- whether athletic or dressy -- were common-place with the sun shining throughout the February weekend.
Bourbon Street was packed on Sunday afternoon. This is one of several Jazz bands that entertained thousands of people.
I'm not sure that any caption could do this woman justice or fully explain what she's all about.
Topless women, body-painted performers, Jazz musicians, aspiring rappers and breakdancers made up the weekend crowd, as did this row of Harley Davidson motorcycles.
The one universal piece of pre-trip advice: don't miss the beignets. Here's an order from the famous Cafe du Monde; powdered sugar was everywhere by the time all three had been consumed.
After Smoothie King shelled out the money to get its name on the home of the All-Star Game, the least I could do was spend seven dollars to give one of their Strawberry drinks a try. I made it about 10 percent of the way through this monster; it was good, but so much. What a great tagline: "All other smoothies bow down."
Even All-Stars have to deal with some "Hurry up and wait" in their daily lives. The East squad was stuck in the media hallway for a few minutes about 90 minutes before the start of the All-Star Game's pre-game concert. With nothing else to do, Heat forward LeBron James, Heat guar Dwyane Wade and Knicks forward Carmelo Anthony started quizzing Raptors guard DeMar DeRozan on his footwear. DeRozan was wearing the special All-Star version of Lakers guard Kobe Bryant's latest signature sneaker. More details on those can be found here.
It was obviously good to see Clippers guard Chris Paul healthy, as he missed time recently with a separated shoulder, and it was great to see him back in New Orleans, where he was drafted by the Hornets in 2005. Paul was one of the most popular players throughout the All-Star Weekend, and he caught up with many familiar faces.
Before tip off on Sunday, former Rockets center Yao Ming and Hall of Fame Jazz forward Karl Malone engaged in an extended conversation about who knows what. It's not often that we can say that someone "dwarfs" Malone, but Yao clearly does here. This shot really boils down All-Star Weekend to its essence: You turn the corner in a cavernous arena and you never know who will be waiting, but you can bet it will be someone or someones that have left their mark on the NBA.