The 2015 NBA All-Star Game won't tip off until Sunday night, but the surrounding hoopla has become just as much part of the event as the game itself. But that's nothing new: 20 years ago, Sports Illustrated wrote about four days of All-Star madness.
This year, Kanye will drop his first Yeezys with Adidas, and the NBA will hold its first-ever fashion show on Saturday night. But while these may sound like novel ideas that some executive dreamed up to help connect the game with millennials, All-Star weekend has always been a circus.
We dug into the SI Vault to find some of the ridiculous and bizarre promotions from the weekend 20 years ago, when the game was in Phoenix.
1. There was a roast of Charles Barkley.
Barkley, then a member of the Phoenix Suns, was the unofficial host of the weekend in 1995, and apparently he didn't disappoint.
The Round Mound of Rebound was roasted at a black-tie, $500-a-ticket event hosted by Billy Crystal that benefited numerous charities. Some of the roasters included David Stern, comedian George Wallace, Danny Ainge, David Robinson and Phil Knight.
Barkley probably should have kept the jokes for the roast, however. ESPN stirred up a little controversy that weekend after Barkley playfully told a reporter, "That's why I hate white people."
2. There was a celebrity slam dunk contest.
Could you imagine Channing Tatum trying to recreate Blake Griffin's jump-over-a-car dunk?
People in 1995 (sort of) got to live out that fantasy. The weekend included a celebrity slam dunk contest, headlined by Baltimore Orioles star Cal Ripken Jr.
The judges weren't half-bad, either; that group was made up of baseball player David Justice, then-champion of WWF Diesel, baseball pitcher Dave Stewart, comedienne Judy Tenuta and a young talk-show host named Conan O'Brien.
3. There were some pretty great entertainment choices.
If you weren't interested in basketball, there were still some pretty awesome things to do. MTV had a Friday night party, which had more cool musicians (like Boyz II Men, who opened the party) than reality TV stars. (Although who wouldn't want to party with the cast of The Challenge?)
There was another party at Planet Hollywood, a lecture hosted by Jane Goodall and of course the NBA Jam Session.
In 2015, the closest we get to that kind of entertainment is Boogie Cousins singing Boyz II Men.
4. Some kid was given a three-point shot attempt for $1 million. He failed miserably.
In today's risk-averse timeout fare, you may see someone get a halfcourt shot attempt for like, $25,000. In the 90's? People went big.
That explains how 16-year-old Mike Hoban had a chance at a million bucks if he could make one three-point shot during the rookie game. The kid, who had practiced for two weeks, who had appeared on Letterman to discuss his opportunity, promptly airballed the shot. It ended as most public embarrassments for teenagers do, with lots of tears and an extremely supportive mother, Marilyn, who told her son he was worth more than a million dollars to her, and always has been.
5. Charles Barkley almost launched himself off a catapult.
When you have an outsized personality like the Chuckster, you're not going to host an All-Star weekend without causing more than just one incident.
Barkley was all set — during the fourth quarter of the All-Star Game — to launch himself out of a catapult used by the Suns' gorilla mascot for crazy dunks. Chuck left the huddle and got permission from the mascot to use the catapult. That's when his coach — and coach of the Western Conference team — Paul Westphal hustled on to the court to prevent his star from getting injured during a crazy stunt.
Barkley said after the game he would still love to use the catapult. We'd love to see him give it a shot in 2015. Maybe he will do it the next time he's in Houston, and Rockets general manager Daryl Morey can give him a hand.