NEW YORK — Pedestrians on 5th Avenue were treated to a one-of-a-kind sight on Monday afternoon, when Pacers President of Basketball Operations Larry Bird drove a specially themed IndyCar five blocks to deliver Pacers Sports & Entertainment’s bid to host the 2021 All-Star Game in Indianapolis to NBA Commissioner Adam Silver at the league headquarters.
“There’s two things we have that nobody else has: the Indianapolis 500 and Larry Bird,” Pacers Sports & Entertainment President and COO Rick Fuson said. “And when you’ve got that combination, nobody can match that.
“The Indianapolis 500 is the largest one-day sporting event in the world and Larry Bird is a Hall of Famer. Put the two together going down 5th Avenue in New York – it’s a unique and fun thing.”
The sight of the Hall of Famer from French Lick driving through downtown Manhattan made for an unforgettable photo op, but no one seemed to enjoy it more than Bird himself.
“Only in New York,” Bird quipped. “You go through your life and you grow up hoping you get to do something special – That was really special. I enjoyed that and being here in New York made it even more special.”
Monday was the NBA’s deadline to accept bids to host the 2020 and 2021 All-Star Games. The Pacers determined that 2021 was the best fit for the city considering future convention commitments. The city is also scheduled to host the NCAA Division I Men’s Final Four that year, as well as the Big Ten Women’s Tournament and the IHSAA boys and girls state championships.
PHOTOS: Bird and Fuson Deliver the Bid to Commissioner Silver »
The Pacers’ bid has been a long while in the making. A contingent of high-ranking officials from Pacers Sports & Entertainment, the Indiana Sports Corp, and Visit Indy traveled to All-Star Weekend each of the past two years to gather information on everything it takes to pull off the NBA’s annual showcase.
Indianapolis last hosted the All-Star Game in 1985 at the Hoosier Dome.
Officials from those organizations and the City and State government have spent several months working on perfecting all aspects of the bid.
“Whether it be the City or the State or the CIB or the Indiana Sports Corporation or Visit Indy, the whole group of people that gets together to put things on like this, they come in a moment’s notice,” Fuson said. “That’s another thing that makes our city so great.”
After Bird’s dramatic entrance, Bird and Fuson headed up to the NBA offices to personally deliver the bid to Silver.
The state-of-the art bid presentation featured video messages from Pacers owner Herb Simon, Bird, Fuson, Hall of Famer Bobby “Slick” Leonard, Pacers television broadcaster Quinn Buckner, “Hoosiers” screenwriter Angelo Pizzo, Indiana Governor Eric Holcomb, and Indianapolis Mayor Joe Hogsett.
Another highlight of the presentation was an augmented reality map showing downtown Indianapolis and the various venues that would play a part in hosting the 2021 All-Star Weekend.
“The core message of the bid is definitely that basketball has its home in Indiana,” Indiana Sports Corp Senior Vice President Susan Baughman said. “We think we can take this event and grow on what is already an awesome event and weekend and make it even better.
“We want to reach out to all 92 counties in the state and we want to be able to involve everybody in the sport.”
Due to the competitive nature of the bid process, the bid partners are unable to share specific details pertaining to the bid, including which venues would host the various All-Star events.
The idea to submit a bid to bring the All-Star Game back to Indianapolis came directly from Pacers owner Herb Simon, the league’s longest-tenured owner.
“It was his idea to go after it and go after it hard,” Bird said. “We’re all behind him. If that’s what he wants, we’ll try to do our best to get it for him.”
Silver and Simon have a long-standing friendship and the Commissioner had told the media back in January at the NBA Global Games in London that Indianapolis “should be on the top of the list” to host an All-Star Game if the franchise elected to submit a bid.
“It’s time it came back to Indianapolis,” Silver said on Monday.
“You guys do big events as well as anyone in the world – Super Bowls, NCAA Final Fours, other huge events in the city. I’m obviously there a lot for games and I know you guys would be fantastic hosts.”
The hotel space and walkability of downtown Indianapolis have made the city an attractive candidate for numerous events over the years, a factor that no doubt works in the city’s favor in the bid process.
“We know how to host a party,” Bird said. “We have the 500, we have the Big Ten, we have the NCAAs, we had the Super Bowl.
“I think we know what we’re doing and I think we’ll put on a good show and do something that everyone will want to be proud of.”