It was once good advice, as Teddy Roosevelt once said, to keep your eyes on the stars and your feet on the ground. He obviously hadn’t seen the NBA because its galaxy of stars often seem to be floating as high as the heavens. But pretty soon they’ll be coming down for a brief landing in Chicago.
NBA commissioner Adam Silver during a media conference in the United Center Friday announced the NBA would be bringing its annual sporting phenomenon, the All-Star game, which now is a week of activities and events, to Chicago in 2020.
It will be the third NBA All-Star game in Chicago, the first since 1988 and first in the United Center. But from humble beginnings of a game often during the week to a weekend of contests to a week of community and charitable activities, parties and programs, the 2020 game will feature happenings throughout the city, at the West Side United Center campus, Navy Pier, the Wintrust arena and other venues. The game will be Feb. 16, 2020. This season’s game is in Los Angeles and in 2019 it will be in Charlotte, N.C.
“I was here in 1988 attending law school when the All-Star game was last here, of course the slam dunk contest with Dominique Wilkins and Michael Jordan that people are still talking about today. And a fantastic All-Star game as well,” Silver recalled. “It’s my pleasure to be part of the All-Star game and the surrounding festivities coming back. It was a great event then. I have fond memories of it. I think I was sitting pretty high up in the arena that time. I’m looking forward to better seats.
“I cannot think of a better town to have an All-Star game,” said Silver. “I think Chicago is iconic when it comes to sports, certainly iconic when it comes to basketball. There’s no doubt some of the best basketball that’s ever taken place has happened here in Chicago.
This will truly be in 2020 the epicenter of basketball around the world.
Silver spoke at the media conference along with Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel, who was influential in lobbying the NBA for the game, Bulls President and Chief Operating Officer Michael Reinsdorf, Bulls Executive Vice President of Basketball Operations John Paxson, Alderman Walter Burnett Jr. (27th Ward) and Chicago Sports Commission Executive Director Kara Bachman.
Reinsdorf playfully acknowledged that his father, Bulls chairman Jerry Reinsdorf, had been reluctant to return the game to Chicago. Even though the game is popular, because the NBA uses it as something of an annual convention, the league operates the game and controls the tickets. Jerry Reinsdorf always has said he was concerned about loyal Bulls fans and season ticket holders being unable to acquire tickets because of league commitments. But with expanded events now in various locations around Chicago since the game was last in Chicago, the belief is many will be able to access events and the game and activities will provide economic assistance, especially to the West Side communities near the United Center,
“The Bulls are incredibly honored the league has selected Chicago to host the All-Star weekend in 2020,” said Michael Reinsdorf. “This is obviously a great day for our city and the Chicago Bulls. We get ready to welcome the world to our city.
“Some of you may recall the idea of having an All-Star weekend in Chicago has been met with kind of a different view in the past from some influential people in the Chicago Bulls organization…my dad,” Michael Reinsdorf said with a laugh. “His direct quote was, ‘They’d have to force me to take the All-Star game.’ What he doesn’t realize is there are also other influential people here who thought otherwise.
The Bulls are fortunate to be a global brand and we are even more fortunate to be part of a league whose mission is to grow the game of basketball around the world. So much of the history of our game lives in Chicago and we really do look forward to making more history as we welcome the best basketball to the United Center in 2020.
For example, my son Joey here. Joey is a junior studying economics at Northwestern University. We’ve been going to All-Star games for close to 20 years. Last year when we were in New Orleans he turned to me and said, ‘Dad, since we’ve been going to these games it’s been in Houston twice, New Orleans twice; it’s even been in Vegas and they don’t have a team. So when is Chicago going to get a game?’ There’s also another influential person here, and that’s Mayor Emanuel. When Adam referred to that he (Emanuel) called him on occasion, that’s an understatement. After he wasn’t getting the right answers from us, he went directly to the commissioner and would call him, I think, on a daily basis. We all know Rahm doesn’t take no for an answer.
We’re glad we’re able to turn that no to a yes.
“We understand the economic and cultural impact bringing the All-Star game has, that it provides the city of Chicago,” Michael Reinsdorf added. “We really are ready here at the United Center. Our campus has expanded tremendously over the last several years. It started with the building of the Advocate Center; the opening of the East End addition, our new office building; the Atrium store, renovations we continue to make to the arena with new restaurants and retail stores. All of this is going to contribute to an incredible environment throughout the All-Star weekend.”
“The Bulls are fortunate to be a global brand and we are even more fortunate to be part of a league whose mission is to grow the game of basketball around the world. So much of the history of our game lives in Chicago and we really do look forward to making more history as we welcome the best basketball to the United Center in 2020.”
Paxson also said the prospect of the game here in 2020 might just be additional incentive for the current team
“As an organization, we’re obviously in position where we have a lot of young players now and to add in the next few years,” Paxson noted. “I look at this as a little motivation for our young kids who we have really high hopes for that maybe they can participate in some capacity when that comes along. It’s a wonderful honor for us and we are thrilled about having the All-Star game here.”
Mayor Emanuel proudly added that Bon Appetit recently named Chicago the nation’s best restaurant city and pointed to the NFL and NHL hosting events in Chicago as well as the NBA with next May’s draft lottery.
“My whole goal is when you pick the city, when you get on the plane (to leave) you are going to say, ‘Why didn’t I do this earlier?’ That’s my pledge,” said Emanuel. “The city of Chicago looks forward to welcoming the world to the most American of American cities, the city of Chicago.”