WHY THE NBA ALL-STAR WEEKEND (1993) IN SALT LAKE CITY WAS ALL I NEEDED

2/18/23

Jay C. Brandriet

Salt Lake City, Utah has been taken over by the National Basketball Association this weekend.

I’m reminded of the NBA-All Star game being here three decades ago.

Missing school was never a habit for me.

On February 19th, 1993, sluffing was the only option.

The All-Star game and its weekend was going to be taking place in our backyard.

This was the league’s first ever three day long “Jam Session.”

Rusty Riggs and I picked up Jared Adams and headed downtown.

THE EVENTS

The main court was flooded with entertainment.

We were given gifts and food.

They allowed us to broadcast our voices over memorable highlights and gave us the recordings of it.

Play basketball and shoot for prizes.

Autograph sessions and sports card conventions.

Diverse culture and fashion.

Step up to the cardboard cut outs to see how tall you are compared to Manute Bol or Muggsy Bogues.

Measure your wingspan next to Dikembe Mutombo.

There were big theatre rooms showing special games and moments.

It was like being immersed in NBA carnival heaven.

UP CLOSE WITH THE STARS

The access would be hard to imagine by today’s standards.

I’m walking down the hall and the next thing I know Julius Erving and I are having a conversation about the 1983 Finals. Just Dr. J walking straight at me. No biggy.

Listening to Shawn Stockman (Boyz 2 Men) promise Rusty the next album was coming soon.

Bro hugs from Steve Young and Boomer Esiason.

I’m talking to Steve Erkel as the Fresh Prince and DJ Jazzy Jeff stroll by.

There’s that blonde dude from 90210.

What up Ahmad Rashad?

The guy from “Hanging with Mr. Cooper”?

Blossom? Joey Lawrence? (“Whoa!”)

It was the closest I’ll come to living inside a television.

THE MAIN EVENT AND MJ

Saturday afternoon was our main course.

We got to watch the player’s practice.

You should have seen the reaction to Michael Jordan.

As Michael came out of the tunnel, there was a murmur among the Delta Center crowd.

Every time he approached the rim with ball in hand, the flashes from the cameras were like an electrical storm.

He started to tease the 20,000 fans by going up halfway, not shooting at all, then laughing at the collective moan.

The biggest MJ admirer among us was Jared.

I recall him looking at Mike and saying, “It feels like an imposter. Is it really him?”

Fans too young to have seen Jordan will often scoff at his “God like status” as an athlete.

The world saw him that way, in real time.

SOAKING IT ALL IN

As All-Star Saturday night began, we watched the three point and dunk contests from the mall.

Those seats were too rich for our 17-year blood.

There were roars in the background, as we started to walk the quiet streets.

The buildings were covered with giant signs.

There were flags on light polls that stretched for blocks.

To our left was NBA merchandise displayed behind lit glass.

I remember snow starting to fall, as Rusty admired the colors of a Kendall Gill jersey.

Salt Lake City is beautiful and full of kind people.

The area is underrated, and the locals want you to know it.

The city had a warm glow of pro basketball pride.

It was never more evident to me that this was a Utah Jazz and NBA town.

THE END RESULT

That Sunday I watched the All-Star Game from home.

The West beat the East 135-132 in OT.

It was Shaquile O’Neals’ first mid-season classic.

Jordan scored a game high 30.

Fittingly, the MVP was shared by Jazz legends John Stockton and Karl Malone.

No part of me felt cheated that I wasn’t there.

I’d gotten drunk on joy and was now hungover with experience.

I was full.

Thirty years later, I’m still full.

Jay C. Brandriet

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