NBA All-Star Game 2007-08: To NOLA, Or Not to NOLA?

By David Wilson

I saw a post by Bethleham Shoals on AOL Fan House just a minute ago titled, “Hunter: NOLA Can’t Handle All-Star Weekend.” So I took the relay throw from Shoals by way of a link to a Newsday article by Ken Berger, and further hunted around the Internet to finish off the play at the plate.

As soon as I read the lead to Berger’s piece I knew what I was in for:

David Stern is not alone in wondering if it was a mistake to bring the NBA All-Star Game to Las Vegas. The commissioner of conscience can’t get that decision back, but he can do something to prevent New Orleans from being the next victim.

Note to Ken Berger: David Stern lost his “commissioner of conscience” cred card when he signed that $125 million deal with Russell Athletics so that the Russell-owned Spalding Company could infest the League with that microfiber paper cut ball without entering a penny of the profits onto the NBA players – or retired players – ledger. Stern then appeared to find his card – perhaps in his limo – but then chose to give it away permanently to political hitman Matthew Dowd to provide him with guidance as to how to appear for all the world like the neocons with whom Dowd so gleefully consorts.

As reported in Shoals’ piece, the quotes from NBA Players Association chief Billy Hunter are ambiguous at best:

“I’m wondering, how will New Orleans accommodate all these people if they elect to come to New Orleans?” Hunter said. “They’ll shut the city down.

“First of all, their police force is dissipated. They’re probably dealing with half the force they had before. They don’t have all the resources that we will need to properly police the city. They’ve got a serious crime problem as it is. And so what are they going to do?”

No Billy. First, New Orleans needs to be rebuilt. Katrina and the resultant flooding destroyed 75.1% of the city’s residences; flood depths in New Orleans ranged from four to 20 feet. While the tourist areas of New Orleans have been largely restored to their pre-Katrina state, most neighborhoods remain in shambles. New Orleans mayor Ray Nagin proudly told any members of the national media who would listen that 800,000 people came to the Crescent City for Mardi Gras this year, up 100,000 from last year’s Carnival.

Later in his article, Berger revealed his true feelings about New Orleans hosting next years All-Star game:

On one hand, it’s not fair to punish New Orleans for the 403 arrests, massive crowd-control problems and at least two shootings that occurred during All-Star Weekend in Vegas. Thomas Urbanski, 43, a native of Commack, was paralyzed from the waist down in one of the shootings as he worked security at a strip club in the early morning hours before the game on Feb. 18.

No NBA players or personnel were involved in that incident, or any incident involving police, for that matter. And even though it defies logic that a sports league should be in charge of policing strip clubs, Stern and Hunter still need to talk this over.

They need to know what the NBA is getting into by going to New Orleans. Even more important, they need to make sure New Orleans knows what it’s getting into by opening its already distressed city to the NBA and the violent element its All-Star party has begun to attract.

However, Stern, despite his conscience card loss, expressed some of the concerns that are on many people’s minds:

“We think it’s time to move past having this wonderful tourist ability, a great convention center, and a covered arena, and then you take your guests on tours of areas that have been devastated and where it seems like very, very little has been done,” he said earlier this month. “We don’t understand it.”

People might think that with the storm clouds that hang over the NBA, Stern would be the person sucking up to the “New Orleans is back” rhetoric, pushing the city to ready itself for the 2007-08 All-Star game. One would be completely innocent in thinking that Billy Hunter, “the players’ guy” would attempt to diffuse the “NBA players and the crowd that follows them are thugs” rhetoric.

One would think.

But in this case it is Hunter whose logic appears cloudy and Whitlockian, allowing the likes of Berger to publicly spew his vitriol. It is Hunter who is selling out the players, the All-Star weekend, the league, and the commissioner down the murky, toxic waters of Lake Pontchartrain. Conversely, it is Stern who is clear in his perception of the true state of New Orleans and clear in the role the NBA will play there beyond housing the New Orleans Hornets.

If Hunter has his way, next year’s All-Star game will be relocated to a city prepared to exercise an impromptu police state-like atmosphere in a moment’s notice – or at the sight of more than 10,00 or so black people congregating in one area at once. If Stern has his way the game will be relocated and will not be played in New Orleans for the foreseeable future because the powers that be in the city and in the U.S. government haven’t kept up their end of the rebuilding bargain; Stern’s NBA isn’t going to contribute tourist dollars to a city whose residents may never see the spoils.

Perhaps David Stern is returning to a place of personal balance. Perhaps he now understands that for his league to succeed he must act in the best interests of corporate sponsors, owners, and the players. Perhaps he also understands that we have cultural problems in the U.S. not exclusive only to hip-hop culture or to the culture of the NBA.

Hey wait. Anybody seen Matthew Dowd? Perhaps Dowd, with a presidential election on the horizon, has thankfully returned to his neoconservative pulpit in politics.

Perhaps soon we who love the NBA, write about the NBA, and play in the NBA can breathe again; fresh playoff air.

For more of D-Wil’s writing check out his blog Sports On My Mind.

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7 thoughts on “NBA All-Star Game 2007-08: To NOLA, Or Not to NOLA?

  1. Great post D!

    I think the idea of having an All-Star game in New Orleans is a great idea but I agree with Stern (shiver) that the city isn’t even close to being ready to support the influx of guests this would entail. Where would people stay? With residents not even having places to stay how can the city host an additional 10,000 people for a weekend?

    I was able to spend a week in New Orleans this summer helping to rebuild some homes and the state of the city was shameful. It’s horrible how all the white, upper class people were taken care of while all the visible minorities were left in squander. I thought it was horrible how Americans treat their own people – Canucks wouldn’t let something like this happen!!

  2. It really amuses me and so many other New Orleans people that live across the city and are fine get to hear so many non-New Orleans people/media/politicians talk about our city like we are living in 3rd World Country conditions.

    75% of the city is completely and utterly FINE. I live in Uptown New Orleans and most if not all the housing around my area is fine. All the businesses in the CBD and French Quarter are fine. All businesses on Veterans Highways and Causeway and the Northshore are fine.

    What’s damaged are two areas…the 9th Ward and Lakeview….one a poor, black area and the other a middle income/white area. That is it.

    Please, stop reading CNN and stop telling others that the city is still “in shambles” and “unliveable” (I dont mean you but I mean the media) when many New Orleans residents are very happy living down here.

    90% of the time I don’t even notice a single thing different from Pre-Katrina as I drive from the Northshore to Uptown everyday and from Uptown to Old Metairie to see my parents.

    Amazing isn’t it? People down here are trying to tell people outside that the city is NOT as bad as people think AND many people are actually back.

  3. William: Fair enough, note taken. However, my perspective of the city is different (perhaps it’s because of where I spent my two weeks). I visited the downtown core and that was completely rebuilt but when driving around the city and to our “stations” I noticed that a lot more than two neighborhoods were still unliveable.

    But… who am I to say what it’s like now over 8 months later? Hopefully the American government has stepped in to help with some much needed renovations to homes and communities.

  4. Willie Nelson –

    Well, I guess the Feb. 24 NYT article full of photos of New Orleans and a story full of quotes from New Orleans residents who tell stories of how messed up NOLA is, are just all lies – must be the Times using photoshop and people with an axe to grind, huh?

  5. Holy Cow, D-Will. You have that much trouble reading? Lakeview and the 9th Ward are still just about gone which is where NBC, ABC, and the NYT spend most of their time down here. But neither are major industrial areas or big economic areas and frankly, the 9th Ward being gone is really….fantastic. Like I said, when you have a CLUE what they are actually saying and come DOWN and see what it is like, you will be enlightened by what is ACTUALLY going on.

    Yet, Uptown/OldMetairie/Northshore/FrenchQuater and other areas are as tall as ever

    We just went through Mardi Gras with 800k with the previous Sugar Bowl bringing in 200k so excuse me if I am not on the floor laughing at the NBA saying we can’t protect them with not even half of Mardi Gras coming.

  6. Willie – Fair enough, I think I’m starting to see where your coming from more.

    When I was in the city this summer it was well on it’s way to recovery but because I spent so much time in areas of town being “rebuilt” I think my perception of the city it tainted a bit. However, when I spent a day in the downtown core “sightseeing” it was clear that some suburbs and the entire downcore core had been rebuilt. I think it’s fair to assume that eight months later that more changes have occured for people in New Orleans affected byt the floods.

    Did anyone else read Scoop’s latest article on ESPN? I’m not a huge Scoop fan but I think he raised a valid point when he wrote:

    According to reports, there were 403 arrests made in Vegas over the five-day All-Star Weekend (Thursday through Monday). Not saying that’s a good thing, not defending the acts that got those 403 people locked up. But in order to see the truth behind that number, we need to look at what that 403 means.

    As the Las Vegas Review-Journal reported, according to the Las Vegas Police Department there was an average of 80.6 arrests made every 24 hours in Vegas over those five days. Compare that to New Year’s Eve, when 130 arrests were made in a 12-hour period.

    Now, according to the Las Vegas Convention and Visitor’s Authority, there were 302,000 people in town for All-Star weekend, about the same number of people (300,000) estimated in Vegas for New Year’s Eve. That means the rate for arrests for New Year’s Eve was more than three times that of All-Star Weekend.

    But what happened while the NBA was in town is headline news? This is what becomes the reflection of a people, a culture? This is what constitutes columns and conversations of lawlessness and over-the-top irrational behavior? This is what gives people the right to editorialize and portray us as animals?

    Where were these writers and broadcasters during New Year’s Eve in Vegas? Where were they when the police reports were being filled out saying that of the 403 arrests, 172 were of local residents and only 231 were from outsiders who came to visit Vegas? Where were they when the police reports said that of those 403 arrests, 239 were for prostitution-related incidents, compared to an average week of 175 arrests for those same crimes. And none of these arrests involved an NBA player.
    And I won’t even get into, as Harvey Araton of the New York Times wrote, how nobody blamed NASCAR “for the death of a motorist who was shot in a road-rage encounter during a traffic jam after leaving the Daytona 500.”

    NASCAR ain’t the NBA. You know the difference, I know the difference. But an NFL player comes into town, wilds out, tosses $81,000 up in the air, someone gets shot, and it becomes a reflection of the NBA?

    Media, please.

    Can anyone else weigh in on this topic?

  7. i think it is a very bad idea there not ready for that type of atraction .Police will need to work overtime.Those people are still hungry. There looking for a come up. It will be alot of crime in just one weekend.I remember win I went to All Star in T.X. it was great but the hotel we were in was in bad shape from victoms of katrina.Texas gave them a place to stay and they ran it down thats very poor .

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