By Isi Frank Ativie, Freelance Writer
Chicago basketball fans have waited patiently for thirty-two years to host an NBA All-Star game since 1988 when the Chicago Stadium existed. Navy Pier hosted the NBA Crossover weekend festival despite dealing with frigid weather conditions.
This four-day event has brought smiles and pure enjoyment to thousands of basketball fanatics. Many fans have engaged in fun games, activities, and having pleasurable interactions with NBA legends during accessible interviews. The Navy Pier staff vendors also provided wonderful food, drinks, and gifts for attendees.
This past weekend has brought pure excitement to Chicago basketball fans, but mostly to the Black community. Burbank, Illinois native Chris Morris shared his opinions and thoughts on how basketball fans are starting to accept hip-hop culture in the NBA.
“At first, hip-hop and rap weren’t accepted in basketball,” Morris said. “But it just became such a big force, and you just can’t stop it. And now you’re starting to see it crossover into basketball; especially for this all-star weekend. I think it’s a great thing because hip-hop is so diverse, it’s great for the culture, and I’m thoroughly enjoying it.”
AT&T retail sales consultant Mia Patikas expressed her enthusiastic excitement as she worked for the vending staff. “This has honestly been my favorite job so far, and this event has been amazing for me, because I grew up loving basketball as a fan,” Patikas said. “This event is a great way to shadow and get my training out. As far as learning how to talk to people, and being able to work in an environment that I love.”
Patikas also opened up about how this experience is thrilling for the Black community in Chicago. “I think it’s amazing for the city, my coworker said that her high school from the South Side is going to be performing at halftime during the all-star game.”
Current NBA players and legends have made their guest appearances in this event more exciting for every basketball fan. Chicago Bulls power forward Lauri Markkanen and Houston Rockets center PJ Tucker have attended one-on-one interview segments while fans had the privilege to ask them questions. Seven-time NBA champion Robert Horry volunteered to chaperon the knockout shooting contest, while Bulls legends BJ Armstrong and Ron Harper arrived to partake in an up-close interview segment.
“Man, I don’t know why it took them that long to bring the all-star game back to Chicago,” Harper stated. “The NBA wanted Chicago to build a start state-of-the-art stadium (United Center), because the Bulls were winning all the championships in order to have their respect grow a little bit more.”
Armstrong, 1994 NBA all-star and three-time champion with the Chicago Bulls, agreed with Harper’s comments. “There was a huge shift in the 1990’s where arenas were built with suites, and all of the other things that you see now that you take for granted,” Armstrong said.
“The Chicago Stadium was unique all into itself. I was just talking to someone about the worst places to play at, and the Chicago Stadium came up. “But that was home for us, and it was our advantage too. It was a great place, fond memories there. All of us in Chicago knew what the stadium meant to us.”
Other NBA legends such as Rick Fox and Dwyane Wade have also joined the festivities. Many Chicago basketball fans fully understood that it would become impossible to attend the all-star game due to expensive ticket prices. Each ticket cost $1,500 per person. However, the city of Chicago was very glad and fortunate to experience an amazing all-star weekend after thirty-two years of waiting.
“I like having the world come here to Chicago to see how rich and steep it is in basketball,” Chris Morris said. “When people come here and actually study the history of Chicago especially with basketball, I think they’re going to realize we’re a force to be reckoned with.”