I was always taught that you should never show up somewhere unless you were invited. I’m guessing Adam Silver didn’t learn that lesson growing up.
With less than three weeks before the NBA is scheduled to host what will be the most unnecessary All-Star Game in the league’s history – just one year after putting on one of the most exciting – in Atlanta, the NBA’s Commissioner is determined to throw a party that nobody wants to attend, in a place that doesn’t even want him there.
You see, the problem with this entire situation is that Silver doesn’t understand how Atlanta works, which is often the case with a lot of people. Race, creed, and color don’t matter, because when it comes to Atlanta, people often have some misguided idea of what the city is and has to offer. And in 2021, it’s the worst place you could ever hold an NBA All-Star Game.
“We strongly encourage promoters, clubs, bars, etc. not to host events in the city related to this game,” said Atlanta Mayor Keisha Lance Bottoms in her statement addressing her concerns in the event. The Atlanta native understands that while the NBA may be taking every precaution to keep players safe during the weekend, it doesn’t mean Silver or the league have any control over what residents and out-of-town guests will do.
Because when a league as Black as the NBA, has an event as Black as the NBA All-Star Game is, in a city as Black as Atlanta, the “turn-up” will ensue. But beyond that, the timing of this event and its prior history are also of huge concern. If you’ve paid attention to social media over the last year, you know that Atlanta has been one of the cities that’s been “wide open” during the pandemic. While most cities have been locked down and under heavy restrictions, Atlanta has been the one major city with few restrictions, as people are still going out to bars and clubs.
How is this happening?
Because Georgia Gov. Brian Kemp is an idiot. Yes, the guy that stole the governorship from Stacey Abrams and was Trump’s public punching bag, has been beyond casual with COVID-19 restrictions in a state that’s home to the busiest airport in the world. On more than one occasion, Lance Bottoms’ hands have been tied when it comes to implementing stricter COVID restrictions, as Kemp dropped a lawsuit in August after attempting to sue the mayor and Atlanta’s city council for trying to shut down nonessential businesses and mandating mask-wearing ordinances. Mind you, the restrictions would have also kept Kemp and his family safer, as the governor’s office and mansion are in Atlanta.
And then there’s the memory of the 2003 NBA All-Star Game that took place in Atlanta, which was a total disaster. “Two blocks to the hotel took an hour and a half. You’re better off walking,” Shawn Marion was quoted as saying back then.
“Super Bowl was not a problem (nor) the World Series or Olympics,” said the Rev. Bob Allred, then-pastor of Atlanta’s First United Methodist Church. “This was more like Freaknik times four.”
But even those quotes don’t even tell the story of how terrible it was to be in Atlanta that weekend 18 years ago. Lenox Square and Phipps Plaza, the city’s most popular malls, were shut down. Police shut down highway exits, not allowing people to get to Buckhead. There were freezing temperatures and icy roads. And given the insane amount of people in town and the limited technology that was available at the time, cellphones didn’t work.
It. Was. A. Train. Wreck. Of. Epic. Proportions.
Yet Silver wants to do it all over again, in a global pandemic, when players don’t even want to play.
LeBron thinks having the game is a “slap in the face.” Karl-Anthony Towns has lost seven family members to COVID-19 and is still recovering from it. He’s definitely against having a meaningless exhibition game. De’Aaron Fox “thinks it’s stupid.” And Jayson Tatum has talked about how COVID affects your breathing and fatigue level.
This is the part where I remind you that just a few months ago Silver got on TV and said, “as Dr. Fauci says, the virus will decide.” After successfully showing that a league could play in a bubble for months without a single positive test, Silver is dead set on having the game.
Earlier this week, Deadspin asked why this game was happening. The answer to that question is a familiar one: money.
According to CNBC, it’s estimated that last year’s All-Star Game generated approximately $15 million for TNT, which reached $24 million with the addition of the Dunk Contest, which is scheduled to take place during halftime of this year’s game.
“From an individual game, the All-Star Game is very profitable,” Todd Krizelman, co-founder and CEO of advertising firm MediaRadar, told CNBC. “It’s part of the business model that both the NBA and broadcasters depend on.”
Now it all makes dollars, and sense. Besides, I can’t think of another reason, besides money, that would turn Adam Silver into Atlanta’s most unwanted houseguest since Kelly Loeffler.