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The NBA All-Star Game is the city’s biggest party of the year—and you can’t go

Nathaniel S. Butler/NBAE via Getty Images
Kemba Walker shoots during the NBA All-Star Game on February 19, 2017, at the Smoothie King Center in New Orleans, Louisiana.
Nathaniel S. Butler/NBAE via Getty Images Kemba Walker shoots during the NBA All-Star Game on February 19, 2017, at the Smoothie King Center in New Orleans, Louisiana. NBAE/Getty Images

The 68th NBA All-Star Game next weekend will draw a crowd of philanthropists, celebrities and ballers. So how do average fans fit into one of these categories?

The answer is, most of us don’t.

Tickets at Spectrum Center are limited to celebrities, media and Charlotte Hornets season ticket holders who were entered into a lottery for a chance to buy their way in. Those who won could choose either Feb. 17th’s All-Star Game or Feb. 16th’s All-Star festivities, including the famous NBA Dunk Contest.

Charlottean Farooq Yousuf, 38, is one of the lucky ones.

A Charlotte Hornets season ticket holder for the past seven years, Yousuf had the chance to buy two tickets — even though he owns four seats. “There were three lotteries to buy the tickets. I didn’t win any,” he said. “After that, they offered the few remaining tickets to the rest of us.” He snatched them up at the face value of $250-$350.


“And honestly, I bought them for the resale value,” Yousuf said. He hasn’t decided if he’ll sell his tickets for a nice profit or attend the party of the year. “After seeing the current secondary market prices, it’ll be hard to justify going to the games myself, but we’ll see.”

All of the Queen City’s groans over losing the NBA All-Star Weekend in 2017 have been replaced with the groans of ticket shoppers seeing $1,083-$10,167 per seat on the secondhand market.

Perhaps this is sweet relief for the lottery-earning season-ticket holders. They have invested annually in a Charlotte franchise that has brought home a winning season a whopping 3 times in 15 years.

NBA ticket prices are up everywhere. Charlotte tickets have skyrocketed by more than 60 percent in the past two years. This may be due to social media pushing the NBA to new heights in popularity, while other sports have suffered from all those cutting cable.

Clearly, this is an elite event for celebrities and influencers to see and be seen. This leaves the local fans either stuck at home, avoiding transit issues, or watching from their local watering holes.

Let’s go back in time.

In order to know why this NBA All-Star Game is so important, it’s good to take a step back. The last and only other time Charlotte hosted the event was in 1991. Back then, the Hornets’ roster consisted of Muggsy Bogues, Dell Curry, Kendall Gill, J.R. Reid and Kelly Tripucka. Charlotte’s All-Star Kemba Walker was 6 months old. Walker, Marvin Williams, Nicolas Batum and Tony Parker are the only current players that had even been born.

Here are three big reasons why the NBA has largely ignored Charlotte as a potential All-Star host for 28 years:

HB2 cost us, big time.

The “bathroom bill” restricted bathroom use based on the sex on a birth certificate, which compromised anti-discrimination protection for transgendered people. This caused serious financial repercussions because of its lack of fairness concerning human rights and civil rights. New Orleans got a $45 million boost in its economy during the 2017 All-Star Week.

So, you can’t go. Does it matter?

Perhaps, instead of sulking at home and feeling left out, try acknowledging the positives. While the events on Saturday and Sunday nights are exclusive to the lucky few with tickets, the money generated surrounding the events is quite plentiful for the community. Local businesses and the hospitality industry thrive from large events like these.

The recent news that we are losing the CIAA Basketball Tournament to Baltimore beginning in 2021 means it is more important than ever for the Queen City to potentially host big future events.

Charlotte will gain international exposure as a destination for leisure, sports, business and conventions, according to the Charlotte Regional Visitors Authority. About $100 million is expected in revenue. As many as 22.3 million TV viewers have watched previous games. Social media impressions during All-Star Weekends have been known to top a billion, the CRVA said.

And hey, here’s what you are invited to:

The sanctioned and unsanctioned events are plentiful, and you’re welcome to them. The Fillmore, Booth Playhouse, Epicentre, Belk Theater, The Mint Museum, Ink and Ivy, 5Church, NASCAR Hall of Fame, Top Golf, Founders Hall, UNCC Center City, Fitzgeralds, Breakfast Club, Bar Louie, Graham Street Station, Blue Olive Lounge and slew of other venues around the city are all ready to host you for a night out.

So chin up, Charlotte. We win, whether we get to go to the big game or not.

Correction: The events list has been updated.