Scott Fowler

Return of NBA’s All-Star showcase will help restore our battered reputation

Western Conference guard Stephen Curry (30) laughs with forward Kevin Durant (35) and Eastern Conference guard Kyrie Irving (2) at the NBA All-Star Game in New Orleans this year. In February 2019, the All-Star Game will be played in Charlotte, Curry’s hometown.
Western Conference guard Stephen Curry (30) laughs with forward Kevin Durant (35) and Eastern Conference guard Kyrie Irving (2) at the NBA All-Star Game in New Orleans this year. In February 2019, the All-Star Game will be played in Charlotte, Curry’s hometown. AP

So the party is back on – two years later than we originally thought, yes, but back on all the same.

Charlotte has now been confirmed as the official host of the NBA All-Star Game on Feb. 17, 2019, as The Observer first reported Wednesday morning. The NBA and Charlotte has finalized the deal to do so. This concludes (we can only hope) the on-again, off-again saga of a game that has been batted about like players fighting for a rebound no one could control.

Charlotte was originally awarded the 2017 All-Star Game in 2015, only to later lose it in the fallout over House Bill 2, which limited protection for LGBT individuals. Now it has regained the game following HB2’s repeal. In my opinion it wasn’t a true repeal at all. But in the NBA’s opinion (as well as the NCAA’s and the ACC’s, as they have both stopped pulling events from North Carolina), the repeal went just far enough.

So one of the biggest weekends in Charlotte’s sports history is back on again at the Spectrum Center for 2019, with Charlotte Hornets owner Michael Jordan as its glad-handing host, and for all that I am thankful.

Kudos to the many Charlotte Hornets officials who had a part in this – both in the original bid and then in the behind-the-scenes lobbying for the HB2 repeal. Hornets president Fred Whitfield, in particular, worked the phones tirelessly to make this happen.

Does this mean that the fight over HB2 – or its replacement, HB142 – is over? No.

One enormous party – even a weeklong one like the All-Star Game and the huge economic impact it will have – won’t change that. HB142 controversially forbids cities from passing their own non-discrimination ordinances until December 2020, which conveniently places the issue out of reach for advocacy groups until after the next presidential election.

But what this does do is symbolically show a lot of the United States that has derided North Carolina for its backward-thinking “bathroom bill” that things have changed, at least enough for the forward-thinking NBA to believe in Charlotte and North Carolina once again.

That’s important. The NBA All-Star Game will be a showcase unlike anything the city has seen since hosting the Democratic National Convention in 2012. Steph Curry will come home to Charlotte, LeBron James will smash down a few dunks and Charles Barkley will hit every restaurant in town (many of them twice). All sorts of cool things will happen all over the city.

We punched ourselves in the face for a long time with HB2, and then we took a lot of punches from a lot of other organizations.

But the battering has mostly ceased for now, and the NBA returning its All-Star Game to uptown Charlotte in 2019 is a symbolic step in restoring our stained reputation.

It is not the final step – not by a long shot – but it is an important step all the same.

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