Known for bringing together sports junkies and nightlife revelers, the NBA All-Star Weekend didn’t come as a surprise to this year’s host city. Atlanta Mayor Keisha Lance Bottoms made it clear that she wanted local bars and clubs to not only forgo hosting events, but to also avoid opening up to the public entirely. Even though her request seemed non-negotiable, that didn’t stop businesses from promoting promising and personable parties for locals and non-locals to turn up like never before.
First of All, What Is All-Star Weekend?
Every February, the National Basketball Association organizes a weekend celebration that is held in the middle of the NBA season. Also known as the All-Star Break, the weekend consists of an array of basketball events, exhibitions and performances all leading up to the main event: the NBA All-Star Game held on Sunday, the last day of the festivity-filled weekend.
It was initially announced that the 2021 NBA All-Star Game would be hosted at the Bankers Life Fieldhouse in Indianapolis, Indiana, all the way back in 2017. Apparently, Atlanta wasn’t even on the list of cities to host the illustrious event. It wasn’t until November of 2020 that the NBA announced that the All-Star Game would be postponed.
Fans were unsure if they would even see the 70th edition of All-Star Weekend. It didn’t help that the 2021 NCAA I Men’s Basketball Tournament was also happening in Indianapolis, resulting in a scheduling conflict with All-Star Weekend. However, in February, NBA Commissioner Adam Silver confirmed that All-Star Weekend would be hosted in Indianapolis in 2024 instead and announced that the All-Star Game would relocate to the State Farm Arena in Atlanta, Georgia.
But why was it so important for All-Star Weekend to still commence despite the fact that the event goes against all COVID-19 guidelines and restrictions? Even though the weekend supports sports culture, the only people really benefiting from it are the professionals and big-timers, as the purpose of the All-Star Game is to showcase star athletes and for the public to vote on the professional players that will be a part of the long-awaited roster.
The ATL All-Star Lineup
“Atlanta nightlife does not slow down, something proven by the many planned in place events despite the COVID pandemic,” explained Neima Abdulahi from 11Alive News.
You would’ve thought Georgia was an exception to the pandemic, as if the state was the only place not dealing with any lockdown precautions. “Bringing in crowds, a lot of people drinking and partying — I know the NBA is not supportive of it and we’re just asking people to please continue to respect where we are in this pandemic and not travel to our city for this game,” Mayor Keisha Lance Bottoms told MSNBC during a virtual interview.
And she was right about the NBA not supporting any outside celebrations. The players, coaches and staff members taking part in the All-Star events were instructed to stay in their hotel rooms when not participating at the State Farm Arena. They would also have to continue to get checked daily during their time in Atlanta for COVID-19.
“According to ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski, players will be permitted to bring a limited number of family members who must be tested regularly for COVID-19,” Bleacher Report writer Scott Polacek informed readers in detail while covering the NBA’s health and safety protocols. “Shams Charania of The Athletic and Stadium noted any player participating in the events must travel to Atlanta via private transportation on March 6, leave after the game ends and undergo daily testing,” Polacek continued.
And just how Mayor Bottoms and local natives pleaded for out-of-towners and residents to not make this weekend a “big deal,” Lebron James even commented on how he wasn’t in favor of All-Star Weekend happening either: “I have zero energy and zero excitement about an All-Star Game this year. I don’t even understand why we’re having an All-Star Game.”
The initial All-Star Weekend lineup consisted of a decades-long tradition of a jam session on Thursday, three events on Friday, four events on Saturday and one event on Sunday — the All-Star Game. But that just wasn’t enough for Atlanta.
The internet was littered with advertisements up to three pages long in addition to the significant number of events that were already scheduled with links to a staggering 37 additional activities. Including the original list of NBA-sponsored events, that’s a total of 46.
“It’s gonna be on and popping,” said Anthony Jennings, also known as DJ Urban Soul. “I got people coming down from DC, Virginia, Charlotte. People are still coming here.”
ATL All-Star Aftermath
“Law enforcement have been on high alert and 12-hour shifts, as thousands flock to Atlanta for the chance to party,” Fox 5 News writers Emilie Ikeda and Eric Perry revealed.
Deputy Chief Michal O’Conner of the Atlanta Police Department sent out a warning video via Twitter for folks coming to Atlanta for the weekend, which promised that “If you come here and choose to get involved in gun violence or other serious criminal activity, please plan to stay because you will be staying in the Fulton County jail.”
The recklessness began on Friday when six people were arrested for street racing. From there, Atlanta surged with violence and other serious criminal activity on Saturday and Sunday. Highlights from the weekend include six separate shootings on Saturday, a Georgia State Patrol trooper being dragged and injured by a fleeing car on Sunday, an interstate shooting on I-285 and a triple shooting at the Brook Haven Lounge — and that’s just to name a few.
Moral of the story: Atlanta let its guard down, and All-Star Weekend took full advantage.