NEW ORLEANS -- No matter how much planning and preparation is devoted to an event the size of the All-Star game, something inevitably will go wrong. So it was this week in the Big Easy, when final preparations were anything but easy.
The LED advertisement signs behind the backboards short-circuited just before midnight on Thursday, one NBA source said, leaving league officials scrambling to replace them prior to Friday's Rising Stars challenge. BBVA Compass is the title sponsor of the game and paid a hefty price for signage on the LED boards during the game, so this was a major financial problem for the league.
There was an LED board attached to each side of the stanchion on each basket for a total of four signs. Three of the four stopped working less than 24 hours prior to All-Star weekend, the source said.
The only replacement boards that could be located were in Atlanta. They arrived on a commercial Delta flight just before 4 p.m. Friday, leaving workers little time to get the boards assembled and tested prior to the doors to the Smoothie King Center opening to the public. Work on the boards was completed around 5:40, the source said. Doors opened at 6 p.m.
As soon as that was resolved, the league discovered another problem. The plaque at the bottom of the trophy for the Slam Dunk champion was too big for the block of wood to which it was attached, the NBA source said. Part of the plaque stuck out over the top of the wood, again leaving league officials calling local New Orleans jewelers after hours on a Friday night.
The league connected with the official jeweler of the New Orleans Pelicans, who was able to fix the trophy Saturday morning. By the time dunk winner John Wall walked out of the arena with the trophy late Saturday night, no one had any idea of all the problems created over the previous 48 hours.
Ratings are in
The All-Star Saturday night telecast ranked among the top five in the 29-year history of the event, Turner Sports announced, with 5.7 million people watching. The number increased to 6.7 million during the dunk contest.
Cleveland was the fifth-highest market, according to Turner Sports, behind only Oklahoma City, Miami, Richmond (Va.) and New York.
Age and injuries are finally forcing Kobe Bryant to question his basketball mortality. Bryant did not participate in Sunday's game because of a knee injury, which came months after an Achilles injury. All of that is forcing Bryant, 35, to realistically gauge how long he has left.
"That's part of the excitement of the challenge, that level of uncertainty," he said. "Is this it? Are my best days behind me? And to have those conversations with yourself, and not to be intimidated by that and not to succumb to that is part of the challenge.
"The biggest challenge is saying, 'Maybe this is the end, but then again, maybe it's not.' And it's my responsibility to do all that I can to make sure that it's not. That's really become the biggest challenge."
There were a total of six first-time All-Stars this year: DeMar DeRozan, Paul Millsap, John Wall, Steph Curry, Damian Lillard and Anthony Davis. . . . Violet Palmer was the first female to officiate a U.S. sports league's All-Star game.. . . The public address announcer introduced Kyrie Irving as a "2002 Rookie of the Year." Quite the accomplishment, since Irving turned 10 in 2002. Of course, he was the 2012 Rookie of the Year.
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