NBA All-Star Game a show like no other at JerryWorld

Ray Buck

NBA All-Star game draws record attendance

Last night’s All-Star game set a world record.

ARLINGTON, Texas — It’s official. JerryWorld makes for one fine basketball venue and an even better party house.

Imagine, if you can, just how hard it is to try to fit the egos of Deion Sanders and Terrell Owens under the same roof.

Well, JerryWorld passed that test in flying colors, too.

T.O. and Deion were joined by a few other easy-to-ID celebrity types, such as Magic, Avery, Spike and Jesse.

The Rev. Jackson spent some quality time with Jerry Jones on Sunday, then eagerly helped set what the Guinness Book of World Records soon will be printing — 108,713 — as the attendance record for a basketball game, NBA or otherwise.

Jerry was hopeful back in December when Texas and North Carolina christened the most versatile, 3 million-square-foot building on the planet as a hoops venue that the NBA All-Star Game could pull “the magical one-double-oh” in game attendance.

What’s weird is that it didn’t even feel that crowded Sunday night.

Dirk Nowitzki of the losing West squad welcomed everyone before the game by saying, “Enjoy the show.”

Dirk totally gets NBA All-Star Weekend.

“The Show” that played at JerryWorld actually provided the NBA with some refuge from its gun-toting headlines and its labor strife.

Gilbert Arenas and the Christmas Eve gun-pull in the locker room (not a sanctioned NBA Jam Session event) … only a distant memory.

Labor strife between the union and the league … a mere bump in the road for the week.

The Tim Donaghy black eye and the “basketbrawl” in Detroit … just a bunch of ancient history.

Dylan wrote and sang “Shelter from the Storm” long before Jerry & The Arlington Taxpayers broke ground for Cowboys Stadium, but I couldn’t help but think how JerryWorld provided a little welcomed relief for the NBA.

Once the aberration of a North Texas snowstorm blew over Friday, NBA staff members — close to 800 in all — eventually ventured out of their hotel rooms and settled into All-Star mode.

Ditto for an international media numbering close to 1,500, hich was an increase over last year’s game at Phoenix.

But as Tony Fay of the North Texas Super Bowl Host Committee told concerned callers who inquired this week about the weather forecast for Super Bowl XLV, “Hey, I’ve lived here 30 years and never saw snow like this.”

Never before has the actual NBA All-Star Game seem to live up to its purpose of escapism better than this one did.

“This is the time to get away from all that other stuff,” said Avery Johnson, who now gets paid for his opinions by ESPN. “The guys come here and can have fun, and they can spend time with each other without giving hard fouls or breaking each other’s noses.”

Avery added that with roughly 30 games left on the schedule and playoff spots up for grabs, this was pretty much a Sunday night truce.

Nowitzki scored the first four points of the game. This wasn’t in the script but nobody was hating it, either.

Ad-lib basketball quickly took over and the fans got into it as only an NBA crowd can.

Dwyane Wade of the Miami Heat won the MVP award. He seemed to pick up where he left off in the 2006 NBA Finals.

The game was too long only because halftime never seemed to end. But this was a show, complete with pyrotechnics, not just a basketball game. Now I remember.

The difference between 20,000 people in the seats and 108,713?

“There’s a different echo in here,” said Chris Arnold, Mavs’ fan choreographer who works the AAC and now Cowboys Stadium.

Michael Morris, director of Transportation for North Central Texas, dubbed it the North Texas Super Bowl Host Committee’s chance to “test for the first time a Super Bowl strategy.”

What they got was a dress rehearsal with a record-setting kick to it.

And what the NBA got was a night away from image problems.

“Ask anybody coming through these doors tonight what they care about?” NBA marketing guru Ski Austin, who was working his 21st NBA All-Star Game, asked rhetorically. “They care about what’s happening on that piece of wood in the middle the stadium.”

I think he was right.

“I wish we had more of this kind of venue,” said former Mavs coach Johnson. “I had a chance to play in front of 45,000 in the 1999 NBA Finals with the Spurs at the Alamodome. It was phenomenal. They sold a lot of $5 seats and $10 seats … (and) it felt like a football crowd at a basketball game.”

That was JerryWorld Sunday night.

Next year, the NBA All-Star Game will be played at the Staples Center in Los Angeles. Capacity: 18,997.

A quaint little venue, I’m sure.


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