After it was moved away from Charlotte, North Carolina, the 2017 NBA All-Star Game will take place in New Orleans. The league announced the decision on Friday.
Brett Martel of the Associated Press was the first to report the news earlier Friday via a source.
The Charlotte Hornets were originally set to host the All-Star Game, but the league decided to move the exhibition as a response to North Carolina's House Bill 2, which denies gay and transgender communities protection from discrimination. People are also required to use the bathroom of their biological gender, rather than the one with which they identify.
The NBA's statement about the decision read in part:
Since March, when North Carolina enacted HB2 and the issue of legal protections for the LGBT community in Charlotte became prominent, the NBA and the Charlotte Hornets have been working diligently to foster constructive dialogue and try to effect positive change. We have been guided in these discussions by the long-standing core values of our league. These include not only diversity, inclusion, fairness and respect for others but also the willingness to listen and consider opposing points of view.
Our week-long schedule of All-Star events and activities is intended to be a global celebration of basketball, our league, and the values for which we stand, and to bring together all members of the NBA community – current and former players, league and team officials, business partners, and fans. While we recognize that the NBA cannot choose the law in every city, state, and country in which we do business, we do not believe we can successfully host our All-Star festivities in Charlotte in the climate created by HB2.
With All-Star Weekend taking place in mid-February, the NBA didn't have much time to find a replacement. The Vertical's Adrian Wojnarowski reported the league originally aimed for Las Vegas, but scheduling conflicts prevented that from happening. Wojnarowski then noted New Orleans was the early front-runner.
A report on ESPN.com cited Chicago and a Brooklyn/New York City joint bid as additional challengers: "Louisiana, Illinois and New York all have specific state protections that don't allow for discrimination against LGBT people, with specific legislation passed this year."
In the end, New Orleans won out. ESPN's Mark Jones is all for the choice:
The Advocate's Dawson and Scott Kushner reported Aug. 3 the New Orleans Pelicans worked with SMG, the Greater New Orleans Sports Foundation and the New Orleans Convention and Visitors Bureau in order to secure the All-Star Game.
"It's a very short time frame," Pelicans President Dennis Lauscha said on the team's official podcast, the Black and Blue Report (via Kushner and Dawson). "I mean, this is going to be on us very quickly, so I know they want to get that decided and we want to know so we can start shifting resources and assets to make this a successful game."
This will be the third time the All-Star Game takes place in New Orleans, and if the past results are any indication, the Eastern Conference's chances of winning look pretty good:
|Previous NBA All-Star Games in New Orleans|
|2008||East||West||134-128||LeBron James, Cleveland Cavaliers|
|2014||East||West||163-155||Kyrie Irving, Cleveland Cavaliers|
Since two-thirds of the Cleveland Cavaliers' Big Three claimed All-Star MVP Awards in New Orleans, this might be Kevin Love's year to add the trophy to his collection.
With New Orleans filling in for 2017, the city might get bumped back in the All-Star rotation going forward. The NBA already confirmed Los Angeles will host the 2018 edition, and in its statement regarding pulling the event from Charlotte, the league said it plans on locking in the game for the Queen City in 2019.
Depending on its willingness, New Orleans could launch another All-Star bid in 2020, but the NBA might envision returning to Las Vegas, Houston, New York City or Orlando before then.
At the very least, Friday's news will be a welcome development for basketball fans in the Big Easy who didn't expect the biggest stars in the sport to be making a stop this February.