BIG thanks to NBA Canada for extending the chance for me to attend the NBA All-Star festivities in New Orleans this past weekend. 

Despite the frostiness between Kevin Durant and Russell Westbrook, NOLA boasted warm weather and sizzling Mardi Gras excitement. 

There was certainly no lack of excitement at Sunday night’s NBA showcase game. During the fourth quarter, buzzing fans started chanting “Defence! Defence! Defence!” Hearing the crowd’s cries from the Western Conference bench, DeAndre Jordan returned with “No! No! No!” That moment in time perfectly describes Sunday’s aggressive game. With a short supply of defence, the electric game ended with Anthony Davis destroying a 55-year-old record with 52 points, leading the West to a ten point victory over the East. With 33 steals and 16 fouls, there is no doubt that players were out to give the crowd a show.

The same couldn’t be said about the Slam Dunk Contest, as the crazy 2016 showdown in the frigid 416 was unequivocally better. Unfortunately for Aaron Gordon, his Drone Dunk went awry and overshadowed him getting robbed of the Slam Dunk title in Toronto last year. However, the All-Star game was saved Sunday by John Legend who I think the NBA should just sign a lifetime deal with. 

If there was a Slam Dunk winner over the weekend it was probably Nike. Their Equality campaign cast a long gaze over the visitors from across a fractured nation being hosted in a town whose inhabitants possess an unreliable spirit despite the environmental catastrophes it has overcome.

Featuring Antonio Davis’s steely gaze and the simple word Equality, posted a dagger to the heart of the issues facing the USA. The Equality t-shirt was selling out constantly with stores restocking at a fast break pace.

The effort was glued together by its connection to Black History Month featuring limited edition Nike Shoes raising money for Nike’s Ever Higher Fund. I tried to snare the Nike Air Force 1 Equality special edition shoes but ten minutes after their online launch they were sold out. A quick trip to eBay saw them already listed for a 300% markup. Not bad for ten minutes work (don’t worry my feet had a happy ending after I scored a pair of Kyrie Irvings at local sneaker store).

The other big winner was the City of New Orleans. Pressed into duty as a replacement host after political pressure saw the game pulled from North Carolina, the original southern party town, New Orleans strutted its crazy eccentric self. The fact it was also Mardi Gras made for a combustible combination. Parades, parties, and preachers were on every street corner, I kid you not. Every street corner had some form of apocalypse promising barker.

The parades became my weekend obsession. I followed them around amazed at how excited people get over beads, how elaborate the floats were and how others were nothing more than a pickup truck. My favourite piece by far were the marching bands. It amazed me how dozens of people can walk, play, and perform in perfect unison while wearing uniforms that appear to be fur lined, bejewelled hazmat suits with War of 1812 hats. 

I stalked the bands for two hours Sunday, trying to keep pace with those in full verse. The parade conveniently snaked through the downtown core allowing for some zigging and zagging by a first time Mardi. 

The weekend left me wishing we had more marching bands in Canada. It would certainly add life to Canuck events. Activation idea??? Perhaps. 

The thrill of an NBA All-Star Weekend is that everywhere you look there is a celebrity. Coaches. Current Players. Hall of Famers. Media. Musicians. Agents. Put them in any city and you’ve got an epic scene.

Combine the excitement with a little gumbo and it gets downright spicy!

One thought on “Air Ballin’

  1. Great write-up Mark. Sounds like I missed out on a great event during a very interesting time in the US of A with Nike stepping up with its campaign. The NBA sure does a great job proving that traditional sports and platforms can innovate and continue to inspire!

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