All-Star Weekend ended Sunday night with an exciting 152-149 West win that saw records fall, a great finish and whole ton of dunks. Sunday night was a fantastic finish to a great weekend in Central Florida.
Dwight Howard said, partially deflecting trade talk for a weekend, this was a chance to show off his city. He repeatedly said Sunday that he has never seen Orlando like this and that the city was "on fire." He spoke with Magic COO Alex Martins and the comment from both was that the city had not been this alive with excitement or attention since it hosted the 2009 Finals.
"The whole weekend, I did that [look around and be amazed at how the city was hosting the event]," Dwight Howard said after Sunday's finale. "Orlando, just thank you for what we did this weekend. We all did a great job. I haven't seen this since the Finals. Me and Alex [Martins], we talked today, and we haven't seen something like this since the Finals.
"The city was on fire, from Thursday night until tonight. A lot of celebrities came out and had a great time at all the events. And that's what matters."
Indeed, having a good time was the point as Howard continued to re-iterate in just about every single one of his media sessions. The city was excited and showed it at Jam Session from Thursday through Sunday and at the All-Star Game itself. Who knows, maybe Orlando burnt itself out a bit leading to some of the relatively sparse crowd that attended Friday night's Rising Stars competition and a somewhat un-energetic crowd at All-Star Saturday Night.
Yes, game atmosphere is something that Orlando still needs to work on as it settles into Amway Center.
Among the players, it seemed, the arena was the talk, according to Howard. Many of them were in the Magic locker room for the first time and probably got to enjoy the very swanky players lounge and see all the luxuries Magic players get every game.
It was definitely a coming out party for Orlando. From all accounts, players and media were happy with the job the city did hosting the event. This certainly seemed to be a city that had grown up substantially from the 1992 All-Star Game it hosted and showed more of itself to the world than just the theme parks.
"I think the city has so much positive energy," first-time All Star Andre Iguodala said. "Through the best of times, through the worst of times, their fans stick with them. The weather is amazing. It's Florida, it's clean. I think the only bad thing is it can be too humid sometimes. It's the perfect time in February. The people are really good."
Orlando was certainly a city that could handle the crush of people coming to it. There were two other major conventions held at the Orange County Convention Center at the same time as NBA Jam Session, which turned into a theme park of its own with the way some of the lines wound around attractions, not to mention the line just to get in.
The only complaint was that things were too spread out. The Convention Center and the attractions (including the media and player hotels) are on one side of twon and are nearly 30 minutes from the Amway Center and Downtown Orlando. That seemed like a minor complaint though. Orlando should be hosting another All-Star Game relatively soon.
"They're all great," 10-time All-Star Paul Pierce said. "There are just so many memories you have from the All-Star Games. Just from being down 20 and coming back and having a chance. It's exciting. You're over there cheering for them and you're playing. You're seeing the celebrities, the stars, you're seeing the performances.
"You soak it all in and you enjoy these moments. That's what I tell the other guys that are their first time here. I can't put any one above the other one."
Sunday's exciting finish seemed to take center stage (as the actual game always seems to). The 152-149 West win featured just about everything you could want from an All-Star Game. And there were plenty of moments to soak in, like Kobe Bryant becoming the All-Star Game's all-time leading scorer or LeBron James just taking over the fourth quarter and bringing the East within a point of the lead.
Certainly for a first-time All Star (and long-deserving guy) like Andre Iguodala, it must have been an incredibly special weekend. This weekend was dominated by a lot of the old guard of stars -- Kobe, LeBron, Dwyane Wade -- but Kevin Durant, Russell Westbrook and Iguodala were part of the new guard who showed they have the wherewithal to take the mantle.
We also saw some new faces dominate on All-Star Saturday Night.
Jeremy Evans may have been the breakout star in a slam dunk contest that got some, honestly, mixed reaction. The unknown forward from the Jazz, who was entered into the contest thanks to an Internet campaign and a late injury from Iman Shumpert, has played a scant 16 games so far this season. Yet, even if you were underwhelmed by the creativity and originality of the dunks, Evans looked pretty athletic. It will be exciting to see what he does the rest of this season.
Kevin Love also surprised many with his victory in the Three-Point Contest. Love was the outlier in a group of professional 3-point shooters. He may be shooting 34.8 percent from the floor, but he found a good rhythm in topping Kevin Durant in a tiebreaker round in the finals.
The Rising Stars Challenge saw some changes too. Some of it was welcome, most of it led to disappointment. Charles Barkley's team won behind an unreal shooting performance from Kyrie Irving. Jeremy Lin barely played and John Wall tried really really hard to dunk and vent his frustrations for the season.
The new format had some of the guys a little disappointed they could not play for class pride.
"I think the big game should be East vs. West," 76ers sophomore guard Evan Turner said of potentially changing the format of the All-Star Game. "That's the best thing. If not, if you want to play for the West, you should get traded to the West. I wanted to play with the sophomores to tell you the truth."
There will be changes, as there always seems to be. The fans were more involved in the All-Star Game than ever before. There were no judges for the dunk contest and there were plenty of opportunities for fans to enjoy the show throughout Orlando -- not to mention, Dwight Howard through three absolutely wicked parties in an airplane hangar at the Orlando Executive Airport near downtown Orlando.
What will Houston bring in 2013? We, unfortunately, have to wait a year to find out.
Crossover Chronicles Coverage from All-Star 2012
--Orlando will be more than Disney this Weekend
--Team USA Faces Argentina, Brazil, Dominican Republic, Great Britain and Spain in Exhibition Tour
--International Focus on Lin as All Stars Arrive
--Ryan Anderson Readies for his Shot at 3-Point Glory
--Irving Shines In Rising Stars Game
--Andre Iguodala Finally Arrives
--Miller, Nelson Highlight Hall of Fame Finalists
--Dwight Howard: This Weekend About 'Our' City
--After Saturday, You Will Know Jeremy Evans
--Jeremy Evans, Kevin Love Buck the Trend
--Ryan Anderson Just Short In 3-Point Shootout
--Defense? West Needed it to Hold On
--Dwight Howard Plays Quiet, Gracious Host
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