New York City might be the Mecca of Basketball, but the Carolinas are responsible for developing some of the greatest individuals to ever play the game. Proof will be on full display throughout the 2019 NBA All-Star Weekend, which makes its return to Charlotte for the first time in nearly 30 years. It’s shaping up to be a Carolina homecoming for some of the NBA’s best.
Kemba Walker was nine months old when All-Star weekend last visited Buzz City. After two back-to-back selections as a game reserve, the Charlotte star and NYC native finally earned a starting spot in this year’s game (I made the case why he deserved a spot.) Walker is only the third Hornets player to receive the honor and first since Eddie Jones in 2000. He’ll also participate in the MTN Dew 3-Point contest for the second consecutive year.
Hornets rookie Miles Bridges will participate in the AT&T Slam Dunk. “Sky” Miles has been wowing the league with some impressive throw downs.
Hornets Chairman Michael Jordan was also born in NYC, but grew up in Wilmington. He has more than one reason to be pumped up for the festivities. The basketball G.O.A.T. and UNC Tar Heel celebrates his birthday on Feb. 17, the same day as the 68th NBA All-Star Game.
There’s a sibling rivalry brewing ahead of the MTN Dew 3-Point Contest, as Charlotte’s favorite basketball family, the Currys, face off. Brothers Steph and Seth are both participating in the Saturday night showcase.
Other players with Carolina connections participating in All-Star Weekend events:
- Marvin Bagley III — Duke University (2017 – 18)
- John Collins — Wake Forest University (2015 – 17)
- Shai Gilgeous-Alexander — Charlotte Hornets 2018 first round draft (subsequently traded to the L.A. Clippers for Miles Bridges)
- Jayson Tatum — Duke University (2016 – 17)
- Danny Green — UNC Chapel Hill (2005 – 09) Green was a member of the 2009 NCAA Men’s Basketball Championship team
- Khris Middleton — Charleston, SC native; attended Porter-Gaud School
- Dennis Smith Jr. — Fayetteville, NC native; North Carolina State University (2016-17)
- Kyrie Irving — Duke University (2010-11)
NBA All-Star Celebrity Game
The NBA All-Star Celebrity Game also calls on a host of actors, musicians and former athletes with Carolina connections, including:
- Mike Colter (actor, Luke Cage) — SC native; Univ. of South Carolina alum
- Chris Daughtry (recording artist) — NC native
- Terrence J (on-air host, actor) — raised in NC; North Carolina A&T State University alum
- Rapsody (rapper) — NC native; North Carolina State University alum
- Bo Rinehart of NEEDTOBREATHE (recording artist) — SC native
- JB Smoove (actor, comedian) — born in Plymouth, NC
- Steve Smith, Sr. (former NFL player) — played 13 seasons with Carolina Panthers
- A’ja Wilson (2018 WNBA Rookie of the Year) — Univ. of South Carolina (2014-18)
- Jay Williams (ESPN college basketball analyst) — Duke University (1999-2002)
- Jason Weinmann (hometown hero) — retired U.S. Marine who used military vehicle to rescue residents stranded by Hurricane Florence
- Dawn Staley (former WNBA player) — played seven seasons with Charlotte Sting
The local ties continue off the court as two of the Carolinas’ most talented music artists, J.Cole and Anthony Hamilton, will both perform at the All-Star Game on Feb. 17.
In a few days, the Queen City will be center stage of the basketball world and many of these stars should feel right at home.
Kallan Louis is a writer and consultant for qcitymetro.com. He does a lot, but never feels like he’s doing enough. His life can be described as a Venn Diagram: News media, Black culture and sports. He’s always on TV, but rarely seen.