As the NBA looks for a new home for the 2017 All-Star Game, cities are lining up with open arms to welcome LeBron James, Stephen Curry and the hundred million or so dollars the festivities would bring to the local economy.
New Orleans is the favorite, a person close to the situation told The Associated Press. The person said the league and city are “deep in negotiations” to stage the game there for a third time. The person spoke to AP on condition of anonymity because the details of the discussions have not been publicly announced.
The league moved the game out of Charlotte on Thursday because of its objections to House Bill 2, a North Carolina law that limits anti-discrimination protections for lesbian, gay and transgender people. The league also said it hoped to announce a new location for next February’s events shortly and will reschedule the 2019 game for Charlotte if there is a resolution to the matter.
Even before the announcement, the league had heard from cities that were available and interested in taking over the weekend — which has grown into more like a week.
Besides having open dates in arenas, cities would need to have necessary hotel space. Officials from several have expressed interest, including Boston and Atlanta.
But New Orleans, with its good February weather and endless entertainment options, is the “heavy favorite,” the person told AP.
Louisiana Gov. John Bel Edwards has said in a statement it would be an “honor” to have the game return to New Orleans.
“Louisiana is rich in diversity of heritage, culture, cuisine and people, and we believe the NBA could not select a better place for everyone to come and enjoy this spectacular sporting event,” he said.
Besides multiple Super Bowls and college football bowl games, New Orleans hosted the 2008 and 2014 NBA All-Star Games. The city is easily walkable and has moderate temperatures that time of year, a bonus after frigid temperatures the last two years in New York and Toronto.
The NBA announced plans for the 2008 game just nine months after Hurricane Katrina devastated the city in 2005. The weekend brought about $100 million into the city to aid its recovery, and now New Orleans could benefit again because of Charlotte’s loss.
The National Basketball Players Association said Friday it supported the league’s decision to move the game that would have been in Curry’s hometown.
“North Carolina is home to a sizable number of current and former NBPA members. They and our entire membership looked forward to participating in the All-Star week activities in the Charlotte community,” the union said in a statement. “However, the enactment of legislation that challenges the right of all Americans from discrimination threatened the ability of every attendee to enjoy the All-Star festivities.”
Northern cities were excluded for years due to owners’ preferences for warm weather. But with the league being open to those locations under Commissioner Adam Silver, cities such as Cleveland, Portland and Boston have shown interest in hosting an All-Star Game.
Democratic House Speaker Robert DeLeo sent a tweet Thursday urging the NBA to bring the game to Massachusetts, where lawmakers recently approved a transgender rights law. But a spokeswoman for the TD Garden told the Boston Globe Friday that the arena where the Boston Celtics play would be unable to host the game next February because of a scheduling conflict.
Orlando held the 2012 game, boasts loads of hotel and entertainment options, and could be a fitting choice for the LGBT community after a gunman killed 49 patrons at a gay nightclub in the city last month.
But with the league hoping to announce a new destination in the coming weeks, New Orleans is “well on its way” to being selected, the official said.
“It would be an honor to have this event return to New Orleans, and we look forward to sharing our hospitality with basketball fans from around the country,” Edwards said. “My office will support and assist Tom Benson and the New Orleans Pelicans in any way possible to help bring the NBA All-Stars back.”
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