The NBA’s in a unique position to openly curate experiences that consistently reflect the audience that they want to reach out to.
Touching down in Charlotte was a bit of a homecoming for myself. Attending North Carolina A&T for undergrad will do that to you. Greensboro and by default Carolina became a second home.
By land or by air it’s always nostalgic when you cross those state lines. You must stop and get out Cookout. Bojangles. Lil Wayne, Prime Wayne will be played. And I was coming off a four-year drought of not being present for NCAT’s annual #GHOE –if you don’t know what this means, please google– so this last minute trip was needed.
Reflection of better days would be the weekend’s theme because the NBA All-Star energy was palpable and immediately felt through our time in Charlotte. And who could blame the city? After several misfires of bringing the NBA’s premier event back to the Queen City, this feeling was long overdue.
“It’s exciting to be down here with so many big events going on. People are spending their hard earned money,” retired Carolina Panther Steve Smith Sr said on the impact of All-Star on the city. “There are cities like LA, New York, Chicago that get stuff like this all the time. A place like Charlotte, we don’t get these opportunities, so we’re making the best of it. Hopefully, we can continue to get big events and more here.”
Bigotry Is Bad For business, And The NBA Is About Inclusion
During the 2016 elections, the state of North Carolina shot themselves in the foot after allowing businesses to legally discriminate against people who are aren’t aligned with their values. Bigotry is bad for business, and the NBA is about inclusion.
So the league excluded Charlotte from their All-Star hosting privileges and moved it all to New Orleans in 2017. Cold world, but this allowed NC to get their shit together politically to properly represent the city and state’s rich basketball history.
Speaking of Cole world, reaching out to J. Cole to be the NBA All-Star halftime performer was an easy decision, that’s reflective of the social values the majority of the players have. The Fayetteville native is what Kendrick is to Compton, what Drake is to Toronto, but Cole’s willingness to immediately speak out about civil rights separates the three.
Ever since Kap took a knee, everything about NFL’s efforts to connect with their Black fanbase should be taken with a grain of salt. The buildup to the NFL’s Super Bowl in Atlanta proved this with the illogical booking of pop band Maroon 5, in a historic Black city. The NBA was provided the blueprints of what not to do when honoring a state’s influence on the game.
Fellow Carolinian, artist, and deliverer of bars, Rapsody agrees the NBA’s embracement of NC history was the opposite compared to their gridiron counterparts.
“It’s important to us because we have such a big basketball culture here. It’s God and basketball country,” the Grammy-nominated emcee said during the NBA Celebrity All-Star game. “From Michael Jordan to Carolina (Chapel Hill) and Duke, to so many legends that were born from the state. It’s only right for the NBA to honor all that the state has given to the sport.”
LISTEN: Rapsody on NBA vs NFL player culture
Changing Of The Guards
Charlotte’s also home to the NBA’s only Black franchise owner, Michael Jordan, so it was only fitting he was honored for his endeavors both on off the court. Duke Alum, ESPN analyst, and TV Host, Jay Williams has been proudly championing player empowerment off the court for years.
Since LeBron’s friend and super agent, Rich Paul’s made his presence felt on the trade scene, the NBA brass will have no choice to adapt to a player first mentality.
Jay Williams: “I like to see players take more ownership in understanding what’s happening in this game. Especially on the business side. This stereotype that athletes are aloof needs to change. Because we do understand what’s happening underneath of the car.”
WATCH: Jay Williams on Player Empowerment
When We Came Here We Always Knew We Had A War
One of his Airness’ contemporary’s Gary Payton is known for his love of the smoke and lockdown D. As a member the Seattle SuperSonics, The Glove brokedown why the wars with those great 90s Charlotte Hornets teams were so memorable.
“They had some great teams. The Alonzo Mournings, Larry Johnson, Dell Curry. They even used to bring Ric Flair out to get the crowd right. We knew it was going to be a good time, they were always going to compete. And that’s what it’s all about.”
The NBA is in a unique position to openly curate experiences that consistently reflect the audience that they want to reach out to. There were events that facilitated dialogue and asked hard questions about where the NBA is going while honoring their Black roots. If this continues to be the look of the new look NBA, the future is bright.