Monday, February 19, 2007

Branson, Missouri To Host 2009 NBA All-Star Game

NBA All-Star Weekend wrapped up Sunday night, as MVP Kobe Bryant and Amare Stoudemire led the Western Conference to a 153-132 rout. Las Vegas was a glamorous locale for the festivities, and New Orleans will be a first-time host next year. Today, the league continued the trend of finding new cities for the event. Commissioner David Stern announced that Branson, Missouri will host the 2009 All-Star Game.

Stern indicated that the decision was a natural extension of holding the event in Las Vegas. The weekend proved that the game and surrounding activities could be held in a non-NBA city. For the next available All-Star Game, the league was determined to go back to a location without an NBA franchise. Therefore, the finalists were Branson and Atlanta.

Branson was a natural fit, since it is often referred to as the “Family-friendly Las Vegas.” Like its Nevada counterpart, it offers plenty of live music shows for visitors. Branson even has a similar slogan: “What happens in Branson? Seriously, does anything happen here?” Unlike Vegas, Branson does not have any casinos. Charles Barkley may be particularly disappointed by the absence of gambling options. However, on the bright side for Sir Charles, there will be plenty of old people around for him to race.

Branson is in a highly conservative area, so the town’s residents will have a different experience during All-Star Weekend. Unless they’re at a Charley Pride concert, they’re not used to seeing black people. Also, the pro-military townspeople will have to endure an event that mocks the importance of a strong defense. However, Branson will lend some Leave It To Beaver-style nostalgia to the event. Players in the All-Star Game will all sport buzz cuts, short shorts, and knee socks. Instead of the NBA’s prevailing hip-hop culture, this All-Star Game will embody the sock hop culture.

With that theme in mind, the Slam Dunk Contest and Three-Point Shootout will be replaced by the Bounce Pass Competition and Running Hook Shot Contest. Events will also prominently feature popular Branson entertainers. In honor of singer and Moon River Theater owner Andy Williams, the league will hold a Williams Game consisting entirely of NBA players named Williams. There will also be a tribute to the growing influence of European players, hosted by Yakov Smirnoff. Christina Aguilera will get another opportunity to perform at halftime, but only if she changes her name to Christina Osmond.

The Branson area is no stranger to high-profile basketball events. Since 2000, Keeter Gymnasium at the College of the Ozarks in nearby Point Lookout has hosted the NAIA Division II men’s basketball tournament each March. LeBron James, Dwyane Wade, and others will bring their high-scoring ways to the area in 2009. However, none of them can overshadow Northwestern (Iowa) star Brandon Woudstra, who tallied 322 points in the 2000-03 tournaments. Even Kobe can’t score that many in the All-Star Game, unless it goes to overtime.

All-Star Weekend in Branson will be quite a change from the non-stop partying of Las Vegas and New Orleans. Some observers may be skeptical that the Missouri town can attract as many celebrities and fans as those cities. However, Branson is fully aware that with the NBA All-Star Game, it’s all about the show. So there’s no better place for it than the Show-Me State.