It's the NBA All-Star Game almost no one seemed to want. Certainly not the players, who scoffed at the notion of playing an exhibition game in the midst of a pandemic. The city of Atlanta, picked as a replacement for original host Indianapolis, didn't seem thrilled with the idea, either. The mayor urged fans to stay away from an event renowned for wild parties and packed streets. Police scheduled 12-hour shifts and canceled days off, the AP reports, in an attempt to crack down on any events that could lead to a surge of COVID-19 cases. But the league pressed forward, eager to improve its bottom line and its brand by televising the popular midseason showcase around the world. The NBA's best will take the court Sunday in a one-night-only, hastily arranged event at mostly empty State Farm Arena, where a limited number of invited guests will be allowed to watch in person.
"All-Star is part of our league. It's no different than all the other games we play," Commissioner Adam Silver said. "It begins and ends with the fans. This is an event the fans love to see. They love to see the players come together." But the commissioner added, "Nothing comes without controversy in a pandemic." The league's biggest stars, led by LeBron James, would have preferred some time off during the six-day break. James even went so far as to call it "a slap in the face" to players who had little time to recover from last year's interrupted season, which was completed in a central Florida bubble, and are still dealing with burdensome protocols intended to stifle the coronavirus as much as possible—but still weren't enough to prevent the postponement of 31 games in the first half.
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