A tour of All-Star weekend's hottest events
Whenever you get the NBA's best players in one city for All-Star weekend, there is bound to be a party. It is just as much about the play on the court as playtime once the game is over.
I put in a lot of exhausting groundwork to attend the hottest parties of the weekend (my job is tough, but someone's got to do it) to show you what makes the event jump. Here are just a few of the events that put the "star" in All-Star weekend:
All-Star Celebrity Golf Invitational
Event: A celebrity golf tournament where Average Joes with more than average money get paired up with a sporting legend for 18 holes of golf on a famous course. They ride around in golf carts together all day, probably striking up really awkward small talk.
When: A Friday 8 a.m. tee time, also known as "way too early" for those of us who stayed up experiencing the All-Star festivities the night before.
Who: Comedian Anthony Anderson hosted the event and came dressed to the tee (pun intended) in a pink plaid get-up. Other big draws were Alonzo Mourning, Kordell Stewart, Johnny Damon, Roland Martin, Nick Anderson and Bo Outlaw (but he kept telling people he was Billy Bob Thornton).
Where: Arnold Palmer's Bay Hill Club & Lodge, a private golf resort built in 1961 in the Bay Hill, about 20 minutes from Downtown Orlando. The place screams old money with linen tablecloths, dainty china, large glass windows and exposed stonewalls.
Parting gifts: Calloway golf carriers, hand-rolled cigars, Under Amour backpacks filled with everything you need to make your golf game better (except actual talent). My personal favorite giveaway: the egg and cheese croissant and fruit at the continental breakfast.
Swag factor: 6. It was a daytime event with mostly older athletes accompanied by even older men. The history and beautiful location are what made this event so special.
NBA All-Star Weekend Hotel Lobby Watch 2012
What: This served as the players' home away from home for three days during the weekend. From the uptight security guards to non-NBA fans asking, "Who is he?" for every man over six feet, the lobby is an experiment in human culture sure to garner laughs.
When: 24 hours a day. The energy in this place never seems to die down.
Who: NBA stars with their families or entourages. You can also find kids wearing jerseys and holding balls at the entrance, waiting from autographs. If you're not careful, you will bump into an uptight media member walking and tweeting at the same time. Notable figures that made appearances were: Billy Hunter, Tom Thibodeau, Dirk Nowitzki (carrying too-small rolling luggage) and Kemba Walker watching Thursday's Knicks-Heat game with laser-like intensity.
Where: The Hilton Orlando. It's connected to the Orange County Convention Center by a covered walkway, which offers convenient access to the NBA Jam Session. Also, the piano player in the lobby bar plays a mean Rihanna mix.
Parting gifts: If you're lucky, you can grab an autograph from a player as he hops through interviews. Or you can grab a bite with Paul Pierce at the hotel watering hole. If all else fails, just buy some All-Star gear at the gift shop conveniently located in the lobby.
Swag factor: 8. This is the most exclusive place during the weekend. Only pre-approved NBA credentials or a pricey room can get you access. This is the place everyone wants to be.
Welcome to Orlando, Dwight Howard All-Star Party (Presented by Foot Action)
What: White V.I.P. booths stocked with Moet and Grey Goose. If you weren't in V.I.P., the open bar sponsored by Grey Goose could also whet your appetite. And if drinking isn't your thing, you could be entertained by one of the many acts that hit the stage. Adidas did a fantastic job of simultaneously blending a concert, club and brand promotion.
When: The popular 9 p.m.-2 a.m. Friday night window when a bevy of parties were held.
Who: Your emcee for the night was Darryl McDaniels, better known as "D.M.C." of Run-D.M.C. Young Jeezy and B.o.B. took the stage with performances later in the night. Other notables were Common, Luol Deng, Fabolous and, the man of the hour, Dwight Howard.
Where: A private airport hangar at the Orlando Executive Airport, 10 minutes from Amway Center.
Parting gifts: Adidas hosted a gifting suite earlier that day at the Peabody Hotel and guests left with a pair of Dwight Howard and Derrick Rose signature shoes, along with a duffel bag filled with adidas goodies. The only giveaway at this party was a photo booth picture complete with adidas logo background.
Swag factor: 10. This is the type of party everyone thinks of when they think All-Star weekend: open bar, the hottest performers and guests and a wall of sneakers at the entrance all lit by blue adidas backdrop lighting. Howard is adidas' big man and they represented him well in his city with what had to be the best party of the weekend.
The 20th Annual Kenny "The Jet" Smith NBA All-Star Bash (Hosted by Mary J. Blige and presented by Gentleman Jack)
What: Since it's the most anticipated party of the weekend (Kenny Smith announces it on TNT every year), it was only right it was at the best location in Downtown Orlando. Just steps from the arena, the party was held in a ballroom with church accents like stained glass windows of cherubs and goddesses. Once inside, guests were greeted by servers offering samples of Gentlemen Jack. The main room featured a white dance floor emblazoned with the official NBA All-Star logo and a stage complete with a DJ booth. V.I.P. section was blocked off by sheer, white curtains, which opened up the room.
The party also doubled as a celebration for Smith's daughter Kayla Briana, who is label mates with Blige at Interscope Records. Her single "If You Love Me" debuted on TNT's "Inside the NBA."
When: The popular Friday 9 p.m.-2 a.m. time slot. This helped keep the event from getting overcrowded, as partygoers had other choices in Orlando.
Who: Blige, who made her way to the event early in the night, hosted the event. She was the picture of All-Star chic in a leopard print ensemble. Being that Smith is a former player-turned-broadcaster, the rest of his guest list reflected the sports and broadcasting world. TNT on-air mates Charles Barkley made a big entrance alongside the always-colorful Craig Sager. Other notables included Chris Webber, Robert Horry and President of BET, Stephen Hill.
Parting gifts: Guests left empty-handed, but filled with the satisfaction that they attended the most desirable party of the weekend.
Swag factor: 9. Smith really knows how to throw a party that mixes sophistication with backyard barbecue. Folks did the wobble (modern-day electric slide), "The Jet" started a soul train line and Barkley even showed off his new figure in general admission. It was a fun party that lacked the snootiness these parties can sometimes have.