For the first time since 1998, the NBA All-Star game is back at Madison Square Garden. Only three players from that last game remain active today: Kevin Garnett, Tim Duncan and Kobe Bryant.
There are many stories surrounding the All-Star game that have nothing to do with the players, though, the first of which is that MSG is relevant again.
In its heyday, MSG was as much of a cultural pillar as Broadway or The Met, but recently, this hasn’t been the case. The only sellout the Garden has had this season was for a college game between St. John’s and Duke. Luckily for fans and New Yorkers alike, the All-Star game is restoring MSG to the social prominence it so rightly deserves.
For the second time in its history, the All-Star game will be in a separate arena from the surrounding festivities.
These events, such as the Dunk and Three-Point Contest, will take place at the Barclays Center in Brooklyn. This will be the first time since 1982 that the Nets will be participating in an All-Star Game event, but the Barclays Center will remain one of six arenas to not hold the game itself. The MTA is also releasing special Metro Cards featuring the All-Star Weekend design. The card sports the All-Star logo along with “2015” written in the style of subway bullets. The hope behind these new cards is that they will encourage fans to travel by subway between the two hosting venues.
The most interesting aspect of the entire weekend is the jerseys that each side will sport for the game itself. For the first time since 2003, the jerseys will be clean and simple, a nice change from the gaudy, flashy uniforms they have worn for the past decade. The East will wear white and the West will wear black. The fronts of the jerseys are very modest, with only the players’ number on the chest. Paul Lukas of UniWatch, a site dedicated to uniform aesthetics, gave his view in a recent ESPN column.
“The minimalist jersey designs, with nothing but a number on the front, are supposed to pay tribute to the style of basketball played on New York City blacktops, but they really evoke the feel of basketball from the ’30s and ’40s, when many pro and amateur teams just wore numbers on their chests,” wrote Lukas. He goes on to talk about how many fans do not like the jerseys because they are too minimalist, but how he appreciates the toned-down jerseys as opposed to those worn in seasons past.
The coolest part of the jerseys is the accompanying patch on the left shoulder. The small star has Jerry West in the middle and five different designs in each point of the star. The designs are meant to represent the five boroughs of New York. Manhattan’s design is a checkered pattern, similar to what cabs used before 1999.
The pattern for the Bronx looks like a vinyl record as a nod to the old school hip-hop that started here. Brooklyn’s pattern is classic brick, which represents the signature Brownstown houses. Queens’ design looks like the Unisphere designed for the 1964 World’s Fair. Finally, the design for Staten Island is simply ripples in water.
The cultural aspects of this All-Star game are so prominent that they nearly make the players seem like an afterthought. New York City is relevant again in professional basketball, if only for a weekend.