Sec­ond city is sec­ond to none as host

Chicagoans: City not just host to All-Star week­end, it’s a hoops mecca

Baltimore Sun - - WEATHER - By Tim Reynolds

CHICAGO — The NBA is head­quar­tered in New York. An­thony Davis, one of the game’s big­gest names, plays in Los Angeles.

Both, un­ques­tion­ably, are world-class cities.

But in Davis’ eyes, they both pale to his home­town. And this week­end, the Chicago na­tive be­lieves the eyes of the bas­ket­ball world are where they be­long -- on his city.

“Chicago bas­ket­ball,” the Lak­ers’ for­ward said. “There is noth­ing like Chicago bas­ket­ball.”

Chicago is called the Sec­ond City, though no one from Chicago be­lieves that the city is sec­ond to any other city on the planet — par­tic­u­larly those who rep­re­sent the city in the NBA. L.A. has the glitz and glam­our of the Lak­ers and now the Clip­pers, New York has the tra­di­tion of Madi­son Square Garden and pos­si­bly the best-known out­door court in the world at Rucker Park, but Chicago guys scoff at the no­tion that the game means more any­place else.

That’s why host­ing All-Star week­end, with the events be­gin­ning in earnest Fri­day, is a badge of honor for Chicago. It’s been more than 20 years since Michael Jor­dan and the Bulls fin­ished their run of six ti­tles in eight years, nearly a decade since na­tive son Der­rick Rose gave the city its last NBA

MVPand­five years since the city cel­e­brated win­ning an NBA play­off series. Though the Bulls are not good these days, any­where one looks in the city Bulls red-and-black gear is still be­ing worn proudly by a steeled fan base.

“Chicago is the mecca of the game,” Davis said.

It’s silly to ar­gue that with any­one from

Chicago, since the agree­ment is ba­si­cally unan­i­mous. It’s the city that gave the NBA play­ers like Dwyane Wade and Isiah Thomas, Ge­orge Mikan and Mau­rice Cheeks, Mark Aguirre and Tim Har­d­away. It boasts Cazzie Rus­sell and Terry Cum­mings, Ed­die John­son and Dan Is­sel, Juwan Howard and Jeff Hor­nacek.

Duke coach Mike Krzyzewski was born in Chicago. So was Doc Rivers, now the Clip­pers coach and a one-time NBA All-Star — back in 1988, the last time the league’s show­case week­end was in the Windy City.

“As far as I’m con­cerned, Chicago IS bas­ket­ball,” Rivers said.

Rivers has a story that he thinks sums up the city’s love af­fair — and its affin­ity — for bas­ket­ball. He re­calls March 4, 1978, the day that the Chicago Daily News pub­lished for the fi­nal time in its 102-year history.

Much of the paper that day was de­voted to its own history, which in­cluded 15 Pulitzer Prizes. Also cov­ered in that fi­nal paper: high school bas­ket­ball from the night be­fore.

“Bas­ket­ball, even high school bas­ket­ball, is important in Chicago,” Rivers said. “They were cov­er­ing it on the last day of their paper. That’s how important it was. It’s very important to the city. And I was lucky enough to be part of that.”

There will be plenty of Chicago fla­vor at this All-Star: Davis is in Sun­day’s game, Pa­trick Beverley of the Clip­pers is in Satur­day’s skills com­pe­ti­tion, and the Heat’s Ken­drick Nunn is in Fri­day’s Ris­ing Stars game. Much of the en­ter­tain­ment the NBA is show­cas­ing over the course of the week­end is also from Chicago: Jennifer Hud­son was booked this week to per­form a pre-All-Star game trib­ute to Kobe Bryant and the other vic­tims of the he­li­copter crash that took the for­mer NBA play­ers life; Chance the Rap­per and Com­mon will play big roles through­out the week­end as well; Queen Lat­i­fah is performing dur­ing Al­lS­tar Satur­day.

Also Satur­day, Pres­i­dent Barack Obama — an­other proud Chicagoan, and like Rivers an un­abashed White Sox fan in a base­bal­llov­ing city where Cubs al­le­giance runs deep — will be host­ing a round­table dis­cus­sion with sev­eral NBA play­ers.

It is a cel­e­bra­tion, tem­pered some­what by the on­go­ing mourn­ing of Bryant — in Chicago’s Mid­way Air­port, some­one taped a Bryant poster up near one of the gates in a busy ter­mi­nal. No one seemed to know who put it there, and no one at the air­port plans on tak­ing it down, ei­ther.

“An All-Star in our city, it means a lot,” Nunn said. “It brings some­thing pos­i­tive to the city, and it needs it. The vi­o­lence is def­i­nitely down, but any­thing some­thing this good comes to Chicago it means a lot to the city. And it means a lot to me to have the chance to go back and be part of it all.”

Rivers said he thinks a quote from for­mer Bulls coach Phil Jack­son — “It’s a city with broad shoul­ders” — is one of the most ap­pro­pri­ate ways to de­scribe Chicago.

“The thing about Chicago, it’s a loyal sports town,” Rivers said. “The teams have been up and down, more down, but they don’t go away. When you play the Bulls on the road, it’s packed with Chicago fans. ... It’s a city that has grown up through sports.”

JOSE M. OSO­RIO/CHICAGO TRI­BUNE

The statue of Bulls great Michael Jor­dan stands out­side the United Cen­ter in Chicago.

DAVID ZALUBOWSKI/AP

The Lak­ers’ An­thony Davis was a high school hoops star in Chicago.

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