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Party about to start in Denver
by Marc Narducci / February 18, 2005

The city of Denver wasn't bustling with activity on the eve of All-Star Weekend, but that will all change on Friday. Everything began on Thursday with the NBA Jam Session, where fans experience interactive basketball activities along with collecting autographs. The Jam Session will take run through Monday.

All throughout the city you can find signs that remind everybody that Denver is indeed the host of this year's NBA All-Star extravaganza.

Most of the media has already filed into town and so have the players who will participate in the game and the various activities.

In fact while taking a flight from Philadelphia to Denver, none other than 76ers sharpshooter Kyle Korver was spotted in the airport, eating a hamburger and waiting for his flight. Korver is taking part in the three-point shooting contest and he is also a member of the sophomore team in the Rookie Challenge, when the second-year players take on the rookies.

NBA team travels by charter flight, but on these occasions, many are flying commercial, giving them a taste of how most of the world has to travel by air.

For the hoop fanatic, this is a weekend full of activity. Friday is media day, where the athletes who are competing in the various weekend events will be made available in different intervals.

This is the chance for reporters to fill their notebooks and get to interview the All-Star participants. There will be a a 45-minute session with players from the West and another 45 with those from the East.

Always of interest is whether all the players will show up or accept the fine (usually $10,000) for being absent.

If anybody doesn't realize how much of an international event this All-Star game is, all one has to do is look around the various hotel lobbies.

There is a large contingent of Chinese reporters and photographers, chronicling every move of Houston center Yao Ming, who is making his third consecutive NBA start for the Western Conference team. All this weekend will be a screening of the Year of Yao at a local theater. The All-Star Game will be broadcast to 214 countries in 45 languages, demonstrating its worldwide appeal.

As for basketball activity, Friday is the lightest night. That's when there is a Celebrity Game that is followed by the Rookie Challenge.

The Celebrity Game will likely set basketball back a number of years. This is an event in which not everybody is a well-known celebrity and very few are actual basketball players.

The Rookie Challenge offers a little more spice this year because two of the participants – Cleveland's LeBron James and Miami's Dwyane Wade – are also competing in the varsity All-Star Game on Sunday.

On Saturday, there will be four events at the Pepsi Center, beginning with the Shooting Stars Competition, where a former NBA player, along with a current WNBA and NBA athlete, compete together as a team. The local fan
favorites will be the trio of Nuggets point guard Andre Miller, Becky Hammon of the New York Liberty and former Denver great Alex English, the king of the mid-range jumper.

Then comes the Skills Challenge, a two-round timed obstacle course event consisting of dribbling, passing and shooting stations. Denver's Earl Boykins is entered along with Washington's Gilbert Arenas, Phoenix's Steve
and Seattle's Luke Ridnour.

That is followed by the Three-Point Shootout which has a loaded field. Defending champ Voshon Lenard of Denver, who hasn't played since the first game of the season due to an Achilles injury, will nevertheless compete. The rest of the field includes Korver, Seattle's Ray Allen and Vladimir Radmanovic and Phoenix's Joe Johnson and Quentin Richardson. The Slam Dunk contest will feature Chris Andersen of New Orleans and Phoenix's Amare Stoudemire, along with rookies JR and Josh Smith. Organizers have also been holding hope that James will become a last-second entry. Stay tuned.

Then the weekend is culminated by Sunday's game, which begins at 8:30 pm ET.

In between there will be several celebrity parties, most which carry an invitation-only.

The only disappointment to Denver fans is that no Nuggets will be represented in the All-Star game. At the beginning of the season Carmelo Anthony was considered a serious candidate, but he has at times suffered
from the sophomore blahs and hasn't played to the high level he showed as a rookie.

Still, the city seems excited to be in the spotlight. Virtually every business, whether it's a store or restaurant, has signs reminding patrons that this is All-Star Weekend in Denver.

With the NFL season over and baseball just beginning spring training, this is the NBA's time to be in the spotlight.

That's why over the next few days, Denver will be the focus of the sports universe and the Mile High City will be out to show that it can host this excessively big sports party.

Marc Narducci covers the NBA for the Philadelphia Inquirer and is a regular contributor to HoopsHype.com

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