Sunday, November 17th, 2019

Day 5 of NBA All-Star Week and recap: Finale record and stepped up WNBA involvement

Published on February 16, 2010

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ARLINGTON, Texas — Even as Dallas residents and visitors braved the cold to come out in big numbers for NBA All-Star Week, the final event had all the signs of being an underwhelming footnote. But after a freak snowstorm followed by frigid temperatures, plus a disappointing Slam Dunk contest, Sunday night’s All-Star Game exceeded expectations on many fronts.

While thousands tweeted complaints about the traffic jam on the way to the stadium, disappointment vanished upon entered Cowboys Stadium. Tens of thousands of first-time visitors literally watched the game and walked around the hulking edifice bug-eyed for several hours. NBA athletes, hardened public relations professionals and youngsters were all in awe.

“I’ve never seen anything likes this before in my life,” was a frequent line heard from members of the world’s largest audience ever for a basketball game. While the game set a Guinness World Record for attendance at 108,713, it was not the first basketball game at the stadium. A college contest held in mid-December served as the test run for the All-Star Game. Texas and North Carolina battled under the world’s largest HDTV screen in front of a crowd of 38,052 surpassing the expected 35,000 pre-game estimate. The NCAA will bring the men’s Final Four to the stadium in 2014.

WNBA players, staffers and other women’s basketball professionals attended the game and several like the New York Liberty’s Shameka Christon watched from VIP suites. Basketball legend and Frisco D-League head coach Nancy Lieberman and her son had prime seats behind the East bench. Alicia Keys, whose song “Superwoman” became the 2008 WNBA Anthem, performed at halftime.

More WNBA Involvement in 2010

Even before the East squad beat the West, 141-139 on Sunday, WNBA players and officials had already spent several days in Dallas making public appearances, attending parties and hob-nobbing with celebrities, NBA athletes and corporate titans.

Women’s basketball players, past and present, who attended included:

  • Shameka Christon, New York
  • Marie Ferdinand-Harris, Los Angeles
  • Becky Hammon, San Antonio
  • Asjha Jones, Connecticut
  • Kara Lawson, Connecticut
  • Angel McCoughtry, Atlanta
  • Ticha Penicheiro, Los Angeles
  • Nicole Powell, New York
  • Ashley Robinson, Seattle (FA)
  • Scholanda Robinson, Tulsa (FA)
  • Jennifer Azzi, WNBA legend
  • Lisa Leslie, WNBA legend
  • Nancy Lieberman, WNBA legend
  • Lynette Woodard, WNBA legend

Several expressed excitement and awe during the days celebrating the crème of the crop in basketball, sending out tweets and making videos expressing their euphoria.

Powell, who flew in from Turkey via London, said getting to Dallas was one of her better trips. She has been happy playing in Turkey. “It’s been great,” she said when talking about the high number of WNBA players in the country and her team’s success. She plays for Fenerbahçe S. K. in Istanbul.

“We’re tops in the Turkish league right now.” Her team includes the Indiana Fever’s Tammy Sutton-Brown and Penny Taylor of the Phoenix Mercury.

She lit up when talking about her year of being a WNBA All-Star and then being in Dallas for the NBA event.

“You know I’m just happy to be here,” she said. “This is my first time being at the NBA All-Star so it’s been a whirlwind year. And basketball is basketball. At the end of the day the men’s game will inspire a love of the game….People enjoy it. It’s fun, it’s exciting.”

Ferdinand-Harris had a much shorter trip than Powell since she lives in San Antonio during the offseason. And even though this was not her first NBA All-Star appearance she was still excited to be a part of it.

“Oh my god they’re doing a great job of marketing the All-Star weekend,” she said when asked about the huge NBA banners on several skyscrapers in downtown Dallas. “It’s great, but the number one thing I’m looking forward to is, you know I’m Haitian, and they have this one NBA Cares commercial that I’m going to be shooting with [NBA player] Samuel Delambert. I’m really looking forward to it.”

Like Ferdinand-Harris, Dalembert is the sole representative of his nation in his league.

She participated in a few Haitian relief events during the weekend but expressed the desire to take on more WNBA-related duties to help the country where her parents were born. “I’ve been trying to get them to do them to do more,” she said of the league’s efforts. “I’ve been hoping that the WNBA would jump on this moment, you know just to get exposure.”

She remembers the day she heard about devastating earthquakes in Haiti last month.

“I could not believe it. I was stunned. I was watching CNN I remember watching it thinking ‘is this really happening?’”

The Future of the WNBA at NBA All-Star Week

This year marked a turning point for the WNBA’s involvement in the NBA All-Star festivities, as social media tools enhanced their stepped up efforts to have women’s players interacting and on the slate of planned activities. With Twitter.com, online videos, a promo premiere, Jam Session activities, the Celebrity Game and the Shooting Stars competition, not to mention the non-stop parties, it was a frenzied pace to keep up with over five days.

Next year the event goes to Los Angeles. It will be interesting to see if Hollywood glitz can top Dallas’ record-setting finale and how the WNBA integrates its presence into the mix.

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