Another viewpoint: Planners behind All-Star events created an all-state celebration

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Indiana Business Journal

The NBA All-Star Weekend isn’t happening just in Indianapolis.

The local host committee has taken steps to spread the pro basketball love across the state, a place long known for its “Hoosier hysteria” for basketball at all levels of competition.

And the NBA, Pacers Sports & Entertainment and their civic partners all are to be commended for helping to give many Hoosiers a chance to be part of the action.

They’ve accomplished this by emphasizing that you don’t need a hard-to-find ticket to the All-Star Game itself to enjoy other activities during All-Star Weekend Feb. 16-18 or to feel the impact of related projects and competitions across the state.

The Hoosier outreach began way back in February 2020, when Indy was set to host the 2021 All-Star Game. The host committee identified 21 not-for-profits to receive $50,000 grants for legacy projects focused on improving health and wellness.

Because Indianapolis’ hosting duties were moved to 2024 due to the pandemic, the host committee added another three grants this year to bring the total to a fitting 24.

The results can be seen across the state, from a renovated gym at the Boys & Girls Clubs of Greater Northwest Indiana to adjustable hoops and a retractable curtain added to the Dream Center gym in Evansville.

Several central Indiana groups also benefited from the grants, including Hawthorne Community Center and Jameson Camp, which each used part of their grant money to create spaces for science, technology, engineering and math, or STEM, activities.

The Christamore House, a community organization at West Michigan and Tremont streets that serves near-west-side residents, received a $250,000 combined grant from the NBA, the local host committee and Indiana Pacers co-owner Herb Simon. That allowed the not-for-profit to refurbish Christamore House’s basketball gym and add a fitness center and a STEM center.

Other statewide outreach included a knockout basketball competition held pregame or at halftime of high school basketball games in each of the state’s 92 counties. Players competed for prizes and a chance to take part in the Ultimate Knockout Challenge at Bicentennial Plaza in downtown Indianapolis.

In addition, 24 basketball sculptures celebrating key Indiana moments in the sport will be scattered across downtown, noting everything from the Muncie Central squads that once dominated the state tournament to tiny Milan’s 1954 state championship that inspired the movie “Hoosiers,” to the 1955 Crispus Attucks squad led by Oscar Robertson that became the nation’s first all-Black squad to win an open state tournament.

The host committee also managed to reserve spots for Hoosier ticket buyers at All-Star Saturday Night.

And even more affordable access will be available at NBA Crossover, a fan experience at the Indiana Convention Center that will host a stream of player meet-and-greets, lots of digital and real basketball games, and plenty of NBA gear and prizes throughout the weekend.

Of course, all the Hoosier outreach shows great marketing prowess on the part of local planners.

But it still gives us the warm fuzzies for the roar of a high school basketball crowd on a chilly winter night.