All-Star Weekend gets its official kickoff this morning when David Stern, Magic owner Dan DeVos (Rich DeVos' son and the new heir to the Magic empire... I made that up), mayor Buddy Dyer and several NBA legends officially kick off the festivities with a media event tonight at 5 p.m. at the Orange County Convention Center.
Jam Session has been going on for a day now and the All-Star Weekend will officially begin tonight as the players and staff get into Orlando. The Magic will be making their way into town after playing the Hawks.
There is a perception that local Orlando fans will largely be excluded from the weekend's festivities. Tickets to the "main event" on Sunday and several of the events at Amway Center are priced out of the normal fans' reach. According to TiqIQ the average price of tickets for the BBVA Rising Stars Game is $136; for NBA All-Star Saturday Night is $810; and for the NBA All-Star Game on Sunday is $1056. There are plenty of these tickets available on TiqIQ and other secondary markets, just be prepared to spend some cash to get them.
This is a major event, on the level of the Super Bowl, and will be bringing a lot of people to Downtown Orlando and throughout the area. But these prices do eliminate a fair amount of Magic fans and basketball fans from the proceedings. This is not the kind of event where you will be able to walk up to the window and buy $10 tickets in the nose bleeds like you would a normal Magic game.
So how will Orlando residents officially participate and enjoy the entertainment options of All-Star Weekend?
The best way is by attending the NBA Jam Session at the Orange County Convention Center (h/t on the map to Brian Serra of Magic Basketball Online). You have probably seen advertisements for this all over the Magic broadcast and throughout Orlando. This is the major event for the everyday fan.
It is interactive, it is reasonably priced (tickets as low as $12, although I believe they jump to $20) and it is likely your best chance to interact with the NBA, NBA legends and NBA All-Stars this weekend.
What is Jam Session?
Jam Session is an interactive event with displays and activities representing many of the NBA's initiatives. It is where the Celebrity All-Star Game (a separate ticketed event) and All-Star practices (also a separate ticketed event) will take place. There are displays commemorating current NBA players -- the ubiquitous compare your shoe size and hand size to your favorite NBA player display -- and displays commemorating former NBA players. There is a Hall of Fame booth displaying memorabilia from the Hall's archives.
There is a booth that allows you to try your hand at David Steele's job and broadcast a Magic or Heat game for a while.
There is a dunking booth with rims for all jumping abilities. A 3-point shooting booth for those kind of friendly competitions. There is a Cartoon Network-sponsored booth for other NBA-inspired activities (I am sure you saw the commercials with the kids dunking off of trampolines).
There also will be clinics and appearances from NBA stars and legends throughout the weekend depending on when you go. This is a major promotional item for the NBA, but also a major way to engage the everyday fan as opposed to the ritzier, celebrity-filled crowd that will be at the actual game.
This is a family friendly event that is the best way for fans to interact with the All-Star festivities.
Our good friend, Adam Papageorgiou got a chance to go to the season ticket holder event held at Jam Session last night as a preview to its official opening today. He called it a basketball fan's paradise:
"The entire ordeal was such a delight, and even after 4 hours in the Convention Center there's still much left one can accomplish. I was basically living my childhood fantasy at Jam Session, and it's something a basketball addict really won't forget. If you have the money and the time, definitely check this out."
As Adam points out in his review of the evening, getting into the major activities -- like a replica of the Taco Bell Skills Challenge course -- can be a little like being at a theme park. Plan accordingly. It just does not have the theme park prices. And there seems to be plenty to do and see.
If you are not inclined to the Jam Session part of All-Star Weekend. Another way to interact with the weekend (in an unofficial capacity) is through the various parties occurring throughout downtown Orlando.
Dwight Howard is hosting a Welcome to Orlando party tonight at Roxy Nightclub with a $40 general admission entrance. I am imagining this might be the cheapest you can get to some of these celebrity parties. And of course, there is no guarnatee you will actually see the said celebrity hosts. Howard's name is attached to three parties throughout the weekend and several other players have their own gigs going at various downtown hotspots.
The most comprehensive list I have found is from OrlandoAllStarWeekend.com. I would warn to double check everything at the venue's specific Web site for ticket information.
While the TV events seem to be big-ticket items that will be outside most fans' price range. It is still apparent that there is a lot fans can do to enjoy the weekend.