NBA All-star weekend to be held in ATL on one night for first time

The State Farm Arena will be largely empty because of the coronavirus pandemic

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Sunday’s NBA All-Star Game in Atlanta will be held at State Farm Arena on one night for the first time, with on-court action beginning at 6:30 p.m. ET on TNT. The event will differ from previous games as the arena will reportedly be largely empty because of the coronavirus pandemic. 

As part of this year’s game, the NBA and National Basketball Players Association (NBPA) announced that they will commit more than  $2.5 million in funds and resources toward Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCUs) and support and awareness around equity and access to COVID-19 care, relief and vaccines, per a press release. 

An earlier report on theGRIO noted that the All-Star Game is generating $3 million for Historically Black Colleges and Universities, through donations to scholarship funds. But the actual value to those schools will far exceed that influx of cash, with almost every All-Star element set to showcase and celebrate HBCU traditions and culture.

Read More: At the NBA All-Star Game, HBCUs will take center stage

The festivities will feature performances by HBCU marching bands, step teams, glee clubs and choirs, per Variety. The Clark Atlanta University Philharmonic Society Choir will serve up a virtual performance of “Lift Every Voice and Sing,” which the NBA says “will honor NAACP leader and Black national anthem songwriter James Weldon Johnson, who is also a Clark Atlanta alumnus.” 

The Grambling State University Tiger Marching Band and Florida A&M University Marching 100 will perform remotely during NBA All-Star player introductions.

On Thursday, the NBA All-Star draft aired on TNT, and All-Star captains LeBron James and Kevin Durant selected the players they want to represent their team, NBC Sports reports – see the Twitter post above.

“Throughout the game, members of the Divine Nine fraternities and sororities, a prestigious group of nine historically Black Greek letter organizations, will introduce Atlanta’s most reputable step teams from Spelman College and Morehouse College,” the NBA said in a statement.

“To highlight the significance of HBCUs, it is a tremendous windfall,” said Charles McClelland, the commissioner of the SWAC and a member of the NCAA Men’s Division I Basketball Committee. “It’s not just about the money. The exposure is going to allow students to go to our member institutions, to learn about our history, to learn about our culture. What they’re doing for the All-Star Game, we could not pay for and we could not duplicate.”

Music legend Gladys Knight, an Atlanta native and graduate of Shaw University — one of the nation’s oldest HBCUs — will sing the U.S. national anthem live from State Farm Arena on March 7, while Alessia Cara will follow up with a performance of the Canadian national anthem from a remote location in Toronto.  

Per USA Today, Tom Washington, Tony Brown and Courtney Kirkland were chosen as the officiating crew for this year’s All-Star Game. 

“I’ll tell you right now, one of the things is significant for me is that I’m working with Tom and I’m working with Tony. We could stop right there if we had to,” Kirkland said. “The HBCU thing, that’s awesome. But having the opportunity to work with two guys that are really close with me, it’s just an honor to work with them.”

Read More: Gladys Knight to sing national anthem at 2021 NBA All-Star game

Washington, a graduate of Norfolk State, added, “I think that exposure from this game is going to be fantastic because we’re going to actually enlighten people on another subset of our educational process here,” he said. “I’d like to see them exist on the same level as Ivy League schools, as Big Ten schools. And I also think that the fact that they’re doing that and the fact that us three are going to be out there representing them should be empowering and encouraging to the young people behind us. There is quality education being provided by HBCUs.”

TNT’s NBA All-Star coverage will begin at 5 p.m. ET with TNT NBA Tip-Off presented by CarMax,  followed by the Taco Bell Skills Challenge and MTN DEW 3-Point Contest starting at 6:30 p.m. ET.  

Coverage of the 70th NBA All-Star Game will begin at 8 p.m. ET, with AT&T Slam Dunk taking place at halftime. The game will follow the same format as last year, with the teams competing to win each quarter and playing to a Final Target Score during the untimed fourth quarter.  

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