All-Star Weekend brings NBA fans together across Chicago for 1st time in over 3 decades

ByWill Jones, John Garcia, and Alexis McAdams via WLS logo
Sunday, February 16, 2020
NBA All-Star Weekend: Barack Obama hosts discussion with Giannis Antetokounmpo, Kevin Love, Chris Paul; St. Sabina Church kicks off Peace Tournament
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People across Chicago are bonding over their love for basketball as the city hosts NBA All-Star Weekend.

CHICAGO (WLS) -- People across Chicago are bonding over their love for basketball as the city hosts NBA All-Star Weekend.

While some of the NBA's biggest names are in town, the weekend isn't just about the All-Star Game. It's also about engaging the community.

The Obama Foundation held a fireside chat on Saturday with special guests Giannis Antetokounmpo, Kevin Love, Chris Paul and sports analyst Michael Wilbon. The conversation focused on how the panelists use their platforms to make positive impacts in their communities.

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On Saturday, St. Sabina Church on the South Side also hosted the annual Peace Tournament.

"We have a peace tournament every year. This is kind of a special one because it is All-Star Weekend," said Father Michael Pfleger. "Jordan brand gave all the guys uniforms, all the paraphernalia that we have handing around here. They got shorts, jerseys."

NBA legend Bill Russell, referee James Capers and Chicago Bulls' Denzel Valentine came out to inspire the players on how they can achieve greatness on and off the court.

"It's not easy. Hard work, dedication, sacrifice, keeping the right head, making the right choices," Valentine said. "You got to keep preserving through things."

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Peace Tournament players are making sure to take every shot this All-Star Weekend.

"Yesterday, we went to the Rising All-Star Game, met a lot of the players. It's a fun experience," said player Lamarius Bellamy.

Seeing NBA stars up close and getting the All-Star treatment themselves is a win not only for the players, but also for the community.

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"You got the All-Star Game happening, but this is like a mini All-Star Game," said Joseph Williams, who came out to watch Saturday.

Brenda Samuel, who also attended the game, said it's "a positive thing for the kids in the community, especially our young boys who need positive role models."

The Jr. NBA Skills Challenge was also attracting basketball lovers to the United Center on Saturday.

Antonio Clardy brought the fourth and fifth grade teams he coaches from south suburban Posen.

"They all aspire to be basketball players, so get started early," Clardy said.

It's been more than three decades since the last time Chicago hosted the annual All-Star Game. For local fans, the only drawback to hosting the game in Chicago is the fact that there are no Bulls playing.

But that's not a problem for Lakeisha Grier, who brought her son from Detroit for his 17th birthday.

"Pretty good weekend," Grier said. "Fun, exciting, friendly."