It’s a couple years later than expected, but the NBA All-Star Weekend will take place in Charlotte this weekend.
The Hornets were originally supposed to host the rest of the league two years ago, but the game was moved during fallout over state law H.B. 2.
Now, free of any political baggage, the All-Star Game and the rest of the NBA’s activities that go along with it will come to Charlotte.
There will be plenty of players with connections to the state participating in the events as well.
Hornets guard Kemba Walker was voted by the fans as one of the game’s starters. He was drafted by team captain Giannis Antetokounmpo of the Bucks and will start for Team Giannis against LeBron James’ squad.
This is Walker’s third straight All-Star Game and first as a starter. He’s the first Charlotte player to make three straight teams since Glen Rice in 1996-1998. Walker is just the seventh different Charlotte player to be named an All-Star, and his appearance this year will be the 13th for the city’s franchise.
Walker is also the third Charlotte player to start the game, joining Larry Johnson (1993) and Eddie Jones (2000).
Walker earned the starting gig in his home arena by averaging 25.1 points and 5.7 assists per game this season.
Joining Walker in the Team Giannis starting lineup will be Charlotte native Steph Curry, of Golden State. This will be Curry’s sixth straight All-Star appearance and sixth consecutive start. He was Antetokounmpo’s first selection in the All-Star Draft.
Curry is averaging 28.6 points per game this year, his highest average in three years. His .449 shooting percentage on threes is also his highest in three years.
James will be reunited with a former Cleveland Cavaliers teammate after choosing former Duke one-and-done Kyrie Irving for his starting lineup. Irving is in his second year with the Celtics and averaging 23.6 points and 6.9 assists per game.
This will be Irving’s sixth All-Star Game and third in a row. He’s making his fourth start, also his third in a row.
Irving is the eighth Duke player to be named an All-Star. He already is the school’s all-time leading scorer in the game, with 92 points. He’ll tie Grant Hill for the most appearances by a Duke player in the game — Hill was selected seven times but didn’t appear in one of the games.
Duke is also well-represented in the other All-Star 2019 events. Former Blue Devils All-American Jay Williams will play in the Celebrity Game on Friday night. Williams’ NBA career was cut short by injury, and he’s now an ESPN college analyst. Also playing in the celebrity game will be longtime Carolina Panthers’ wide receiver Steve Smith.
Following the Celebrity Game, the NBA will feature its young players in the Rising Stars game. The rosters are made up of the top young American players pitted against the best young players from the rest of the world.
Two recent Duke stars will play for Team U.S.: Marvin Bagley III and Jayson Tatum.
Bagley, who led the Blue Devils last year, is averaging 13.3 points and 7.0 rebounds for Sacramento as a rookie. Tatum, a 2016-17 Blue Devil, is averaging 16.4 points and 6.3 rebounds in his second season with the Celtics.
They’ll be joined on U.S. team by Wake Forest’s John Collins. In his second year in the league, Collins is averaging 19.3 points and 9.8 rebounds with the Hawks.
Tatum and Collins will then need to rest up, because both will be competing on All-Star Saturday Night.
Tatum will participate in the Skills Challenge, which leads off the evening. The timed challenge tests a player’s speed, dribbling and passing ability.
Past winners with North Carolina connections include former Hornet Baron Davis (who won after the team moved to New Orleans), Curry and current Hornet Tony Parker (who won with San Antonio).
Curry and Walker will start their weekends a night early, as both All-Stars will take part in the 3-Point Contest. Curry won in 2015 and will be making his sixth appearance. He’ll be competing against his brother, former Liberty and Duke shooting star Seth Curry, of Portland.
This will be Walker’s second appearance in the contest. He finished third in 2017. He becomes the third Hornet to participate in multiple 3-Point Contests, joining the Curry brothers’ father, Dell, (twice) and Rice (three times). Scott Burrell is the only other Charlotte player to ever participate.
Former Tar Heel Danny Green, now of the Raptors, will also be competing in the 3-Point Contest for the first time.
Previous winners with a connection to the state include former Charlotte 49ers coach Mark Price, who won twice with Cleveland, former Hornet Rice (who won with Miami), Irving and Curry.
Perhaps the highlight of the weekend is the Slam Dunk contest. Three of the four competitors in this year’s dunk off have Carolina connections. Hornets rookie Miles Bridges will become the seventh Charlotte player to compete and first since Gerald Wallace in 2010.
Collins will also be competing, along with former NC State star Dennis Smith Jr. who is making is second straight appearance.
Past winners include NC State guard Spud Webb, former Tar Heel Michael Jordan (twice), former Tar Heel Vince Carter, one-time Hornet Dwight Howard (with Orlando) and Raleigh native John Wall, who won as part of a three-man team.