By Art Garcia, for NBA.com
Posted Feb 14 2010 12:29PM
ARLINGTON -- Get ready for big. Texas BIG.
Mark Cuban first talked about the magic number 16 months ago. Jerry Jones followed suit and kept raising the ante. Two Dallas owners with limitless imagination matched by near-limitless funds had one goal in mind for Sunday night's All-Star Game at Cowboys Stadium.
"Instinctively, if you can say 1-0-0," Jones said, "it slides out better than 9-0."
For those keeping track at home, that's 100,000 and that's the number of fans both hope to jam into the $1.3 billion sporting palace halfway between Dallas and Fort Worth. All indications are more than 95,000 tickets have been sold and don't be surprised if the official count hits six figures.
The league remains cautious when it comes to touting 100,000, but clearly records are going to fall. The largest crowd ever to see a basketball game is 78,129 for Kentucky- Michigan State at Detroit's Ford Field in 2003.
"We are going to set a Guinness Book of records number with something in excess of 90,000 people in a beautiful stadium that is one of a kind," NBA commissioner David Stern said Saturday. "And we are really excited about that."
The rest of the D-FW Metroplex and the NBA nation share that excitement. In its first year of operation, Cowboys Stadium has become a celebrity in its own right. The building stands as a monument to the Cowboys and Jones, but its use goes far beyond football.
Cuban first pictured the NBA premier entertainment showcase coming to North Texas when Arlington and the Cowboys joined forces to build the larger-than-life stadium five years ago. Affectionately nicknamed Jerry World or the Death Star in these parts, Cowboys Stadium is a technological marvel, a space age stadium in a state that celebrates colossal like no other.
"I'm still wondering what it's going to look like, what it's going to feel like," said Deron Williams, a Western Conference All-Star guard and Dallas native. "By far it'll be the most people I've ever played in front of. It should be exciting. I've been to the stadium for football games, so I know what the atmosphere can be like."
The retractable-roof stadium is home to the world's largest high-definition video board, which weighs 600 tons, and measures 160 feet wide by 72 feet high. A court is only 94 feet long. The stadium casts a sleek silver profile of glass and steel that dwarfs the adjacent Texas Rangers' baseball park. Cowboys Stadium will host the Super Bowl next year and the NCAA Final Four in 2014.
But it's the NBA All-Star Game that gets the nod as the first true international spectacle. In some ways, it's the 25th All-Star.
"When the Cowboys and Giants played that first game, people didn't talk about the game," said Cuban, referring to the opening NFL game that drew more than 105,000 fans. "They talked about the screen, they talked about the stadium and I don't think this is going to be any different."
As for the actual game, playing on a raised court set down in the middle of the stadium should provide its own set of challenges. Depth perception and backgrounds matter to shooters, so domes usually don't jive with long-range bombers. One of the best ever from downtown is prepared to make an exception for the All-Star Game at Cowboys Stadium.
"From a shooter's standpoint, I would like to play in a smaller venue, but this is more of an exhibition game," said Reggie Miller, the NBA's career 3-point leader and current TNT analyst. "You're playing in a place where there will potentially be 100,000 people watching you play. If you can't get jacked up and excited about that, sight lines really don't matter.
"Personally for me, I can't wait to watch it on Jerry-Vision. That's awesome. That's what I'm looking forward to. It's going to be an awesome environment. To have potentially 100,000 people watch an All-Star Game? It's going to be unreal."
And Jones promised a perk one might not expect in a stadium able to seat a mid-sized city.
"It'll be intimate," he said. "It'll have an energy that's hard to replicate for basketball. This is something that we've planned on and hoped for."
The league has done All-Star Games in football stadiums before, including two in Texas. San Antonio hosted in 1996 and Houston set the current All-Star attendance record of 44,735 in 1989. Bringing it to Cowboys Stadium, considering the personalities involved, was an easy sell.
"This was just a unique opportunity," said Ski Austin, the NBA's executive vice president of events and attractions. "The Mavericks and we agreed that this would be a special kind of experience and we had a lot of cooperation from the Cowboys."
Art Garcia has covered the NBA since 1999. You can e-mail him here and follow him on twitter.
The views on this page do not necessarily reflect the views of the NBA, its clubs or Turner Broadcasting.
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