New Orleans Natives Jazz Things Up at the 57th All-Star Game

The city of New Orleans is truly a feast for the senses. From the distinctive, rich cuisine to the mellifluous harmonies of jazz, funk and the blues, the Big Easy had something for everyone at the NBA All-Star Game. Musicians Harry Connick Jr. and Branford Marsalis, both New Orleans natives, collaborated on the evening’s entertainment and delivered a unique musical set that not only brought out the sounds of New Orleans, but also celebrated the rebirth and ongoing development of this amazing town. Fans in the arena and watching around the world were treated to one of the most entertaining and creative shows in All-Star history.
Connick, who watched the game courtside with his wife, Jill, and their three daughters,

served as musical director for a memorable halftime show that featured four original duets performed by jazz pianists Connick Jr., Ellis Marsalis, Allen Toussaint, Davell Crawford, Dr. John, Art Neville, Ivan Neville and Jonathan Batiste.
"The preparation process was easy," Connick Jr. said. "I just thought of who I wanted to perform with. We picked some older guys and younger guys as well as four different songs that represent the young and old, but also show what we're doing as a city and that we're going to continue rebuilding."
Marsalis served as musical director for the player intros, which featured a set of high-energy big band melodies composed by Marsalis and performed by the acclaimed Rebirth Brass Band. The

performance also featured the brilliant musical stylings of award-winning trumpeter Kermit Ruffins and Offbeat Magazine’s 2007 Performer of the Year, Trombone Shorty, who introduced the Western and Eastern Conference All-Star teams.
"New Orleans is getting a fair share of publicity when you compare it to the rest of the Gulf Coast at large, which was devastated across the board," Marsalis said. "But I think it is unbelieveably generous that the NBA decided to not only come here for the All-Star Game, but to go out of its way to recruit players, league staff and countless other volunteers to do their part here. They are not obligated to do this, but it is great that they did it."
Of course, both Connick Jr. and Marsalis are fans, first

and foremost, and excited to be participating in the All-Star festivities.
"I have always been a sports junkie," Marsalis said. "I went to a whole lot of sporting events before I was ever asked to perform at them so I think my job is real simple. I do what it is that they ask me to do, and then get out of the way as quickly as possible. The fans aren't really here to see us."

Courtside on Sunday
The best seats for the All-Star Game on Sunday were reserved for Ludacris, Snoop, Dr. J, Terrell Owens, Bruce Hornsby, Doug E Fresh, Chris Tucker, Jet Li, Gabrielle Union and David Robinson.
Democracy In Action
After a thrilling 2008 NBA All-Star Game that came down to the wire, the global fan vote helped make Cleveland's LeBron James the game's MVP. And that was just fine by California governor Arnold Schwarzenegger. "He absolutely deserved it. But you know what I liked the most? The number of t-shirts that were handed out here today. And it was a great game. There was unbelieveable suspense at the end, probably more than in any of my movies."
She Plays One On TV
Up-and-coming young Olivia Wilde, who plays a doctor in Fox's hit drama "House, M.D.," is huge fan of Kobe Bryant and had hoped he would come out and play hard. But the Lakers star saw only limited action while nursing a pinky injury. "I'm torn because as a fake doctor, that experience tells me that he should have probably rested up for the second half of the season. But as a fan, I want him to suck it up and put on a good show for me." She is currently shooting a movie, The Year One, in nearby Shreveport, Louisiana, along with Jack Black, Michael Cera and Oliver Platt.
They Said It...
Former NFL cornerback Deion Sanders, a shut-down defender in his prime(time), thinks Dwight Howard would be the toughest All-Star to shut down. "He's like a monster tight end. A freak of nature," Sanders said while watching the All-Star Game with his model wife, Pilar.
You Voted, You Decided
With fans encouraged to vote for the All-Star M.V.P. online and via text message, one man who knows all about fan voting, "American Idol" Taylor Hicks, hoped the fans would vote and vote often. Hicks enjoyed his first All-Star experience. "I'm a straight hot dog-and-beer guy," he said.
All in the Family
MTV veejay Lala Vazquez, who just appeared in the new S.I. swimsuit edition this week, sat in the stands and rocked baby Kiyan, on her lap. The pair watched as their fiance and father, Western Conference forward Carmelo Anthony, was hard at work on the court below. Also sitting together courtside were Branford Marsalis and his father, Ellis, as well as NBA legend David Robinson and his three sons.
Stars... Just Like Us
They eat popcorn at basketball games!
Working Overtime
After going through the red carpet circuit, answering questions and posing for pictures with his wife prior to the All-Star Game on Sunday, old-school hip-hop icon Michael Bivins (below) then grabbed a mic and got on the end of the line of reporters to ask questions for his show on TNT Overtime here on NBA.com. "I really wasn't asked any hard questions when I went through, but being a reporter is tough work."

Jam Session
Music producer Jimmy Jam wore a pair of custom KG sneakers from adidas to the game on Sunday. The Grammy Academy Chair once took Celtics All-Star Kevin Garnett under his wing when he came into the NBA straight from of high school and looks upon the 11-time All-Star as a son.

All-Stars In Awe of the Celebs
"We're fans of them and they're fans of ours," Carmelo Anthony said. "To see guys like Deion, T.O. and Ludacris and all them guys sitting courtside watching us in the All-Star Game, obviously we're doing good to attract their attention."

Actor or Baller?
So what does "One Tree Hill's" James Lafferty think would be harder, being an actor or a professional athlete? "An 82-game schedule is a really long season. And then the Playoffs? No, athletes have to be in shape and well-conditioned all year long."

Hometown Hero
Talk about beloved athletes here in the Big Easy, legendary New Orleans Saints quarterback Archie Manning, father of the last two Super Bowl-winning quarterbacks, got one of the loudest ovations of the night when he was introduced to the fans on Sunday.

Overheard At All-Star
Chris Tucker
and Terrell Owens bumped into TNT's Charles Barkley walking through the back-of house-area during the second half. Barkley was looking for a role in Tucker's new movie, which Chris stopped short of promising. Barkley pretended not to see Owens, asking Tucker if he had seen Owens.

It's Gotta Be The Shoes
"I wear Amare Stoudemire's Nike shoes when I play," Terry Crews said. The "Everybody Hates Chris"actor is currently starring in the Nike commercials as The Chancellor of Basketball. "The Air 360's absorb all my 250 pounds and they're so light that you feel like you want to throw down a viscious dunk."

A True Fan
"I was a dumb, 13-year old kid," Friday Night Lights quarterback Zach Gilford told me on the red carpet, speaking about a tattoo on his right leg dedicated to Scottie Pippen. "My best friend and I were tattooing each other and it was the year Jordan retired and Pip was carrying the team on his back. And now I'll have it for the rest of my life. I've learned my tattoo lesson."

Faces In The Crowd
CNN's Anderson Cooper, host of AC360 nightly, hoping to see LeBron James throw down a 360 of his own.

Say, Can You Sing?
When done well, a great National Anthem performance can set the tone for an event or game. Prior to the start of the All-Star Game on Sunday night, renowned jazz vocalist Stephanie Jordan was accompanied by Branford Marsalis and guitarist Jonathan Dubose for a stirring, subdued rendition of the Star Spangled Banner. R&B singer Deborah Cox, whose 1998 song “Nobody’s Supposed to Be Here” held the record for the longest-running No.1 single on Billboard’s Hot R&B/Hip Hop chart, performed the Canadian national anthem as well.
Kings of the Party Scene
With Shaq, Amare Stoudemire and Chris Bosh singing along, Snoop Dogg performed at the annual NBA Players Association party at Jam Session on Saturday night. Even Snoop's favorite relative, Uncle June Bug, was getting down on stage... And everyone who is anyone was clamoring to get their hands on a ticket to Saturday night's "Two Kings" party co-hosted by LeBron James and Jay-Z at Generation Hall so they could move to the music of Clark Kent and Mick Boogie. Terrell Owens was one of the many guests at the Playboy party at Foundry.
The Doctor Is IN
With Dr. J and Dr. Jack Ramsay and Doc Rivers all looking on, legendary multi-instrumentalist Dr. John paid tribute to NBA Cares and the work we all did here this week, with a special performance of the Louis Armstrong original hit "What a Wonderful World." Says Dr. John, "That was the first time I ever performed that song. I had played it with other people playing it, but never with me singing it. But I was glad to do it. Basketball is an international sport that brings people together across the world. There is something positive here."
Photo: Ronald Martinez/NBAE/Getty Images
Everyone Into The Pool
Alonzo Mourning and Magic Johnson co-hosted the Boostmobile Zo and Magic 8-Ball Challenge Celebrity Pool Tournament at The Sugar Mill on Thursday night. Guests packed the converted warehouse along the riverfront to watch Reggie Bush and beau Kim Kardashian, Chris "Ludacris" Bridges, WNBA star Lisa Leslie and Carmelo Anthony shooting stick. But the main attraction was the game between Michael Bivins of Bel Biv Devoe with an unnamed partner against the team of Michael Jordan and Chris Paul. Biv's team bested M.J. and CP3, but "His Airness" got revenge in a 1-on-1 rematch. Also at the party but keeping a lower profile were Russell Simmons, Danny Glover, Redman, DJ Clue, Vivica A. Fox, Lala and ESPN.com's Bill Simmons.

We Can Play, Too
Despite a late arrival, NFL star Terrell Owens put on a show in the McDonald's Celebrity All-Star Game on Friday night, leading his team in an epic comeback effort and finishing as the team's leading scorer. Also putting up respectable numbers were boxing champ Floyd Mayweather, retired NFL legend Deion Sanders and hip hop prouducer Master P, who spent time in NBA training camp years ago. The winning team was coached by starlet Gabrielle Union, who deferred the basketball strategy to her more vociferous general managers, ESPN's Stephen A. Smith. Also taking part and showing they can play were American Idol Taylor Hicks, "Friday Night Lights" hunk Zach Gilford, rapper Common and "The Wire's Seth Gilliam. Rush Hour 3 star Chris Tucker was the game's long distance champ, banking 3-pointers all night long. But the most memorable highlight of the night was "Everyone Hates Chris" star Terry Crews putting on a dance show at center court.

Saturday Night Fever
Among the honored guests sitting courtside at All-Star Saturday Night were action star Jet Li, R&B performer Jimmy Jam and California governor Arnold Schwarzenegger with his wife, Maria Shriver, and their children. The governor and TNT analyst Charles Barkley met up on the court after the game to discuss the upcoming elections.

Seen and Heard...
Rapper Bizmarkie in the Sheraton hotel lobby talking to fans on Friday... Ed, Steve, Tyler, Jim and Kevin of the Barenaked Ladies performing at the TNT party at House of Blues on Saturday night... Snoop Dogg performing at the annual NBA Players Association party on Saturday night... 2007 “American Idol” winner and teen-dream Jordin Sparks sitting courtside on Saturday night after performing her Billboard Top 100 single “Tattoo” during halftime at the Rookie-Soph Game on Friday.


Tech-Savvy Veterans

The annual meeting of the business minds that is The NBA Technology Summit drew some of the most influential leaders in across the digital spectrum. The group discussed a wide range of topics including the future of social networking, the proliferation of mobile technology and the relative shrinking of the international community." Anchoring the panels were the CNN braintrust of Wolf Blitzer, Soledad O'Brien and uber-bachelor Anderson Cooper. Also on hand at the Ritz Carlton in downtown New Orleans were NCAA President Myles Brand and Mitch Landrieu, the Lt. Governor of the state of Louisiana.

Just Asking...
Which Oscar-nominated director and longtime friend of His Airness was seen making the rounds at the House of XX3 Jordan party at the New Orleans Board of Trade on Friday night? Here's a hint: He starred alongside Michael Jordan in those Nike commercials nearly 20 years ago. Do you know? Do you know? Do you know?

Common Occurrence
ESPN always gets someone hot to headline at their annual Friday night party at All-Star. And no one is hotter these days than Grammy-winning rapper Common, who busted out all of his popular hits like "The Light," "The Corner" and "Love of My Life" as Corbin Bleu of Disney's High School Musical Fame and a slew of ESPN broadcasting talent looked on.


Virtual Reality

You know a party is just getting started when New Orleans Saints running back Reggie Bush and his girlfriend, Kim Kardashian roll up in his cream-colored Range Rover and toss the keys to a police officer. Well that's exactly what happened outside the EA Sports Party at Republic. Once inside, he posed for pictures with the NBA players already there to compete in the video game tournament and noshed on some of the delicious local cuisine provided by K-Paul's Louisiana Kitchen, the restaurant of Chef Paul Prudhomme. Super celeb Eva Longoria was also there to cheer on her hubb, Spurs All-Star Tony Parker, who went all the way to the Finals and won the championship. Seriously, is there anything that this guy can't do?
Service Care Professionals
When the NBA organized the All-Star Day of Service, we knew that players and league staffers would take part. But what we could not predict was the level of committment that everyone else in town was willing to give. Also not afraid to get his hands dirty was "Heroes" actor James Kyson Lee, who plays the powerless, yet loveable, Ando. While waiting for the writer's strike to end so he can get back to work, Lee helped paint a house for one of the many victims of Hurricane Katrina. Also not afraid to work in the rain was Hollywood hottie Alyssa Milano, who helped lay the foundation of a house in the Lower Ninth Ward. Tyler Hicks, Common, Jet Li, Zach Gilford and Gabrielle Union also got to keep their special NBA Cares gloves.

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All photos: NBAE/Getty Images