April 12, 2008 -- Look up in the sky! It’s a bird! It’s a plane! ... No, it’s Dwight Howard in a Superman cape at the 2008 NBA All-Star Game.
This season’s festivities, held Feb. 15-17, saw everything from high-flying athletes dressed as superheroes to the revitalization of a city, all topped off with a little Creole flavor thanks to the host city of New Orleans. The 2008 NBA All-Star celebration had the usual events -- the Skills Challenge, Three-Point Shootout and Shooting Stars contest. But one ordinary event, the Slam Dunk contest, blew everyone away with an extraordinary twist.
The 2008 Sprite Slam Dunk contest was held on Feb.16, but Howard, Rudy Gay, Jamario Moon and returning champ Gerald Green had been hyping the event via YouTube weeks in advance. Moon even launched a campaign asking fans to give him their ideas for putting up creative dunks. Howard displayed only a small part of his capabilities on the Web and kept the people wanting more … and, boy, did they get it.
In the second round of the contest, Howard ripped off his jersey to reveal a blue costume complete with that super-sized “S” and a red cape. Taking off from just inside the free throw line, his cape flying behind him, Howard soared into the hearts of spectators. Not only did he impress the judges but the fans, who got to vote in the dunk contest for the first time ever, also loved his acrobatics and awarded him the trophy.
“I don't think people want to see the same old dunks. They want to see something else, see some spice,” Howard said. The 6-foot-11 Orlando Magic center is the tallest slam dunk champion ever
"Everybody always says, big men can't jump and big men don't look good dunking,” Howard said. “I just tried to add a little bit of my personality. With me being so tall, I knew it was going to be tough. I tried to play to the crowd and have fun." Howard said.
Since New Orleans brought so much flavor and style to the 2008 All-Star celebration, it was only right for the NBA to give back with a weeklong community service effort. The endeavor culminated on Feb. 15 with over 2,500 NBA “family members” going into the city to rebuild playgrounds, houses and help Hurricane Katrina victims on their arduous journey home.
“There is nothing more important to the league than helping this city and its people rebuild," said NBA Commissioner David Stern.
For Dallas Morning News NBA beat writer Eddie Sefko, the day of service was a way of giving back to a city that had been so good to him over the years.
"To pitch in and put in a window or put on a roof. When you see who owns these homes with a smile and saying thank you, it can only make you feel good inside.”
After the day of service and slam dunk contest, fans gathered in the New Orleans Arena on the final day of the celebration for the main event; the 57th Annual NBA All-Star Game.
The returning champion West All-Stars came with a fully stacked starting lineup including Kobe Bryant, Allen Iverson, Carmelo Anthony, Tim Duncan,
Yao Ming and Byron Scott as head coach. Not to be outdone, the East All-Stars came determined to win the title back with Jason Kidd, Dwyane Wade, LeBron James, Howard and Kevin Garnett, who was sidelined due to injury. However, Boston was well represented with Paul Pierce and Ray Allen coming off the bench and Doc Rivers at the helm.
After a tight game, the East prevailed 134-128. LeBron won his second All-Star MVP in three years and his teammate Daniel ‘Boobie’ Gibson took home the MVP in the T-Mobile Rookie Challenge two nights earlier. First-time All-Star
Chris Paul was not victorious this time around but he did put on a stunning performance to the tune of 16 points, 14 assists and four steals for his well-deserving home fans
“I think the total weekend was a success, especially with the community efforts and the people of New Orleans coming out and getting excited about the NBA and the way the NBA reached out to the community will be something I think I'll never forget," Paul said.
All-Star break had never been jazzier thanks to The Big Easy, which got the much needed attention it deserved with folks from all over the world celebrating the aura, mystery and just good old fashion fun that New Orleans had to offer.
Next stop… Phoenix 2009.