Denton: All-Star Game Balloting presented by Sprint Unveiled

By John Denton
January 4, 2012

ORLANDO – The countdown for Orlando ultimately becoming ``the capital of the basketball world,’’ as Orlando Magic CEO Alex Martins referred to it, began on Wednesday with the unveiling of the official All-Star ballot presented by Sprint.

Four Magic players – Dwight Howard, Jameer Nelson, Hedo Turkoglu and Jason Richardson – are on the ballot, highlighted of course by Howard, Orlando’s four-time all-star. Howard set an all-time NBA record in 2009 with more than 3.1 million votes and he was again the East’s leading vote-getter last year with nearly 2.1 million votes from fans.

The 61st NBA annual All-Star Game will be played on Sunday, Feb. 26 in Orlando at the dazzling Amway Center. The Rising Stars Challenge will be held on Feb. 24, while the All-Star Saturday Night present by State Farm will be held on Feb. 25. In addition, the NBA All-Star Jam presented by Adidas will be held at the Orange County Convention Center throughout the week.

Hosting an event the magnitude of the NBA All-Star Game – it will be broadcast in more than 200 countries and in 40 languages worldwide – is why Orlando pushed for the construction of the state-of-the art Amway Center, which opened Oct. 10, 2010. Martins said the All-Star festivities will have a $100 million economic impact in Orlando.

The 100,000 guests are expected to fill up 30,000 hotel room nights and breathe life into downtown Orlando and surrounding areas of Central Florida.

``This event comes at a time when our local economy could use a boost,’’ Martins said. ``We’re coming off a year in which our city had the best visitation of any city in the country with more than 51 million people. Certainly our downtown economy could use the boost and the NBA All-Star events should generate about $100 million of economic impact. The last two all-star weekends have had that kind of impact on those communities and we believe it will have the same impact here over the five days of the event.’’

Orlando will be the host of the NBA All-Star Game for the first time in 25 years. The 1992 game is widely considered one of the most memorable all-star events ever held in any sport after Magic Johnson returned to basketball after contracting the HIV virus and won the game’s Most Valuable Player award.

Highlights of the 1992 game were shown on Wednesday as the Magic and the league joined in announcing the start of balloting for the All-Star Game. Drummers and the Magic Dancers were on hand for Wednesday’s announcement, which also featured Orlando mayor Buddy Dyer and Gail Hunter, the NBA’s Senior VP of Events and Attractions.

All-Star voting for gives fans around the world the opportunity to vote daily for their favorite players as starters for the 2012 Game. Fans can cast their votes in 16 languages on NBA.com and through mobile phones by texting the player’s last name to 6-9-6-2-2 (``MYNBA’’) or by visiting m.NBA.com on any wireless carrier. Sprint customers can also access the ballot and vote through the new ``Sprint NBA Mobile’’ application.

Howard will undoubtedly be the center of attention throughout the festivities in Orlando. He has become an international phenomenon through the past few years, earning 7.6 million votes over the past three seasons. He said his anticipation over Orlando hosting the All-Star Game has been building for years.

``It is special having it here. We’ve been talking about this for the last couple of years and how we were going to make this game very exciting and good for our city,’’ said Howard, who added he had no interest in competing in the dunk contest again. ``We’re looking forward to putting on a good show for Orlando.’’

Tickets to the NBA All-Star Saturday Night and the All-Star Game will be scarce for fans locally. The Magic were allocated 3,000 tickets to the Saturday and Sunday events and will get 5,000 tickets to the Friday night Rookie-Sophomore Game.

The Magic will conduct a drawing later this month for season-ticketholders to earn the right to buy tickets to the events. For the marquee All-Star Game, lower bowl tickets are $750 apiece, while upper bowl seats are $500. The NBA sets the prices for the events and controls the majority of the tickets.

``The challenge is that this is the NBA’s marquee event and we don’t get the opportunity to have that many tickets accessible to us,’’ Martins said. ``The average NBA fan here in the local community is going to have a chance to interact with the all-stars in some form or fashion. It starts with the Jam Session at the Orange County Convention Center, and there are going to be more than 100,000 fans will go through that. Players will be there, teams will practice there and legends will be there doing autograph sessions.

``Magic season ticket holders will have the priority over any other general public or any other team season ticket holders to have the opportunity to purchase these tickets,’’ Martins continued. ``As we go through all three days of events hopefully every season-ticketholder who wants to interact will get the opportunity to do so.’’

Martins added that while the eyes of the basketball world will be on Orlando during the All-Star weekend, hosting the NBA will allow Orlando to showcase itself as a potential home to other major sporting events. With the state-of-the-art Amway Center now at its disposal, Orlando can now compete with other cities to host college basketball, gymnastics and figure skating events along with political conventions. Martins said this is Orlando’s chance to showcase its arena and its ability to host major events.

``This is our opportunity as a community to show that we can host these major sporting events now that we have the facility,’’ Martins said. ``We can compete with all of the cities that host the major events such as the NCAA Regional Tournaments, the Women’s Final Four or the World Gymnastics Championships or the World Figure Skating Championships. If we pull this off in a way that I know that we can pull it off, I think every other one of those events are going to want to come to our region. And those events will generate similar economic impacts that the NBA All-Star Game will.’’

John Denton writes for OrlandoMagic.com. John has covered the Magic since 1997 and recently authored ``All You Can Be’’ with Magic center Dwight Howard. E-mail John at jd41898@aol.com

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