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The Two-Minute Guide to NBA All-Star Weekend

How to enjoy the extravaganza descending upon Chicago — even if you’re not going to the game

Illustration by Chris Smith
Illustration: Chris Smith

What it is

Imagine an NBA game cranked all the way up. We’ve got celebs playing sports! Slam dunk contests! Ruffles sponsorships! The weekend is essentially a pageant of elongated men being forced to do superhuman tricks for thousands of people. Which is to say, if you’re someone who doesn’t care about basketball, the NBA All-Star Weekend is for you.

Why you should care

We’re not saying you have to care, jeez. But some people are amped because it’s the first time Chicago has hosted the game since 1988. Back then it was at the old Chicago Stadium, so this will be its debut at the United Center. Congrats to the United Center!

How an all-star game lasts an entire weekend

Festivities kick off Friday, February 14, at Wintrust Arena with a celebrity match (perfect for those who have ever dreamed of watching Dr. Oz try to cross over Hasan Minhaj), then move to the United Center for the Rising Stars game, featuring top rookies and sophomores (the Bulls’ Wendell Carter Jr. was selected but won’t be playing because of injury). Saturday night features a skills challenge and the three-point (paging Zach LaVine) and slam dunk contests. The inevitably anticlimactic All-Star Game is on Sunday.

How to get tickets

Bad news for the 99 percent of us: Tickets to the Saturday and Sunday events cost well over a grand. The Rising Stars game is your best bet — those tickets start at $65, and based on past years, it probably won’t sell out. A glimmer of hope to get into the main events: The NBA is running a citywide scavenger hunt on its NBA Events app for prizes, including tickets to the All-Star Game and the Saturday events. Otherwise, catch the action like the rest of us: on ESPN and TNT from your couch.

How to score a selfie with a star

Head to Navy Pier, where NBA Crossover will be happening the whole weekend. Think NBA-Con: essentially a giant NBA-meets-entertainment expo. Mingle with players past and present, catch new product unveilings (Foot Locker once brought a 360 Kick Cam to take sneaker selfies), and listen to live music (last year’s performers included J. Cole, Carly Rae Jepsen, and Meek Mill, which couldn’t have made the Raptors’ No. 1 fan very happy). All-day admission is $20.

Where to party like an all-star

All-Star-adjacent events will take place all weekend. Sound Bar in River North will host a day-to-evening party on Saturday, featuring performances from Fabolous and DJ Envy. Tunnel, a clubby spot in River North, will host a day event on Saturday, too. Or channel your inner baller and go to the Lavish Life All Black Yacht Party with DJ Sean Mac on the Anita Dee II, which departs from DuSable Harbor at 3 p.m. Sunday. If you’re a sneaker head, hit up the eighth annual Shoe Summit on Sunday (location TBA).

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