Orlando, Fla. • It's been nearly two decades since Salt Lake City received the NBA's white-hot spotlight during the league's annual All-Star Game and flashy three-day weekend.
Nineteen years ago, Michael Jordan braved Utah's winter chill and was joined by many of the biggest names to play the sport during the past 20 years. Shaquille O'Neal, Charles Barkley, Isiah Thomas, Dominique Wilkins, Hakeem Olajuwon, David Robinson and Patrick Ewing floated across the Delta Center hardwood. Jazz legends John Stockton and Karl Malone carried home co-Most Valuable Player awards during the Western Conference's 135-132 overtime victory Feb. 21, 1993. And for several days, SLC was the center of the NBA universe, not New York, Los Angeles, Dallas or Phoenix.
With Orlando hosting the 2012 All-Star event its second in exactly 20 years and Houston having secured the 2013 game after previously holding the event in 2006, SLC seems ripe for renewal. The Jazz are one of the league's showcase small-market franchises; the city has successfully presented everything from the MiLB Triple-A All-Star Game and Major League Soccer All-Star Game in recent years; SLC proved in 2002 it was Olympic worthy, and the city's in the early stages of eyeing the 2022 or 2026 Winter Games.
But while representatives for the Utah Sports Commission and Salt Lake City Chamber of Commerce said this week they're open to SLC again hosting the NBA All-Star game, Jazz president Randy Rigby told The Salt Lake Tribune that Utah has no immediate interest in bringing the league's biggest stars back to EnergySolutions Arena.
"At this point, we do not have any immediate plans to apply to host the All-Star Game. That is not something we are focused on right now, but perhaps it is something that will happen down the road," Rigby said. "Right now, all of our focus is on the Jazz and how we can put the best product on the court and provide the best game experience to our fans."
Jeff Robbins, president and CEO of the Utah Sports Commission, said the NBA All-Star Game will return only if the Jazz and the NBA show mutual interest. Normally, the league uses All-Star weekend to highlight cities that recently built new arenas. Such was the case 19 years ago, when the Delta Center (now ESA) was in its infancy. And so it goes for the Magic, whose state-of-the-art Amway Center highlights the best modern attributes of the NBA.
Robbins said he spoke about four or five years ago with former Jazz owner Larry Miller about beginning the process of bringing the All-Star Game back to SLC. But Miller died in February 2009, and the idea has not gained traction since then.
"As Larry and I had a chance to talk a little bit about it, that was some of the conversation: That it was certainly a harder thing to do than say, Hey, you'd like an All-Star Game," said Robbins, whose group helps attract international sporting events to SLC and has played a part in recently bringing the Dew Tour, Supercross and an NCAA men's basketball regional tournament to the city.
If the Jazz and NBA were to work together again, Robbins said the benefit would be seen more in intangibles such as image-building rather than a Super Bowl-type financial boon. However, the financial impact would clearly not go unrecognized.
"You would get economic impact [in an All-Star Game] and a lot of exposure from the media and it would certainly be a large event," Robbins said. "At the same time, it's something that the NBA would have to look at if we could slot the event. But obviously having the exposure and having a world-class event here, if you hosted it again, would be positive for the community and for the state."
Marty Carpenter, spokesman for the Salt Lake City Chamber of Commerce, said he wasn't aware of any ongoing discussions to bring the All-Star Game back to the city. But like Robbins, Carpenter said SLC is ready for the spotlight whenever the Jazz and the NBA are ready to reconnect.
"We always love to host big events and we love to have the attention of the sports world turned to our city," Carpenter said.
Not anytime soon. Jazz president Randy Rigby told The Salt Lake Tribune there are no immediate plans for the small-market organization to apply to host a future NBA All-Star Game. Representatives for the Utah Sports Commission and Salt Lake City Chamber of Commerce are open to the idea. But Rigby said the Jazz are not focused on hosting another All-Star Game and, if it happens, it'll occur down the road. "Right now all of our focus is on the Jazz and how we can put the best product on the court and provide the best game experience to our fans," Rigby said.
It has been 19 years since Salt Lake City hosted an NBA All-Star Game. Michael Jordan braved Utah's winter weather Feb. 21, 1993, while Jazz legends John Stockton and Karl Malone carried home co-MVP awards during the Western Conference's 135-132 overtime victory at the Delta Center (now EnergySolutions Arena).