The NBA is just 30 days away from taking over the city for the 2020 All-Star Weekend festivities and those who've been constantly checking their social media timelines and email inbox's to get their first glimpse at what's in store are ready to make their final arrangements.
The Bigs are here to not only address some of your lingering questions regarding NBA All-Star Weekend but we also want to give you a closer look behind the scenes of the work the NBA is doing to ensure that Chicago delivers an All-Star experience attendees won't soon forget.
Over the next 30 days we plan to make sure you know all there is to know about what's going down in the city for All-Star weekend. Keep an eye on @itsthebigs for updates!
For our first offering, we talked to the NBA's Associate Vice President of Business Operations & Global Events, Joey Graziano, about what goes in to producing an All-Star weekend, their plans outside of the main events and got some insight on some of the surprises the NBA has up their sleeves for All-Star Weekend.
As Associate Vice President of Business Operations & Global Events, at the National Basketball Association, Joey Graziano is responsible for creating new content initiatives and partnerships as well as planning marquee, participatory and fan-driven events.
Prior to assuming his current role, Graziano was the Chief Operating Officer & General Counsel at The Headfirst Companies where he oversaw all profit centers, legal, technology, strategic planning, and distribution, spearheading efforts to redefine the expectations of parents when evaluating the organizations that are entrusted with the care and development of their children.
The Bigs: What goes into planning All Star weekend & highlights of being in Chicago?
Graziano: To produce & deliver an event of this scale that will be amplified globally in 215 different countries, it requires more than a year of planning. We've been thinking about focusing on talking to people in Chicago for over a year. What's been really exciting is that we started our experience on a listening tour. Talking with people in the mayors office, constituents in the sports community working with our partners with the Chicago Bulls & Chicago sports commission & making sure we were delivering an authentic experience that was amplifying the values & vision of what Chicago is today & it's promise for tomorrow. To use the game of basketball to deliver that experience for the city & that's what's been really exciting.
The Bigs: This is the first time since '88' that the game is back in Chicago. It's been in a couple of other cities more than once since then...what took so long?
Graziano: We've never left Chicago & while the ASG hasn't been here since '88' we run a number of our signature events in Chicago every single year including the NBA Lottery, the NBA combine & a number of our most important basketball operations meetings in Chicago & while this particular event hasn't been in Chicago since 88, Chicago is a place that is incredibly important to the NBA. I think Anthony Davis came out and called it the mecca of basketball & you can't deny the impact that Chicago has...the level of talent that comes out of Chicago & the importance of it to the NBA. That's why its a real strategic priority for us to be in Chicago and why we find ourselves there every single year.
The Bigs: '88' was the breakout year for "Big Mike"...what ways are the NBA looking to showcase that year & should we expect MJ to be involved in anything that weekend to pay homage?
Graziano: We're incredibly passionate about the history of Chicago basketball and we'll find a number of different ways to highlight that history throughout the weekend. I can't drop any secrets but I can tell you that the Chicago dynasty and it's importance to the game will certainly be something that will find it's threads throughout our storylines. While we're certainly excited to honor the past, we're equally thrilled to be able to showcase the present. There's a tremendous amount of young talent with the current team & we think there will be a number of different ways including our NBA Rising Stars game where we're gonna be able to showcase our really young incredible talent exists across the NBA in a rookies versus world format, rookies vs sophomore format & US vs the world game that we're really excited about the young superstars of the NBA & their incredible talent but we certainly recognize that 88 was a seminal moment for the NBA.
The Bigs: Why was it important to take on Navy Pier as a premier location for a lot of the action that weekend?
Graziano: It was a part of our strategic vision. We wanna have a systemic & long term presence in Chicago and are committed to the city & everybody having an incredible experience. What's exciting about Navy Pier and it's truly iconic destination & beautiful infrastructure is that we're gonna use it to showcase the convergence of the NBA, the city & the collected influence on pop culture through the arts, fashion, music, technology & entertainment that surrounds today's game. Really focusing on all of the off the court programming that is truly unique to the NBA superstars & how they are really transcendent across our cultural landscape. Chicago has had an incredible impact on our culture & we'll be working with a number of local Chicago artists & Influencers who will be part of the fabric of that event.
The Bigs: What areas are the NBA looking to spread their wings in the community & affect the city as a whole?
Graziano: At Navy Pier we'll also be hosting our Junior NBA events which will be a number of different community events which will be for young people to be able to play the game of basketball in clinics. We're gonna have our middle school tournament across & throughout the city so we're gonna have a number of basketball opportunities for young people to be able to play the game & be a part of All-Star Weekend through our Junior NBA Programs hosted at Navy Pier. Our community/social responsibility group is also gonna host 30 events & programs that engage the youth & families throughout the city. One of the real hallmarks that we heard from the Mayor's office to all of our constituents is the various neighborhoods of the city & how important that is to the fabric & identity of Chicago & we plan on hosting events throughout those neighborhoods to inextricably link them together. (The NBA Eats Restaurant Program, the Equality Lounge, etc.) The great thing is that our partners, the Chicago Bulls, are incredible community partners. Really what we're doing is just helping to amplify their vision & mission because they're the team & are there everyday doing incredible work throughout the city. Great partnerships with elite organizations who are making a great impact on young peoples lives.
The Bigs: Will you be hosting any community groups or anything specific for the youth of the city to come & witness?
Graziano: It's like you're sitting in our meetings. We are working through the details right now but we're looking have a number of different youth groups in/around the city & find ways to make sure that our events & premier game are accessible to the young people of Chicago who are certainly our next generation of fans but more importantly we want to be able to use this game and our events here to help show & deliver the skill that we believe will lead to their lasting happiness and success.
The Bigs: What are some of the things the NBA will be trying for the first time?
Graziano: We're excited to be doing a number of new product drops & collaborations with Chicago artists at our NBA Crossover event we'll also be hosting a crossover conversation stage where we can deliver some of the panels & topics that we think are of high interest to the streetwear culture & really put the leaders of pop culture in a place where they can showcase how the NBA has had an impact on that & vice versa. We're really excited about the crossover experience &the tickets are on sale now & if you buy them through the NBA events app you get $5 off of a $20 ticket. Our goal is to make it incredibly affordable & friendly for our NBA fans who we know are interested in the games not just because of what happens on the court but also because of the way in which our players take on social justice issues, impact our culture in music, fashion, culinary, etc. We're excited about our Taste of Chicago & our NBA Eats program because we think Chicago's culinary scene is really second to none & we think there's a vision that we can deliver that is really gonna open people's eyes to what's so cool about Chicago.
The Bigs: When it's all said & done what do you want the people to say/remember most about All-Star 2020 in Chicago?
Graziano: Whats important is that people look and say it was authentic to the city of Chicago, that we highlighted the ideals, values & visions of what Chicago is & the global standard that it's setting & that we showcase to the world the very best of the NBA & all of the incredible talents that our players have on a global scale.