INDIANAPOLIS (AP) - Larry Bird’s final drive through New York City paid off Wednesday.
Seven months after the NBA Hall of Famer hand delivered the Indiana Pacers’ All-Star bid at league headquarters in an IndyCar, Commissioner Adam Silver returned the favor by showing up at Bankers Life Fieldhouse to announce the league’s big midseason bash was coming back to Indianapolis in February 2021.
It’s the first time the city will host the All-Star Game since 1985.
“I have this image in my head - Larry Bird, IndyCar, Fifth Avenue,” Pacers president of basketball operations Kevin Pritchard said. “I know, Commissioner, that had to have a big impact because he (Bird) lives and breathes Indiana basketball. We’re going to put on a great show.”
Perhaps it was Bird’s theatrics or the long gap between All-Star Games in Indy.
Whatever it was, Silver implied something felt right about playing such a marquee event in one of the nation’s biggest basketball states and for the league’s longest-tenured team owner, Herb Simon.
For the city, it’s a big addition to what was already a jam-packed schedule.
Indy will host the annual boys and girls high school state championships, the Big Ten women’s basketball tournament and the men’s Final Four in the first four months of 2021. Then the city will be the College Football Playoff championship game host site in 2022.
Now they can pencil in All-Star week and the Feb. 14 game on the calendar, too.
To accommodate all of the league’s festivities, city officials plan to use Lucas Oil Stadium and the convention center. Both are just a few blocks from Indiana’s home court, Bankers Life Fieldhouse.
“A lot has changed since we last came here for an All-Star Game in the 1980s,” Silver said. “Then, it really was the All-Star Game, one day or one game. What it has truly become now is an All-Star week of activities.”
The impact of such an event also has changed. Indianapolis Mayor Joe Hogsett said city officials estimate it will add $100 million to the economy.
Silver made the announcement a little less than three hours before the Pacers were scheduled to host Oklahoma City and Paul George, the four-time All-Star who was traded this summer. It’s the first time George has returned to Indy since the deal and has been one of the most anticipated games on this season’s schedule.
But now Pacers fans know they’ll have all of the league’s biggest stars, maybe even Bird, back in town in 2021.
“It’s so incredible, so professional, so entertaining, you’re all in for a great week,” Simon said. “I look forward to it and I’m sure you’ll enjoy it.”
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