It will be an NBA All-Star Weekend like no other. In fact, it won’t even be a weekend. Due to the ongoing pandemic and health and safety protocols and “for the well-being and safety of the greater Atlanta community,” NBA All-Star 2021 will be a one-night event – for the first time ever – with the absence of fans, NBA sponsored ticketed events, parties or social functions. This year’s All-Star festivities will take place on Sunday, March 7, at State Farm Arena in Atlanta, home of the Atlanta Hawks, beginning at 6:30 p.m. ET on TNT.

The Skills Challenge and 3-Point Contest will occur before the All-Star Game. The Slam Dunk contest will take place at halftime of the All Star Game, which will follow the same format as last year, with the teams competing to win each quarter and playing to a Final Target Score during the untimed fourth quarter. Normally All-Star is a weekend of events including both a rookie and celebrity game on Friday night, the Slam Dunk and 3-point contests on Saturday night and the Game itself on Sunday.

NBA Commissioner Adam Silver stood by his decision to allow the All-Star Game to go on despite reservations from many players including LeBron James, Damian Lillard and De’Aron Fox, all of whom said they didn’t see the need for the game this year but would support it should the NBA move forward. “There were obviously those who thought we shouldn’t play without fans, thought we should play in the Bubble, thought we shouldn’t be playing in a very serious way because of the social justice issues in this country,” Silver told ESPN’s The Jump host Rachel Nichols this week. “So I certainly heard the other side of this issue here.

“It seems like no decisions during this pandemic come without uncertainty and come without risk,” he said. “This is yet another one of them, and yet it’s my job to balance all those interests and ultimately, it feels like the right thing to do to go forward.” For NBA All-Star 2021, the NBA and its player association, the NBPA, have established additional measures to supplement the league’s current Health and Safety Protocols, league officials said. These include private travel to and from Atlanta for players, the creation of a “mini bubble” environment within a single hotel for players and coaches, and enhanced PCR Covid testing.

Captains for this year’s game are LeBron James (West) and Kevin Durant (East). All-star starters were announced this week and include the Dallas Mavericks’ Luka Doncic, who is making his second consecutive All-Star start.

HBCUs and COVID-19 Awareness

As part of this year’s events and in its ongoing efforts toward social justice, the NBA and NBPA will commit more than $2.5 million in funds and resources toward Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCUs) and support and awareness around equity and access to COVID-19 care, relief and vaccines. All-Star 2021 will highlight the importance of HBCUs and raise awareness around the disparate impact of COVID-19 on communities of color. In addition, All-Star will feature special performances by HBCU musical groups and unique storytelling and content by distinguished alumni and students. “This year’s All-Star Game will honor the vital role HBCUs play in our communities and focus attention and resources on COVID-19 relief, particularly for the most vulnerable,” said Silver.

Michele Roberts, executive director of the NBA Player’s Union praised the inclusion of the HBCUs into this year’s All Star festivities. “HBCUs provided premium education to our communities at a time when access to higher learning was denied to us. They were there – and have remained there – for us. We now stand with them,” she said. “As NBA All-Star returns to Atlanta, Spelman College looks forward to being a part of the celebration that highlights HBCUs across the city and beyond,” said Spelman College President Dr. Mary Schmidt Campbell.

“Our mission at Spelman is to educate Black women to become global leaders and to inspire a commitment to positive change. We are honored to be part of the NBA 2021 All-Star celebration of our nation’s HBCUs.” In addition to the Thurgood Marshall College Fund and UNCF, the other beneficiaries of this year’s NBA All-Star including the National Association for Equal Opportunity in Higher Education and the Direct Relief (Fund for Health Equity, a humanitarian aid organization that works to improve the health and lives of people affected by poverty or emergencies.

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