By Jim Schutze
By Rachel Watts
By Lauren Drewes Daniels
By Anna Merlan
By Lee Escobedo
In the end, 'twas a blurring weekend dominated by snow and stars and a facelift swap. Dirk Nowitzki hosted and Mary J. Blige crooned and, amidst the wild weather and even wilder parties, the Dallas Mavericks pulled off a seven-player trade that reshaped their roster and rebooted their championship hopes.
But did NBA All-Star Weekend—as promised by Mavs owner Mark Cuban—set the buzz bar high enough to make next winter's Super Bowl XLV in North Texas indeed feel like a bar mitzvah?
Thursday, February 11
8 a.m.—We're expecting lots of celebrities, 90,000 visitors to the Dallas Convention Center's NBA Jam Session and an economic impact of approximately $150 million. What we're not prepared for is an unprecedented foot of snow. With more than 60 parties scheduled over four nights and all major hotels figured to be stuffed with high-profile folks and their expendable incomes, the last thing Dallas desired was a surreal whiteout blizzard. "I don't know if there's ever been a weekend like this in the history of our league," Mavericks general manager Donnie Nelson says. "A little of the fluffy white stuff won't stop us."
10 a.m.—First official event of the weekend, the NBA Sanofi-Pasteur "Vaccines for Teens" program at Fort Worth's William James Middle School. And we're off...
2 p.m.—Tech summit at the Ritz-Carlton. OK, we're off and crawling.
3:45 p.m.—The Hyatt Regency, Anatole and Hotel ZaZa confirm they are sold out for the weekend. With whom, you might ask? Cleveland Cavaliers center Shaquille O'Neal has a room at ZaZa, the folks from TNT are at The Mansion on Turtle Creek and the W is hosting the likes of Alicia Keys, Usher, Shakira and Common. Michael Jordan? He's in the Penthouse suite at Joule, same place that entertained Martin Scorsese, the Jonas Brothers and Sarah the Duchess of York.
8 p.m.—At the NBA All-Star Opening Night concert at The Majestic Theater, the rarest of sights. Nowitzki's in a collared shirt and Cuban has ditched his T-shirt for—gasp—a suit and tie. "Last time he had it on, he was going to court," the owner's wife, Tiffany, says. "So at first I was a little nervous." Jokes NBA commissioner David Stern before the tip-off concert by Blige, "What time does Mark have to get that thing back by?"
12:15 a.m.—At House of Blues, partygoers are awaiting the arrival of O'Neal, who won't show up despite being billed as the night's official "host." Why? Couple hours ago he was in Cleveland, playing in a game against the Orlando Magic. He won't fly into Love Field for another two hours. Welcome to NBA All-Star Weekend, where patience and flexibility are required.
2 a.m.—DART announced it would continue service until 3 a.m. That's great for getting to parties, but how are we supposed to get home?
Friday, February 12
10 a.m.—Weather impact: Friend has business associates who can't make their flight from New York, so they bail on their hotel reservation. Instead of canceling, it goes to him/us. Where? The $1,900-a-night Crenshaw Villa at Four Seasons Resort and Hotel in Las Colinas. Delicious.
11:30 a.m.—During the NBA All-Star Day of Service, Nowitzki paints a home in South Dallas, Los Angeles Lakers star Kobe Bryant helps with repairs at Burnet Elementary in northwest Dallas and the Cleveland Cavaliers' LeBron James dedicates a new playground at the Oak Cliff Boys and Girls Club. "This," James says, "is really what this weekend is all about."
12:45 p.m.—In the same building housing his 7-foot bobblehead and just down the street from his 20-story banner draped on the Bank of America tower, Nowitzki finds out he'll start Sunday's All-Star Game in place of the injured Bryant. "Never thought I'd see any of this," he says. "When I came here from Germany 12 years ago, I was scared of everything." The greatest player in the history of the Mavs will make his ninth All-Star appearance. Second-most is Rolando Blackman with four.
6:30 p.m.—A giant armored Vault limo pulls up to the Celebrity Game at the Convention Center. As it starts to bull its way through some barricades, three of Dallas' finest snap into action. "Stop!" one officer yells as he yanks open the door to find O'Neal hulking behind the wheel. "You gotta be shittin' me!" the cop says, laughing and waving Shaq through.
7 p.m.—During the Celebrity Game, Cuban goes 0 of 6 and playfully taunts former Dallas Cowboy Terrell Owens. Dallas icon Nancy Lieberman makes good on her promise to score two baskets for her cancer-stricken friend Emily.
8:15 p.m.—Hey, there's Wolf Blitzer! And Holly Madison! And that's...Mario Lopez? Two out of three ain't bad.
11:30 p.m.—A star-studded crowd at Nick & Sam's steakhouse—highlighted by Spud Webb and TNT analyst Doug Collins—is amazed when Jamie Foxx gives an impromptu show at the piano.
1:15 a.m.—In a Love Field hangar at a party co-hosted by Nowitzki, the big man is big-timed. He approached Blige, who barely lifts a finger while sitting behind shades on a white couch. So, Nowitzki, how'd it go? "Not well," he says sheepishly. "That went nowhere."
Saturday, February 13
8 a.m.—There's a Newsmaker Breakfast with Christiane Amanpour at the Sheraton and a celebration of the Chinese New Year at the Anatole. At least that was the rumor. Some slept in.
11:30 a.m.—News of the Mavericks' blockbuster trade swirls through All-Star practice at the Convention Center. Dallas has picked up Caron Butler and Brendan Haywood from the Washington Wizards essentially for Josh Howard. Folks are impressed. "They're bigger and better than they were yesterday," says TNT analyst and noted Mavs critic Charles Barkley. "I love it for the Mavs." Adds Kobe Bryant, "Caron is tough as nails. Dallas got a great player."
12:15 p.m.—Orlando Magic center Dwight Howard makes a shot from 52 feet (almost to midcourt) from his butt. Just for grins.
6 p.m.—Hours after announcing his league will open satellite offices in India and South Africa, Stern claims the NBA will lose $400 million this season. Hmm.
9 p.m.—At a relatively mundane All-Star Saturday Night at American Airlines Center, Nowitzki hits a half-court shot to help Team Texas win some lame competition, and the New York Knicks' Nate Robinson throws down a ho-hum dunk to win his third consecutive slam dunk title. Let's admit it: Boring. Most exciting part of the event was seeing Spike Lee and Arnold Schwarzenegger and Paul Simon and, oh yeah, the Chicago Bulls' mascot dancing to Beyoncé's "Single Ladies" right in front of obviously irritated rap icons Diddy and Jay-Z.
2:40 a.m.—After a two-hour concert, Dallas' Erykah Badu reluctantly stops, and Nelson's party at Palladium Club ends because of a city ordinance. Never thought I would say this but South Lamar was busier than Times Square.
Sunday, February 14
9:50 p.m.—Nowitzki doesn't get the Most Valuable Player award in the All-Star Game, but Cuban, Jerry Jones, Shakira and Dallas got a record: 108,713. The largest crowd to ever attend a basketball game.
"This is just the appetizer," former Dallas Cowboys star Deion Sanders reminded during the week. "The real dish is the Super Bowl."
Better get some sleep.