I never need an excuse to go to New Orleans; it’s become my favorite city in the country after a few extraordinary weekends. So when I heard the NBA was pulling the 2017 All Star Game and surrounding festivities from Charlotte to the Big Easy, I knew I had to go.

I forget exactly how the conversation started, but shortly after the announcement, two of my good friends, Lucas Frankel and Jean Merlain, tweeted about their desires to go to the game as well. A few tweets later, and the trip was booked.

We decided we’d rather go to the Dunk Contest and 3-Point Shootout instead of the actual All-Star game, which worked better with all of our schedules anyway.

We paid good money, I mean really good money, to secure our seats to the show. They weren’t great seats, but they were the cheapest ones we could find at that time (we sat pretty close to the railing on the upper deck in one of the corners of the Smoothie King Center, the home of the Pelicans).

We purchased the tickets months ago, thinking they’d only get more expensive as we neared the actual event, which in hindsight, was a horrible decision—but I’ll get back to that in a second.

We didn’t mind breaking the bank for this because:

1) It seemed like a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity held in a city we all wanted to go to.
2) We were coming off one of the best dunk contests in recent history and from all reports, the two stars were planning on performing again.
3) We expected the atmosphere inside the arena to be electric and being part of that is something we all wanted.

Unfortunately, only one of those three things came true.

The city of New Orleans is amazing and lived up to the hype again. It was Frankel and Jean’s first time there, and even though Frankel never got his perfect po-boy, we all had a blast. I’ll get into our weekend after I get to the downside of the trip.

Go back in time with me to 7:45 p.m. on Saturday night, 15 minutes before the start of the All-Star Saturday festivities. The Smoothie King Center was 50-percent full, and that’s an optimistic guess.

The majority of the people there were in the upper deck with us; the lower sections were virtually untouched. It felt more like the buildup of a Nets/Pelicans game than it did for a showcase of some of the league’s premiere talent.

8:00 p.m.: The musical group, DNCE, performed to start the night and not only was the performance so-so at best, the speaker system in the arena was atrocious and we could barely hear anything from our seats.

The Skills Challenge starts, and it was cool and all in person, but that’s not what we we’re there for. To be honest, I don’t even remember who Kristaps Porzingus beat in the finals.

The 3-Point Shootout was next, and by then, the arena was still empty. A few more people had filed in, but it couldn’t have been more than 60-percent filled.

When the eight contestants were being announced, the crowd only responded to three of them: a small cheer for Kyrie Irving, a loud cheer for Klay Thompson, and a massive amount of boos for former Pelican Eric Gordon.

The pre-contest favorites didn’t shoot particularly well—in fact, there were more horrendous shooting performances than good ones, but it was still pretty cool to see how easy all eight made it look.

Either the scorekeeper in the stadium screwed up or the finale was rigged, because Kyrie had a second round score of 21 until midway through Gordon’s second go-around, and then all of a sudden it was changed to 20 which just happened to be what Gordon ended up with.

The Houston Rockets sharpshooter would go on to win in the third round, but in my mind, Kyrie is really the champ.

In between the 3-Point Shootout and the Dunk Contest, DJ Khaled put on a mini-show and once again, I have no idea how good the performance was since we couldn’t hear anything from the upper deck.

The 3-Point Shootout was sponsored by JBL, a speaker company, and the acoustics in the Smoothie King Center were a joke. Go figure.

By the time the dunk contest started, the arena had filled up. I’d say it was about 80- to 85-percent filled, but it definitely wasn’t a sellout.

DeAndre Jordan started off the night by dunking over DJ Khaled and his turntables, which wasn’t a particularly great dunk but it was creative. Afterwards, there wasn’t a word from the crowd.

Glenn Robinson III and Derrick Jones Jr. both defied the laws of physics with their first-round dunks but once again, nothing but silence. I’m not kidding, besides the initial “ooohs and ahhs” in the immediate aftermath of the dunk, not a single cheer.

As Aaron Gordon brought out his drone, the crowd started to get into it. Unfortunately, Gordon couldn’t complete the dunk on his first, second, or even third try, which sucked the remaining ounces of life out of the comatose crowd.

I haven’t watched it back on TV yet, but if you heard any cheers, they were artificially put in. Trust me.

The rest of the dunk contest was much of the same. There were a few great dunks, a ton of misses, and it was all perfectly summed up by this headline from CBSsports.com: "2017 NBA Dunk Contest highlights: Robinson wins, but we all lose for watching."

Overall, the All-Star Saturday festivities were a dud. The experience was worth a third of what we paid to be there, and as cool as it was to see these amazing athletes break the Earth’s gravitational pull and explode into the air, it wasn’t any better in person than it would have been on TV.

But the rest of the weekend was a huge success.

We caught a T-Pain concert by accident and he was surprisingly a phenomenal live performer, we went to a live ESPN First Take show, spent a night on Bourbon Street (still not sure Frankel’s recovered yet), attended a Mardi Gras parade, ate a boatload of good food and made a lot of unforgettable memories.

The whole trip was a success, but I’d be lying to tell you I wasn’t hugely disappointed by the experience in the Smoothie King Center on Saturday night.

- Mike Lucas ( @ mlukes14 )


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