SALT LAKE CITY — Once upon a time, the greatest basketball players in the world huddled under one roof in Salt Lake City.
That actually happened 25 years ago for NBA All-Star Weekend on Feb. 21, 1993, in what was then known as the Delta Center, now Vivint Arena.
To put it into perspective, that was three years before Jazz rookie Donovan Mitchell was born.
Michael Jordan was here. So were Isiah Thomas, Charles Barkley, Dominique Wilkins, David Robinson and all the stars from that era, but it was hometown heroes John Stockton and Karl Malone who won co-MVP honors.
Los Angeles’ Staples Center will be the site of this year’s NBA All-Star Weekend, followed by Charlotte in 2019, Chicago in 2020, and Indianapolis in 2021, but the Jazz front office has interest in bringing that magic back to Utah.
The Jazz are preparing to formally submit a bid during the next two to three weeks to host the festivities in 2022 or 2023.
“We like 2023 because it’ll be 30 years since we hosted so we like the symmetry of that,” said Jazz president Steve Starks.
“We’ve been working with the league on that so it’s something we’re excited to do with the investments into the organization and into facilities,” he added.
Jazz executive Don Stirling, VP of community and special events Kari Holt Larson, and Clay Partain of Visit Salt Lake have been heavily involved in putting together a compelling bid. The goal is to tell the unique story of Salt Lake City while dispelling some misconceptions.
“Compared to 30 years ago, our infrastructure is completely different,” said Starks. “So, the number of hotel rooms, we can check that box. The airport will be completed by then so we’ll have a billion dollar-plus renovation to the airport, we’ll have TRAX even further mature than it is now.”
Another element to strengthen the case is the University of Utah’s Huntsman Center, which could be used as a secondary venue because of its close proximity to downtown. The Salt Palace Convention Center could also be utilized for events. All of these positives give the Jazz front office confidence that the team can successfully handle the load of a marquee event such as the All-Star Game.
In addition to the 1993 NBA All-Star Weekend, Salt Lake City hosted the 1997 and 1998 NBA Finals, the 2002 Winter Olympics, and annually plays host to the Sundance Film Festival.
Former Jazz coach/executive Frank Layden still remembers the excitement stemming from that initial All-Star event.
“That was when we arrived,” Layden said. “Credibility is so important, but you have to win to get credibility and you have to run a good organization. We had a wonderful front office, with a lot of good people.”
The Jazz haven’t reached out to Layden personally for any advice, but still have folks within the organization who were involved in the 1993 All-Star Game and will tap into that institutional knowledge. Utah also plans to take the best practices from other teams and add their own unique flavor to the weekend.
The bidding process does require a financial commitment before ultimately being approved by NBA commissioner Adam Silver, but that isn’t an issue.
“We believe we’re the most beautiful NBA city,” Starks said.
Layden agrees and would like to see the world’s biggest hardwood stars back in the 801.
“Sure. I understand why every team should get a chance at doing it,” Layden said. “I’d like to see it back here. I think we will do a very professional job.”