SALT LAKE CITY — Thirty years after it came to Utah the first time, the NBA All-Star Game will be returning to the Beehive State.

At a Wednesday afternoon press conference at Vivint Arena that included NBA commissioner Adam Silver, Utah Jazz owner Gail Miller, Utah Gov. Gary Herbert, Salt Lake City Mayor Jackie Biskupski and Larry H. Miller Group of Companies CEO Steve Starks, it was announced that Salt Lake City will host the 2023 All-Star Game.

It last did so in 1993.

“It’s an honor to be here, and it’s my honor to announce that the 2023 All-Star Game will take place in Salt Lake City,” Silver said, adding that his first All-Star Game as an employee of the league was the 1993 game. “Big-time events and sports are part of the DNA of this state and part of this city. So many important NBA events, Finals have taken place over the years here. It’s a tremendous partnership we have between the city and the state, the Utah Jazz organization and the league.”

The process of getting the midseason event back in Utah has been in the works for quite some time, as the Deseret News reported in January 2018 that the Jazz were submitting a bid to host either the 2022 or 2023 game.

At that time, Starks noted that longtime Jazz executive Don Stirling, vice president of community and special events Kari Holt Larson and Clay Partain of Visit Salt Lake were key players in creating a bid proposal that presented a more modern view of Salt Lake City.

Frank Zang, senior vice president of communications for Larry H. Miller Sports & Entertainment, told the Deseret News the bid highlighted the $3 billion renovation of the Salt Lake International Airport (slated to be completed in 2022), 6,000 hotel rooms in the area, the close proximity of the Salt Palace Convention Center and the University of Utah’s Huntsman Center and the $125 million renovation of Vivint Arena in 2017.

Additionally, the city’s track record of hosting large-scale events such as the Winter Olympics and Sundance Film Festival was emphasized. 

Silver noted the stability of the Jazz organization and also cited the tradition Salt Lake City has of hosting major sporting events as big reasons Utah’s bid won, but called the Vivint Arena renovation “the final piece” for the bid to win. 

“I think the combination of all those things made it a very easy decision for the league to come back here,” he said. 

Said Biskupski at Wednesday’s announcement: “You can expect that we will pull out all the stops for the NBA in 2023, and the All-Star Game will be the best ever.” 

At the time of the first All-Star Game in Utah, the arena (then named the Delta Center) was almost brand new, having opened in 1991. Miller on Wednesday recalled the excitement that came with the 1993 game and said she’s looking forward to bringing that back in 2023.

John Stockton and Karl Malone celebrate co-MVP status in the February 1993 NBA All-Star game.
John Stockton and Karl Malone celebrate co-MVP status in the February 1993 NBA All-Star game. | Tom Smart, Deseret News Archives

“Our mission is to enrich lives. This experience will emerge as the All-Star Game comes to fruition and will be one to remember,” she said. “I’m confident that we will make the local, the national and the global basketball community proud.”

Cleveland won the bid for the 2022 game, which was announced Nov. 1, 2018. The game was held in Charlotte last season, will be in Chicago this season and will be played in Indianapolis in 2021.

Given that the game in Salt Lake City is more than three years away, whether or not current franchise cornerstones Donovan Mitchell and Rudy Gobert will still be with the Jazz in 2023 and in line to participate in the game is unknown, although Mitchell will be eligible for a contract extension next summer that would keep him here for 2023.

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Gobert can become a free agent in 2021, but spoke Wednesday about what the game can mean for Salt Lake City.

“I think the city will really embrace it, and I think the city deserves the All-Star Game,” he said Wednesday morning at the team’s shootaround prior to its season opener against the Oklahoma City Thunder, before the announcement was made official. “I think it’s great for the city and for the state.”

Added head coach Quin Snyder before Wednesday’s game: “It’s an event, and I think beyond the basketball, it’s kind of a celebration of the league. I think everybody’s in a place at that point of the year where they’re ready to give a sigh and recharge. The celebratory nature of it I think is unique to any All-Star Game in any sport.”

The 1993 All-Star Game ended in fitting manner for Salt Lake City, as Jazz franchise players Karl Malone and John Stockton won co-MVP honors as the West edged the East in overtime, 135-132. Malone scored 28 points and pulled down 10 rebounds, while Stockton finished with nine points and 15 assists in a game that also featured Michael Jordan, Shaquille O’Neal, Hakeem Olajuwon, Charles Barkley, David Robinson, Scottie Pippen, Clyde Drexler, Patrick Ewing, Dominique Wilkins and Isiah Thomas.

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