NBA All-Star Game opens with epic tributes to Chicago

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CHICAGO — The NBA All-Star Game returned to Chicago for the first time since 1988 Sunday, and in doing so paid tribute to the city in a big way.

First, an introductory video featured a slew of Chicago legends looking at a scale model of the city while talking about their history there and what it meant to them. Barack Obama, Michael Jordan, Keke Palmer, Common, Chance the Rapper, Herbu Brantley, Jesse Williams, Buddy Guy, Dwayne Wade, Candace Parker and Isiah Thomas were all featured.

This included a look back at the legacy of Michael Jordan and the last time the All Star game was in Chicago, when Jordan jumped from the free throw line during the slam dunk contest and created an iconic image in the process.

Jordan himself reflected on his relationship with city.

“It’s like a tattoo — it’s not removable,” Jordan said.

Another section looked at former president Barack Obama’s time in the city, and how he’s seen as representing its spirit to this day.

“Chicago is where I became a man,” Obama said. “The fact that Michelle and I represent Chicago is a great honor.”

Then before he introduced the teams participating in the contest at the United Center, Common performed a piece reflecting on what it meant to grow up in Chicago, and the legends — of basketball and beyond — who inspire kids in the city.

“If this city could talk, it would say, ‘ hey man, ‘you’re from Chicago, the land of Fred Hampton and Jean Baptiste du Sable, and better tomorrows, as long as you follow your heart — of the city,” Common said.

Common continued the piece with shout-outs to even more Chicago legends, including Derrick Rose, Isaiah Thomas, Kevin Garnett, and even Chaka Khan. A special moment focused on Dwayne Wade left the NBA great visibly moved.

Sunday was the first major professional All-Star Game in the city since the MLS had its game at Soldier Field in August of 2018, and is the first of any kind at the United Center since it was opened in 1994.

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