Orlando Magic center Dwight Howard won't have to go far in less than two years to play in another NBA All-Star Game. It will be in his backyard.
The NBA on Tuesday officially awarded the city of Orlando the 2012 NBA All-Star Game, scheduled to be played at the new Amway Center. The exhibition game will be the league's showcase event among other activites spread over a three-day period.
"Orlando will become the basketball capital of the world," said NBA Commissioner David Stern, who made the announcement inside the nearly completed Amway Center. The Magic have been confident they would land the all-star game since the summer of 2007, when county and city officials approved the $480 million arena project.
"You need a state-of-the-art building," Stern said. The Magic are playing their final, and 21st season, at Amway Arena.
"This day demonstrates exactly when we said we need a new building and why our community came together to provde that new building," Orlando Mayor Buddy Dyer said. "It's nice to come out and say we'd get events like, maybe, the NBA All-Star Game and then before the building even opens, we're announcing we're having the NBA All-Star Game in 2012."
Dyer echoed Magic Chief Operating Officer Alex Martins' estimates of the all-star weekend generating an economic impact of about $100 million. "People will be staying at our hotels, eating at our restaurants, buying retail at our stores," Dyer said. "It will be a big bump to our community."
Alluding to Walt Disney World and area attractions, Stern said the league expects "a larger number of families than we usually have [for the event]. Everything comes together for a place like Orlando."
The three-day event will begin Friday, Feb. 24, with a game between the NBA's top rookies and sophomore players. The 3-point shooting contest and popular slam-dunk contest will be held Feb. 25. Both events will be at Amway Center. The All-Star Jam Session, an interactive kid-friendly event, is scheduled Feb. 23-26 at the Orange County Convention Center.
Stern said that players and league officials will reach out to the Central Florida community for "socially responsible events." Orlando hosted its first all-star game in 1992. Magic Johnson was named the game's MVP, coming out of retirement after the stunning revelation he had been diagnosed with the AIDS virus.
Howard played in his fourth all-star game this February in Dallas, and only injuries could likely interrupt a future string of appearances. The 2011 all-star game will be held in Los Angeles at Staples Center.
Read Brian Schmitz' blog at OrlandoSentinel.com/Magic blog and email him at email@example.com