Cleveland mayor balls, young Cavs win, international fans cheer on day one of NBA All-Star Weekend
What is he doing about the snow? How is he spending our tax dollars? Those might be common questions Clevelanders have for Mayor Justin Bibb. But on Saturday that question was, ‘Can he hoop?’
He was not the biggest star on the rosters of the NBA All-Star Celebrity game Friday game, but he did wear #58 on his jersey, as in 58th mayor of Cleveland. And he can hold his own.
Mayor Bibb during warmups. [Gabriel Kramer / Ideastream Public Media]
In the stands, Apryl Buchanan had some friendly jabs for the mayor during pregame warmups when she didn't see the mayor.
“I wonder why he’s not out there practicing because I know he needs the practice,” Buchanan said.
The celebrities were divided into two teams – Team Nique, which was coached by NBA legend Dominique Wilkins, and Team Walton, which was coached by NBA legend Bill Walton.
Browns defensive end Myles Garrett and hip-hop artist Jack Harlow. [Gabriel Kramer / Ideastream Public Media]
“It’s honestly one of the perfect cities to do this because Cleveland is such a sports heavy city,” said Cavs fan Austin Coley from Cuyahoga Falls.
Austin Coley and his sister Alexandra from Cuyahoga Falls plan to be downtown call weekend. [Gabriel Kramer / Ideastream Public Media]
Bibb, Browns defensive end Myles Garrett and comedian Tiffany Haddish played for Team Nique. Musicians Machine Gun Kelly and Quavo and former Cleveland Cavalier Anderson Varejao played for Team Walton.
The celebrity that seemed to get the most cheers from the Wolstein Center crowd was Indian actor Ranveer Singh, who played for Team Walton.
Prakriti Yagnik from Strongsville came with a big group of friends, many of whom took a group picture with Singh.
Ranveer Singh stepped off the court to take a photo with fans. [Gabriel Kramer / Ideastream Public Media]
“I am really excited. I literally came yesterday downtown looking for him,” Yagnik said.
Ranveer Singh is the ambassador for NBA India. [Gabriel Kramer / Ideastream Public Media]
Singh showed much appreciation for his fans after the game.
“I was and still am extremely touched by all these people coming out. They've come from different parts of the country," Singh said. "They were telling me, 'I drove six hours. I drove eight hours. I drove 16 hours in the snow.'"
Team Walton beat Team Nique 65-51.
Later, at Rocket Mortgage Fieldhouse, young NBA players and prospects played in the NBA Rising Stars tournament.
Two Cleveland Cavaliers participated in the game, forwards Isaac Okoro and Evan Mobley. They won, too, as Team Barry, coached by NBA Legend Rick Barry, took the title with a championship round victory, 25-20.
Cleveland Cavaliers Evan Mobley and Isaac Okoro. [Gabriel Kramer / Ideastream Public Media]
Guests arriving from out of town for NBA All-Star weekend were in a celebratory mood in Downtown Cleveland.
Brandon Williams and his wife Tiffany drove in from Chicago and are treating themselves to the festivities as an anniversary present.
“I'm a touristy person, so to come down and see all the arenas was nice to see, so it's cool,” Williams said.
Williams is looking forward to the slam dunk and three-point contests Saturday, but is intrigued by the NBA's 75th Anniversary ceremony. They're all part of NBA All-Star Saturday Night.
“(I’m looking forward to) Saturday night, I've been to an All-Star game before,” Williams said. “Well, you know what, I'm looking forward to halftime of the All-Star game, seeing what they do for the 75th year,” Williams said.
Comedian Tiffany Haddish in goggles jogged to her Team Nique bench. [Gabriel Kramer / Ideastream Public Media]
The Baronick family came in from the Pittsburgh area and daughter Ava says they'd been waiting for a few months for the big event in Cleveland.
“Well, it was our Christmas gift and we were just really excited about it … We always ... me and my brother always talked about coming to the All-Star events and we were just really excited about it and we weren't expecting it at all, but we heard it was in Cleveland, so we were hoping we got it,” Ava said.
Ava and brother Brady were excited about the first big event of All-Star Weekend inRocket Mortgage Fieldhouse
“The Rising Stars Game, yeah,” Ava said.
Why the Rising Stars game?
“Oh, because one of my favorite players, LaMelo Ball (of the Charlotte Hornets) is playing in it,” Brady said.
Before the NBA, Ball played amateur basketball in Geneva for the SPIRE Academy team based at the SPIRE Institute.
LaMelo Ball will also play in the All-Star Game Sunday night. [Gabriel Kramer / Ideastream Public Media]
After playing in the tournament, Ball said it was nice to be back in Northeast Ohio, but didn’t miss the snow.
Cavaliers guard Collin Sexton took time out from rehabbing a knee injury to sign autographs and do some light work with youngsters on the main court at Public Auditorium, sight of the NBA Crossover experience. Sexton said his meniscus tear is improving
“I'm getting there, just pretty much getting after it every day and just trying to be patient,” Sexton said. “I'm excited to be here for All-Star Weekend and also to see my teammates today as well as Sunday. So it's kind of cool to be part of this experience and I'm excited.”
Day two of All-Star Weeknd, NBA All-Star Saturday Night, starts at 8 p.m.