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NBA fans are enjoying the All-Star Weekend atmosphere, with or without tickets

Cleveland Cavaliers All-Star Darius Garland danced with NBA legend Bill Walton at All-Star practice. [Gabriel Kramer / Ideastream Public Media]
Cleveland Cavaliers All-Star Darius Garland danced with NBA legend Bill Walton at All-Star practice. [Gabriel Kramer / Ideastream Public Media]

NBA fans in Cleveland treated a Saturday morning like primetime during the NBA All-Star practice at the Wolstein Center.

The NBA’s best, including LeBron James and Cleveland Cavaliers Darius Garland and Jarrett Allen, prepared for Sunday’s big All-Star game in front of a live Wolstein Center audience.

LeBron James at the All-Star team practice at the Wolstein Center on Saturday. / Ideastream Public Media]

While this was the official practice for the All-Star Game, it was also an opportunity for fans to see the players in action without the expensive price tag of the events at Rocket Mortgage Fieldhouse.

Some tickets to Saturday night and the Sunday games at the larger venue sold for thousands of dollars each.

NBA legend Bill Walton and Cleveland Cavalier Darius Garland played trivia games for the Wolstein Center crowd. [Gabriel Kramer / Ideastream Public Media]

Keegan Khan from Clearwater, Florida is one of the lucky ones who not only attended the practice but also has tickets to the rest of All-Star Weekend events at Rocket Mortgage Fieldhouse.

“First time in Ohio. First time in Cleveland. We’ve had a great time so far,” Khan said. “We left 86 degree weather to be here in the cold, but it was definitely worth it.”

This All-Star trip was a Valentine's Day gift from Crystal Resto (left) to Keegan Khan (right). [Gabriel Kramer / Ideastream Public Media]

The trip to Cleveland and the All-Star events was a Valentine’s Day gift to Khan from his partner, Crystal Resto.

“I’ve gotten a few presents before that were great, but this one, it doesn’t even compare,” Khan said.

Sisters Tarah and Aya Aziz came to Cleveland for the whole weekend from Detroit.

“Really proud of Cleveland for being able to put this all together. It’s just really inspiring. We don’t hear a lot about Ohio from a Detroiter’s POV,” Aya said. “Kudos. Major kudos.”

Sisters Tarah and Aya Aziz plan to attend every NBA event they can during All-Star weekend. [Gabriel Kramer / Ideastream Public Media]

Tarah is not as big of a basketball fan as her sister, but still felt it was worth the effort.

“The entire experience has been so worth it. The three-hour drive – definitely worth it," Tarah said.

Roosevelt White Jr. traveled for the weekend from Chicago with his son Jason.

Jason said he was most excited about Friday night’s Rising Stars tournament because Chicago Bulls guard Ayo Dosunmu played in the tournament and they all attend the same church back in Chicago.

Roosevelt White Jr. and his son Jason are Bulls fans visiting Cleveland from Chicago. [Gabriel Kramer / Ideastream Public Media]

“We got baptized on the same day,” Jason said.

The Wolstein Center was also the site of a special NBA game between two historically black colleges or universities or HBCUs – Howard University and Morgan State University.

The two teams are separated by just 45 miles in the Maryland/Washington D.C. area and are rivals. It was the inaugural HBCU classic game in the NBA All-Star lineup and was added to highlight the efforts of the HBCU athletes and communities.

The Howard University Bison beat the Morgan State University Bears 68-66 in the HBCU Classic game on Saturday. [Gabriel Kramer / Ideastream Public Media]

Roosevelt and Jason were also excited for the HBCU game because Jason attended a STEM (Science, technology, education and mathematics) education summer program for elementary students at Howard.

“So, bringing it full circle being able to see them here,” Roosevelt said.

Giannis Antetokounmpo, the reigning NBA Finals MVP, signs an autograph. [Gabriel Kramer / Ideastream Public Media]

Not everyone has tickets to the weekend’s events whether at Rocket Mortgage Fieldhouse or the Wolstein Center.

Jordan and Devon King found some seats at City Tap, a bar across the street from Rocket Mortgage Fieldhouse, to enjoy downtown’s All-Star atmosphere. 

The King’s just moved to Cleveland two weeks ago from St. Louis.

“It feels alive. Last weekend it was super cold and snowy and no one was out, but everyone is braving the elements to get out and just have a good time and show the celebrities Cleveland,” Jordan King said.

Jordan and Devon King are new Downtown Cleveland residents. [Gabriel Kramer / Ideastream Public Media]

“It’s been really awesome the amount of people coming in and from different cultures. You can see how Cleveland fans show out,” Devon King said.

NBA All-Star Saturday night ended with a skills challenge, a three-point contest and a slam dunk contest.

‘Team Cavs,’ which included three Cleveland Cavaliers – Allen, Garland and Evan Mobley – won the skills challenge.

From left to right: Garland, Mobley and Allen. [Gabriel Kramer / Ideastream Public Media]

"He's our rookie of the year," Garland said of Cavs rookie Mobley.

"I second that," Allen said.

The NBA All-Star game starts at 8 p.m. Sunday at Rocket Mortgage Fieldhouse.

Gabriel Kramer is a Filipino American journalist from Medina, Ohio. He studied journalism at Kent State University and is a proud member of the Asian American Journalists Association.