Slam dunk: Art, music, fan events planned throughout Indy’s NBA All-Star Weekend

A graphic featuring Indiana Pacers star Tyrese Haliburton adorns the JW Marriott in downtown Indianapolis in advance of NBA All-Star 2024. From Feb. 15 to 18, All-Star Weekend will feature live music, interactive art, fan activations and much more to celebrate the big game.

Photo provided

The NBA All-Star Game is coming to Indianapolis.

And organizers are pulling out all the stops, transforming the town and rolling out the red carpet to ensure its success is nothing but net.

Sure, there will be a wealth of basketball-centric activities to satisfy even the most die-hard hoops heads from Feb. 15 to 18.

But NBA All-Star 2024 is about so much more. Art, music, fashion, film, food, beer — central Indiana will be at the epicenter of culture for an entire weekend.

“We know that our fans are interested in what our players are interested in. And our players are the greatest basketball players on earth, but they’re also fashion designers, musicians, artists, technologists and social justice activists,” said Joey Graziano, NBA head of event strategy and management. “What we need to do is bring together the holistic interest of our players into one immersive campus.”

Indianapolis has been preparing for this opportunity for years.

When the city won the bid to host the All-Star Game in 2017, organizers had initially thought it would be for the 2021 version of the event. But the COVID pandemic forced the cancellation of that year’s All-Star Game, and Indy was instead given the chance to host in 2024.

As the NBA and the NBA All-Star Host Committee plotted out the weekend, the emphasis was on creating an experience that was true to Indiana.

“We’ve been thinking about that for years — how do we deliver an authentic experience into Indianapolis?” Graziano said. “We don’t stamp out events at the NBA, we custom curate everything. So the programming we’re putting on is uniquely tailored for this city and this moment.”

Very quickly, the strategy was pushed forward to be the most fan-friendly event in All-Star Game history. To do that, organizers created more access for fans, more ways for people to give their insight into the weekend and more connection.

Everything visitors experience over the weekend takes that into consideration, Graziano said.

“You see that come into consideration in every decision that we made. Things like 175,000 fan ticketed opportunities, a 40% increase from any other All-Star,” he said.

Fans from more than 29 countries and 48 U.S. states are coming in for the weekend, according to Graziano. From the moment they land in central Indiana, they’ll encounter a full-size replica basketball court that features two baskets, boundary lines and the All-Star logo inside the Indianapolis International Airport.

“When they step foot into that airport, they’re going to know it’s a full All-Star takeover,” Graziano said.

If the airport court is a taste of what’s to come, the scene in downtown Indianapolis is a full-fledged feast. Public art, including light-based art installations, sculptures celebrating Hoosier basketball tradition, storefront murals, graffiti art and more will be set up through the downtown area known as Indy’s Home Court — the footprint of All-Star activities.

DJs, photo stations and fan zones are also planned throughout the area.

“You’re not going to be able to go one street from Monument Circle to Gainbridge Fieldhouse to the convention center and Lucas Oil Stadium and not know All-Star is here,” Graziano said. “There are going to be activations at every turn for families and fans of the NBA. We want that feeling to resonate from the moment you step into downtown Indy.”

Those experiences serve as a lead-in for the centerpiece events of All-Star Weekend.

Everything starts with the Tip-Off at Bicentennial Unity Plaza, a kick-off event planned for Feb. 15 to get the weekend started. Fans will immerse themselves in all things basketball at NBA Crossover, a multi-day interactive fan event at the Indiana Convention Center that brings basketball culture to the forefront.

Visitors can experience player appearances, live performances by by Zedd, T-Pain and Keith Urban, and unique activations focused on art, music, fashion, technology and entertainment. Performances will keep the Crossover rocking.

“There’s 350,000 feet of fan activation — the largest fan event in the history of NBA All-Star,” Graziano said.

Of course, the basketball is squarely focused throughout the weekend, from the NBA Rising Stars Challenge and Ruffles NBA All-Star Celebrity Game to the slam dunk and 3-point contests to the All-Star Game itself.

“The basketball competition is going to be the best on earth,” Graziano said.

As fans prepare for one of the biggest weekends in Indianapolis’ sporting history, Graziano recommends spending a full day at the events.

“Come all day. We’re going to have something for you all day long, and we’re going to make sure we have programming late into the event — we don’t mind to party at the NBA,” he said.