For the second time in six years the NBA All-Star Game tips-off in the city of New Orleans later today.
Two Los Angeles Clippers are on the Western Conference roster. Power forward Blake Griffin voted in as a starter by the fans, makes his fourth All-Star Game appearance.
For reserve guard Chris Paul it’s a homecoming of sorts. He makes his sixth appearance in the All-Star Game in the city where he began his NBA career in 2005 with the then-New Orleans Hornets (now the Pelicans).
The 2008 All-Star Game was Paul’s first scoring 16 points and dishing out 14 assists off the Western Conference bench in a 134-128 Eastern Conference win.
That game was more about the city than the players. It was about lifting the spirits of the people of New Orleans who suffered through the devastation of Hurricane Katrina in August of 2005.
It was also Paul’s first full season in New Orleans after the Hornets were forced to play in Oklahoma City because of Katrina.
"I am not sure what the NBA knew to expect coming to New Orleans, but once everyone got there, no one wanted to leave," said Paul. "It was one of the funniest times of my career and a game that I will never forget."
After the game, he helped Habitat for Humanity build homes and refurbish public basketball courts. And though he was traded to the Los Angeles Clippers in 2011, he still sponsors an after-school program in New Orleans' Central City neighborhood.
To hear Paul talk about returning to New Orleans for the game and the advice Blake Griffin had for Portland’s Damian Lillard who is making his first-time all-star game appearance, click on the video with this story.
LeBron James – who was named the MVP of the 2008 game scoring 27 points, grabbing eight rebounds and dishing out nine assists for the East - helped sponsor the resurfacing of a basketball court at a recreational center in the flood-damaged St. Bernard neighborhood.
"It was perfect timing." Said James about playing that game in the Crescent City. “I was happy to be part of it.”
Tonight’s game will still be about the city but the players will really be the story for this one.
Tip-off for the game is set for 5pm at Smoothie King Center.