It’s hard for me to believe that it’s been more than a decade since the last time I attended the NBA’s Jam Session. I had just moved to Phoenix, and with comic book stores fewer and far between than they are in New York, I had recently developed a newfound love for the NBA.
It’s crazy to think of how much has changed in that time. In 1995, much of the hype in the All-Star Game was surrounding Grant Hill, a young forward out of Duke University who was set to be the “Air” apparent to Michael Jordan. Now that forward is calling the Valley his permanent home and seems determined to retire a Phoenix Sun.
Another starting forward in the game who was receiving a lot of attention was a Western Conference All-Star forward named Dan Majerle, who would be playing in front of his hometown fans at the then-America West Arena. Strangely enough, that season Majerle became the first NBA reserve ever to be voted an All-Star starter since fan balloting had began twenty years prior. Today, “Thunder Dan” is still making his presence felt on the Suns bench, now as an assistant coach serving under Terry Porter.
While I didn’t quite have the opportunity at age 15 to experience the week leading up to the All-Star Game that I do now as a Suns employee, I can’t imagine that this much preparation went into things back in 1995. The arena has played host to some pretty big shows in my time here, but never have I seen so many rehearsals and so much setup as I have this past week. But while I’m not sure how much more work goes into things today as compared to yesterday regarding the game, I can say that the Jam Session has definitely come a long way.
There are more games for fans to play, but I think the biggest difference comes in the interactivity Jam Session now allows its visitors. The NBA has come up with some pretty creative ideas and fans can truly experience what it’s like to be a basketball superstar more than ever. What I was most pleased with, however, is that Jam Session didn’t substitute the great things I remembered about the 1995 version with these innovations, but rather implemented them as additions. The McDonald’s Mascot Slam Dunk Contest, the big cardboard cutouts of my favorite All-Stars and cool memorabilia dedicated by the players themselves are all still a big part of the experience.
The past few days have been a lot of fun, but I believe the calm before the storm has ended and a few late nights at the office are just around the corner. But I do encourage everyone to make their way to Jam Session or at least the downtown area. The NBA All-Star Block Party presented by Right Guard is absolutely free of charge and still puts you right in the middle of the All-Star experience. Embrace the week as much as possible, NBA fans, and if you’re like me, you’ll keep your fingers crossed it won’t be another 14 years before the excitement of NBA All-Star rolls through the Valley again.