New York — The NBA's All-Star show has arrived on Brrr-oadway.
After years of performing only in warm-weather cities in the South and West, the midseason spectacle has come back to the bitterly cold Big Apple, where the most popular person at the player hotel Friday may not have been LeBron James or Stephen Curry, but the one handing out complimentary hot chocolates in the lobby.
Players love being in New York and can't wait for the curtain to rise at Madison Square Garden on Sunday night, but the bright lights in the big city aren't doing anything to help the teeth-chattering chilly temperatures down below.
"New York is cold, man. But it's nice, it's cool," Miami's Dwyane Wade said. "I feel like the All-Star Game had to be in New York one of these years. Since I've been in the league, 12 years now, it hasn't been in New York and it's mind-boggling that it hasn't, but I think it's cool that it's finally here. There's just a different vibe in New York than anywhere else."
Wade is injured and won't play Sunday, but the guys who will say it will be a special night because it will be on one of their favorite stages.
"It's going to be the best All-Star Game for me, to be able to be in the Garden," James said. "I love my fans back in Cleveland. I loved my fans when I was in Miami. But if I could have 82 regular-season games in the Garden, you know I would, because it's the mecca of basketball. You get a great feeling when you walk in there because there is so much history. It's going to be fun."
The game hasn't been in New York since 1998, Michael Jordan's last with the Chicago Bulls and the first of many for Kobe Bryant and Tim Duncan. The NBA's preference has been to hold the event in cities where it's warm in February, and cities such as Houston and New Orleans have hosted it multiple times in recent years.
But when the Garden underwent a three-year renovation and Barclays Center in Brooklyn was built, both with $1 billion price tags, the league decided the venues would share the weekend. The Rising Stars challenge and All-Star Saturday night went to the home of the Nets, with the game set for the Knicks home court.
Players arrived to find painfully cold temperatures in the teens, feeling much lower with the wind, and snow possible on Sunday, when the forecast called for a low near zero degrees. Sacramento's DeMarcus Cousins, who usually spends All-Star weekend back home in Alabama, was still wearing his winter hat when he conducted his media day interviews in a hotel ballroom.
The Knicks' Carmelo Anthony wasn't worried about showing players around the city because "nobody wants to be in this cold anyway."
"You talk about people that's in other cold climates that's complaining that they're cold," he added.
That would include Wade, who grew up in Chicago and played in Milwaukee at Marquette, making him somewhat of an expert on frozen tundras.
"It's cold, but Milwaukee is COLD," he said. "I think Milwaukee is colder than Chicago. Seriously, when I was in Milwaukee, there was a couple of days I thought about not playing basketball ever again. I didn't want to walk to class it was so cold. I was like, I don't know if this life is for me. But this is cold, but it ain't got nothing on Milwaukee cold."
Still, Wade said, he would play outdoors as a kid because he loved the game, just as kids were doing outside a community center where James, Curry and Commissioner Adam Silver appeared at an NBA Cares clinic, one of the 100 the league conducted Friday around the city's five brrr-oughs.
Silver had said earlier this week the weather was always the biggest All-Star concern for the league.
"I'm very happy so far that while it's a little colder than I would have liked, most importantly we don't have a lot of snow, and the latest I've heard is that the airports are clear and people are able to get around easy in the city," he said after the event.
The game will be a vintage New York show, featuring performances by the Rockettes and some Broadway musical actors. Anthony is battling a knee injury that could end his season after the All-Star break, but he's continued playing to take part in a weekend he says New Yorkers will never forget.
"This is one of the cities that I think most guys look forward to coming to," Portland's LaMarcus Aldridge said. "It's a fun city. There's always a lot going on. It's the fashion capital. I think guys love coming here."