How Detroit Could Benefit From Hosting The Next NBA All-Star Game

by Hantz Jean-Francois
Facebook/Detroit Pistons

In April of 2014, the ESPN "30 for 30" series documented the notorious story of the Detroit Pistons' "Bad Boy" era.

Led by names such as Isiah Thomas and Bill Laimbeer, the franchise was able to bring two championships in back-to-back fashion between 1989 and 1990.

Under the leadership of Chuck Daly, the Pistons were able to bring the franchise to a feat they wouldn’t accomplish again until 2004.

Since that '04 title win, unfortunately, the Pistons have only had winning percentages over .500, in just four of the following 11 seasons.

But in the grander picture, the city of Detroit is enduring much more grim issues than the downfall of its basketball team.

Detroit, once a backbone for America’s industrial prowess and a symbol of blue collar work, is now one of the most noticeable blemishes on the acne-filled face that is the United States economy.

In 2013, the city filed for Chapter 9 bankruptcy after falling $20 billion in debt, owing money to over 100,000 creditors.

Furthermore, the population has decreased by 63 percent, now host to roughly 700,000 people. Despite the decrease in population, the employment status is also in shambles because of jobs rapidly getting cut.

Alongside economic deficiencies, issues such as crime rates and vacated homes also have a toxic presence in the Motor City.

But Detroit, America’s depressing bed time story, has potential for brighter chapters ahead with the help of basketball’s biggest theatrical: the NBA All-Star game.

In 2014, the mid-season show was hosted in New Orleans and generated an overall economic impact of $106 million for the city.

According to research conducted by the University of New Orleans, visitors spent an average of $904, which led to the state gathering $4.9 million in tax revenue.

The NBA All-Star game is able to attract crowds of people from celebrities to basketball fanatics and everyone in between, which allows the hosting city and its local businesses to make profits from the game.

It’s evident that $106 million is pocket change compared to the $20 billion dollar hole Detroit is currently in, but there are other opportunities for restoration besides monetary revenue.

The power of awareness is often overlooked, but almost every social initiative is addressed with exposing the need to resolve to as many people as possible.

In 2005, the NBA started NBA Cares in order to provide service to communities and countries, both locally and globally, through athlete-centered service and charity.

Throughout the All-Star break, the week is filled with community service events where the athletes get involved in restoring neighborhoods, fitness education, basketball camps and environmental projects.

It was announced that starting with the 2013 All-Star festivities in Houston, the NBA would go conference-versus-conference in competitions to raise money for charities of their choice, which totaled to about $500,000 that year.

Furthermore, the mass viewership of major sporting events, especially global games such as basketball and soccer, allow for anything airing during that time slot to be viewed worldwide.

The past two All-Star competitions, held in New Orleans and Manhattan/Brooklyn, were seen by 7.5 and 7.2 million viewers, respectively.

Furthermore, when Orlando hosted the game in 2012, the East-West collision was televised in 215 countries in 47 different languages.

By televising scenes from the community service done by athletes during the game and producing commercials geared toward Detroit’s hardships and hope for triumph, the city’s current issues will be put on a global stage. People will focus their attention to its many initiatives, such as the Write A House.

Detroit currently has about 78,000 abandoned homes, and 47 percent of its population is functionally illiterate.

Write A House has been combatting both issues simultaneously by providing housing for writers across the country, in order to improve the literary arts and education of the city’s residents.

As explained through its mission, a key tactic involves leveraging the easy availability of distressed housing, in order to promote vocational education, home ownership, neighborhood stabilization and creative arts.

The three major goals of the project are to:

1. Educate the under-employed on carpentry and building skills

2. Use those skills to renovate Detroit city homes

3. Award those homes to writers.

The All-Star game would be a massive platform to promote programs such as these through advertisements, in order for others to aid in the city’s efforts to resurrect itself.

As previously mentioned, Detroit was once the manufacturing capital of America during the 1950s, when it employed over 290,000 workers. But from 2000 to 2010, it saw a 48 percent decrease in jobs to only a mere 27,000 or less.

The employment cuts have hit the police department especially hard, as over 40 percent of the police force has been cut in the past decade, reducing the city’s ability to cut down crime rates.

This issue is signified in the fact that only 10 percent of cases are solved due to lack of numbers. Overall, only less than half of the city’s population over the age of 16 is employed.

Although temporary and minimal for the time being, the All-Star game can potentially provide a workforce boost as it did in Orlando, as 2,250 jobs were created in efforts to host the festivities.

The Palace of Auburn Hills has yet to see its basketball scene provide hope since the days of Chauncey Billups and Rasheed Wallace.

In that time, the city of Detroit has had an economic and social collapse, turning one of the most prominent cities in American history into a near wasteland.

The impact that sports, specifically the NBA, has had on global communities is unprecedented, especially since many leagues have made service an initiative of focus.

With a city in turmoil, Adam Silver and the top athletes in the world can provide Motor City with a chance for hope and resurgence.