This weekend, I’ll be in Charlotte, North Carolina to cover NBA All-Star Weekend for The New Tri-State Defender. As a senior journalism major at the University of Tennessee-Knoxville, it’s an extraordinarily rare opportunity.
Receiving this opportunity still feels very surreal. I remember the exact moment TSD Assistant Editor Lee Eric Smith presented the idea to me. I interned at the TSD last summer, shadowing him for the NBA Draft among other treats. I was back home in Memphis for winter break, so I chipped in at the TSD to gain more experience.
We were sitting in the media section of FedExForum, near “The Draft Room” on the Pinnacle level. I was casually chewing on my game-to-game favorite snack—popcorn— as Lee brought up the idea of me going to Charlotte for All-Star Weekend.
Initially, I thought it was a long shot; a nice little dream. But you know what? It’s Black History Month and Martin Luther King had a dream. So I started to dream.
But Lee was serious. While the TSD wouldn’t be sending anyone directly from Memphis, Knoxville isn’t far at all from Charlotte, and he thought it would be a great experience. He began showing me YouTube clips of his trip to the All-Star game in New Orleans in 2014 and brainstorming ideas.
Then, it clicked like a seatbelt. I had to fasten up, get ready to enjoy the ride and take a trip to Charlotte. My plan is to get there Friday afternoon to give myself some down time before the USA vs World game that evening.
Grizzlies rookie Jaren Jackson Jr. will play in that game, and I plan on bringing great coverage of his time in the event. Meanwhile, Mike Conley will compete in the Taco Bell Skills Challenge.
Yes, I know Grizzlies fans; it’s not the All-Star Game, which you have been clamoring for Conley to be in for years. But hey, it’s something.
I believe Jaren Jackson has a really good opportunity to create national buzz for himself. Jackson has averaged 13.8 points per game in just 26 minutes of game action. While covering the Grizzlies during winter break, I saw several coaches and veteran players heap tons of praise on the young power forward, and it hasn’t stopped.
Tuesday, newly acquired Grizzlies guard Avery Bradley said he hasn’t played with a big man like Jackson since he teamed with Kevin Garnett in Boston — the former Defensive Player of the Year who used to headbutt the padded stanchion under the basket to pump himself up. That’s some high praise.
I’m just grateful for this opportunity and will do my best to get you the inside scoop from All-Star Weekend. I’ll have a recap in next week’s print edition of the TSD. Until then, be on the lookout Saturday and Sunday for my latest exclusive posts and updates — only at www.tri-statedefender.com!