NBA All-Star Weekend brought the best of the best to New Orleans for a celebration of pro basketball and its fans. The big names, including LeBron James, Kevin Durant, Blake Griffin, Chris Paul, Carmelo Anthony and even Kobe Bryant (voted into the game by the fans, but out due to injury) were all in attendance in the Crescent City.
The Dallas Mavericks were represented by superstar Dirk Nowitzki -- the oldest player in the game, whose 12 appearances were tops among all players -- and third-year Mavs Dancer Meghan. The NBA selected a representative from each dance team to join four members of the hometown New Orleans Pelicans Dance Team at the game.
This year was only the second time in NBA history that an all-star team of dancers was put together for the big weekend, following the 2007 game in Las Vegas, which does not have its own NBA team. In 2007, the Mavs were represented by current Mavs Dancers director Mallory Mills, who was voted in by the fans.
I found out at the end of practice one night and I was was so excited, said Meghan, who compared the euphoric feeling to when she learned she was on the cover of the 2012 Mavs Dancers calendar. I did not really know what to expect, but I knew it would be fun.
Meghan flew down to New Orleans on Wednesday, when the rehearsals kicked off in a local dance studio. The rest of the weekend, the dancers would split time between their hotel, the Smoothie King Center the Pelicans arena that was the site of the game and the neighboring Mercedes-Benz Superdome, home to the NFLs New Orleans Saints and the annual Sugar Bowl.
After Thursday was spent on maximum overload of learning multiple routines, the action got under way Friday with the NBA All-Star Celebrity game that featured familiar faces such as actor-comedian Kevin Hart, rap artist Snoop Dogg, America's Got Talent host Nick Cannon and Victoria's Secret model, actress and philanthropist Erin Heatherton. The dancers performed at this game as well as the Rising Stars Challenge featuring rookies and second-year NBA players that followed the celebrity game.
The celebrity game was a lot of fun, she said. My favorite part was when we were throwing T-shirts into the crowd and I looked over and was about a foot away from Drake. Ill admit, I got a little starstruck.
Saturdays call time was 8 a.m., with rehearsals all day long leading up to the evenings activities that included the skills challenge, three-point shootout and slam dunk contest. The dancers performed before and during each of the events and then stayed afterward to get fitted for their uniforms for the pre-game show for the next day.
Besides being exhausted, a difficult aspect was the choreography was very different than we have here with the Mavs, Meghan explained. In Dallas, everything is set as far as movements and placement, and at the All-Star Game, it was more about free-flowing and we had to learn so much stuff that it was hard to keep everything separate.
Sunday brought more rehearsals, beginning at 10 a.m. and leading up to the 7:30 p.m. tip-off. For the pre-game show, they took the stage and performed with Pharrell to his No. 1 hit, Happy. The dancers also performed on stage during the player introductions and out on the court during one of the first quarter timeouts.
The game ended shortly after 10 p.m., with a 163-155 victory for the East. Cavaliers point guard Kyrie Irving was named MVP. Meanwhile, the dancers headed to the NBA post-game party that featured a live jazz band and, in honor of being in New Orleans, the dancers greeted guests and passed out beads.
While that party undoubtedly went deep into the night, the dancers stayed until 11:15 before retreating to another NBA party specifically for those who had put on the game. This party, a closing ceremony of sorts, was called The Wrap Party, and it officially wrapped up the big weekend for all of those involved behind the scenes.
My time representing the Mavericks during All-Star Weekend was very special and I am honored to have been selected, Meghan said. I think its a great idea for the NBA to have dancers from each team and everything went so smooth in New Orleans ... I hope it paves the way for them to do it again for the foreseeable future.
Mavs fans can follow Meghan on Twitter @DMD_Meghan