SALT LAKE CITY (AP) — There will be an NBA game in Salt Lake City on Sunday night, something that hasn’t been said for more than two decades during the regular season.
The Utah Jazz traditionally don’t play home games on Sundays out of respect to The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, known widely as the Mormon church. About 60% of Utah residents are Mormons.
But the Jazz are hosting the All-Star Game. The team said it didn’t have discussions with church officials about the plans to bring the All-Star Game to Utah. The NBA awarded Salt Lake City the game in 2019.
“The Church’s teaching and practice of Sabbath observance is well established and part of the weekly devotion of Church members and other persons of faith in our community,” church spokesman Doug Andersen said. “We seek to keep the Sabbath day holy, not only at church, but at home, at work and in our communities. We encourage everyone to enrich their day with uplifting activities that help build family relations, provide service to others and strength faith in Jesus Christ.”
With the exception of a handful of playoff games, it’s the first time fans at the home arena will get to watch a game on a Sunday since Jan. 21, 2001.
The NBA works with teams when constructing the regular-season schedule, basing decisions on things such as arena availability and other factors. Teams also can request to play — or not play — on certain dates. The Jazz have had five playoff games in Salt Lake City over the last 20 years, most recently in 2021. The league’s television partners largely dictate the playoff schedule.
The Jazz have played four games on Sundays so far this season and have three more remaining, including the season finale against the Los Angeles Lakers. All those games, obviously, are road contests.
“The Utah Jazz continue to be a great community partner, and the Church appreciates the longstanding effort of their leadership team, when possible, to avoid playing NBA games at home on Sundays,” Andersen said. “We are grateful for their sensitivities to Sabbath observance.”
There is one Sunday tradition that will be honored: The Chick-fil-A stand inside Vivint Arena will not be open for the All-Star Game. The fast food restaurant chain specializing in chicken sandwiches keeps its locations closed on Sunday.
LeBron James is planning to play in his 19th All-Star Game on Sunday. But he was excused from All-Star Saturday matters.
The NBA announced Saturday morning that the Lakers star and newly crowned all-time scoring leader — he passed Kareem Abdul-Jabbar earlier this month — was excused from practice and media events. The league said James cited personal reasons.
James and fellow captain Giannis Antetokounmpo will draft their teams Sunday night for the All-Star Game. James will also hold a pregame news conference, and there are plans for him to be honored by the league in a halftime ceremony to commemorate becoming the all-time scoring leader.
James is tied with Abdul-Jabbar for most All-Star selections, and if James plays on Sunday — there’s no reason to think that he won’t — he would become the first player in NBA history to actually appear in 19 All-Star games. Abdul-Jabbar was selected to the 1973 game but did not play.
That’ll be just another entry on a long list of All-Star records for James. He’s also the first player to be selected to 19 consecutive All-Star games. Until this year, he shared that record with 18-time-selection Kobe Bryant, the Lakers legend who died Jan. 26, 2020.
If he makes the start as planned, it’ll be James’ 19th time on the floor to open an All-Star Game, which would be four more anyone else in league history; Bryant made 15 starts. The 19 starts in a row would extent another All-Star record — Bob Cousy has the second-longest such streak, having started 13 straight.
James also is the career All-Star leader in minutes, points, field goals made and field goals attempted.
Phoenix guard Kevin Durant needed about a millisecond to answer when asked what city that doesn’t have an NBA team needs one: “Seattle,” he said.
And what would they be called? “Sonics.”
Durant, of course, made his NBA debut for the Seattle SuperSonics.
Kyrie Irving doesn’t travel often on the basketball court. If he wasn’t playing basketball, that’s evidently a different story.
The Dallas guard — traded from Brooklyn earlier this month — was asked what he’d do for a living if he didn’t play basketball.
“If I could have any other career? Shoot, I would probably be one of those people that does hotel reviews, travels around the world and does a whole bunch of reviews on what I think about the five-star treatment that I got or the four-star treatment,” Irving said.
“I’m obviously joking, but that would be a great career. Just to record YouTube videos all day and just say how I feel about the experience,” he added. “You know, I have so many interests outside the game. But I think that is probably a story for another day.”
A VINTAGE LOOK
Sacramento guard Kevin Huerter, who is at All-Star weekend to be part of the 3-point contest, decided during the summer that he was going to add a headband to his gameday look.
Some suggested he shouldn’t. Seems like they were wrong.
“I would never listen to those people,” Huerter said. “The headband was something I was always going to rock. It’s been working so far.”
RESPECT FOR RUSS
Indiana guard Buddy Hield was asked Saturday which player he’d like to see get an NBA championship ring who doesn’t already have one.
His first answer was himself, of course. But his real answer was Russell Westbrook, who is weighing his future after being traded to the Utah Jazz by the Los Angeles Lakers earlier this month.
“He’s a great dude, man,” Hield said. “You hear all his teammates talk about how he’s a great teammate to them.”
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