It's sometimes hard for me to believe that 1997 was actually 25 years ago, because I can remember it like it was just yesterday. The NBA was in town for a very special All-Star Weekend to celebrate the league's 50th anniversary and honor the 50 greatest players of all-time. As a kid who grew up a die-hard Cavs fan and huge NBA fanatic, it felt like a dream come true to have all of the game's greatest players coming to my city for an entire weekend. I remember attending the giant Jam Session at Cleveland Public Auditorium -- clamoring to meet my heroes and get my picture taken with the Larry O'Brien trophy. I remember attending All-Star Saturday night, from a seat high in rafters - witnessing a rookie, Kobe Bryant, win the Slam Dunk crown. I recall attending the NBA All-Star Game with my dad, from seats in the very last row, and taking as many photos as possible on my disposable Kodak camera as the game's greatest players were introduced at halftime. And I can see it like it was just yesterday - as I snuck into the NBA's official after party, where all of the game's top players were walking around with their iconic leather jackets. I still cherish the photos that I took that night – I must reference them at least once a week!Jason with "The Admiral" David Robinson and former NBA Commissioner, David Stern, at the 1997 NBA All-Star Weekend celebration.
25 years later, the NBA returned to Cleveland to celebrate their 75th season and to honor the top 75 greatest players of all-time. And this time, I was hired by the NBA to serve as the official host and emcee of their giant fan fest activation - NBA Crossover - at the very same venue I attended as a kid. To be at Rocket Mortgage Fieldhouse for all of the main events of the weekend - but this time hired by the same NBA that I've always loved so much - was truly a full-circle, dream-come-true moment. I got to share the stage with those very same legends who I grew up idolizing. From interviewing all-time greats like Kareem Abdul-Jabbar and Dominique Wilkins, to chatting with '97 All-Stars like Shawn Kemp and Dikembe Mutombo, to spending quality time both on-stage and behind-the-scenes with future stars like Evan Mobley and Cade Cunningham -- I found myself in constant shock that this was all really happening. My ten year-old self was definitely freaking out all weekend long!
The entire week was one that I will never forget. There were so many moments and memories, and I'm grateful that I was tasked with documenting it all on behalf of one of my favorite brands in the world - HOMAGE. I felt inspired to ask all of the current and former players who I spoke with who they would want to "pay homage" to, and the answers I received were incredibly powerful and moving tributes to people who helped pave the way for their success behind the scenes. Not a single one of those greats would've made it to where they are today without the love, encouragement, support and inspiration of so many, just as I wouldn't have made it up on the big stage of NBA All-Star 2022 without being inspired by the game's greats, and the support of so many family and friends behind-the-scenes. This week really was a dream come true for a kid from Cleveland, and I'm so grateful to be a part of Team HOMAGE. I can't wait for the next adventure, and I'll definitely still be rocking my throwback HOMAGE tees when the NBA celebrates 100 in Cleveland in 2047!
- Jason Zone Fisher