Basketball legends, celebrities and thousands of fans from around the world will come to Indianapolis in February for the NBA All-Star Weekend. It is a spectacle the Circle City hasn’t seen in decades. The last time was in 1985, when Magic Johnson and Kareem Abdul-Jabbar faced Larry Bird and rookie Michael Jordan in the old Hoosier Dome.
Now, Gainbridge Fieldhouse, Lucas Oil Stadium and the Indiana Convention Center are gearing up to put on the show in 2024. It’s a massive undertaking seven years in the making, and it will take thousands of volunteers to showcase the best of the city.
“This is a global event, and in Indianapolis, we do events really well,” said Willy Whatley, an event services coordinator for NBA All-Star 2024 and an IUPUI alumnus. “There’s going to be a lot of opportunities downtown and in the footprint of downtown.
“There are going to be people outside welcoming and directing fans as part of our activations team, so we need volunteers for all of that to put a Hoosier hospitality spin on everything that we’re presenting.”
The NBA All-Star Game will be held Feb. 18, and a variety of events will lead up to the big game, including the Ruffles All-Star Celebrity Game, Slam Dunk Content and NBA Crossover featuring a concert by Keith Urban. All of the events will be made possible with the help of volunteers.
The Indiana Sports Corp is leading the volunteer effort. Anyone can register to help with the events or participate in the NBA’s All-Star Day of Service with the Million Meal Movement. The NBA All-Star Host Committee needs 6,000 volunteers to pack 1 million meals for the community during the 24 hours of service.
For Whatley, volunteering was a crucial part of his time at IUPUI. As a sports management major with the School of Health & Human Sciences, he had opportunities to volunteer at big sporting events like the NCAA Men’s Basketball Tournament and the Big Ten Championship as part of his classes.
“My freshman year, Dr. Geoffre Sherman signed our class up for an opportunity to work with the Indiana Sports Corps during the Corporate Challenge,” Whatley said. “That was my first volunteer opportunity I ever did coming into college, and since that day I continued to do it.”
His volunteer experience led to an internship with the Indiana Sports Corps during the College Football Playoffs, and his connections grew from there, leading to a dream job working full time with the NBA All-Star Host Committee after graduation.
“Indianapolis is our backyard, and I’m very thankful to my professors for challenging me in the classroom and outside of the classroom,” he said. “I think that was the most important thing they could’ve done because there are so many opportunities in Indianapolis.”
Those interested in being part of NBA All-Star Weekend can register through the Indiana Sports Corp Volunteer Program website. Whatley said that’s where various volunteer positions will be posted for Hoosiers to join in the exciting experience.
“I’m looking forward to seeing all the people who are going to be here,” he said. “There’s going to be a lot of celebrities, a lot of players, legends, a lot of names here, and they’re all going to bring attention with them. I’m excited to see and feel the buzz around Indianapolis when it all shows up.”