LAS VEGAS (AP) - Even a city that spares no expense for a good time has never seen anything like this.
The NBA All-Star game on Sunday may be meaningless, and after three nights of parties might be sloppy. But try telling that to people paying top dollar for a chance to see it.
"This is the biggest event that ever hit Las Vegas," said Gavin Maloof, whose family owns the Sacramento Kings and the Palms, where the players are staying. "No question about it, bigger than any fight. Let me tell you why. The tickets, they're brokering the tickets 10 rows up, five rows up for $27,000 a ticket.
"There's never been an event that I know of in the history of the world that goes for $27,000. I don't care if it's World Cup, I don't care if it's the Stones, Super Bowl. There's never been an event that a broker has charged that kind of an amount for any ticket, not that I know of. It's just incredible."
Maloof has had a big hand in it. He said he and his brother, Joe, were talking about the idea of a neutral site All-Star game and pitched the thought of it being in their city to commissioner David Stern, who told them to bring it to Mayor Oscar Goodman on one condition: No betting on the game in the sports books. Being an exhibition that doesn't get heavy action anyway, that was no problem.
"If you bet the NBA All-Star game, you might as well get a life," Gavin Maloof said.
Besides, after all those parties - Maloof said his casino will host about a dozen, featuring everyone from Shaquille O'Neal to Dwyane Wade to Diddy - who can predict which players will have energy left to play well Sunday night?
"There ain't going to be no sleep, I'll tell you that," Wade said. "There's going to be a lot going on."
The timing of this experiment couldn't be better. After an occasionally rocky first half that featured headaches from the ball to the brawl, the NBA could use a few days away to blow off some steam.
Is there a better place for that than Sin City?
"I got married in Vegas a couple of summers ago and it was pretty crazy, so I can only imagine what it is going to be like with all the celebrities and an event this big," said Washington's Caron Butler, a first-time All-Star.
Goodman called the combination of NBA stars and his city's entertainers "a perfect honeymoon." The players were to share the Sunday night stage with Las Vegas entertainment fixtures Wayne Newton, Danny Gans and performers from Cirque du Soleil, all scheduled to perform that night.
Last year, Goodman said the festivities would rival "the heyday of a Tyson fight." Given a year to reconsider, the mayor has amended his prediction.
"As far as the expectations for this weekend, it outdoes any championship fight that I've experienced here," he said. "And I've lived here since 1964 and I've seen the Alis and the Listons and the Foremans and the Fosters and the Tysons.
"The buzz here is extraordinary. The parties that are being arranged at this point in time are extraordinary. It's just going to be a weekend and a couple of days of nonstop excitement and electricity and neon and glitz and glamour, and it's going to be everything that Las Vegas is all about."
Imagine if the game was relevant.
In an age when baseball utilizes its All-Star game to determine home-field advantage for the World Series in an attempt to make its game matter, the NBA readily acknowledges its game doesn't matter. Its weekend is all about putting on a show, which makes Las Vegas a natural for the first time the league is bringing its showcase outside of one of its own cities.
"We're in a time when a place becomes the basketball capital of the world for an extended weekend, and our primary concern is the entertainment of our guests," Stern said. "The basketball, we want to put on a great show in the arena, but there are lots of arenas that can do that. The primary (concern), after the game and the event, is entertaining our guests."
The predictions for the weekend are staggering. Besides the prices for a ticket at the Thomas & Mack Center, Las Vegas officials estimate there will be 25,000 visitors who will generate more than $26 million in non-gaming economic impact, as the NBA shares the holiday weekend crowd with a fashion industry convention and the Chinese New Year.
"There aren't many cities where the All-Star weekend would be a relatively small event in terms of the number of people involved, but Las Vegas is such a city," Stern said. "That said, I understand that in terms of the demand for tickets and the like, it's been the biggest event in their history."
Nearly every top player has an entertainment or endorsement commitment before the ball is tossed up Sunday night. LeBron James was scheduled to guest host a poker tournament. Kobe Bryant is joining a panel that includes Michael Jordan to judge the slam dunk contest.
So how is anyone supposed to get any rest during this All-Star "break?"
"Ah, you don't," James said. "Let's see, Tuesday I can sleep all day in Toronto and be ready for Wednesday. I'm not going to get any sleep there (in Vegas)."
All of that takes place against the backdrop of the larger picture, the question of whether Las Vegas can start hosting games that do count. Goodman is desperate to land a pro sports team, and his city has a large basketball fan base.
Stern previously said he won't put a team in Las Vegas as long as there is betting on the NBA, but now says it's ultimately up to the owners, and he realizes there are some of them who believe a team is headed to that market whether there's gambling or not.
So while LeBron vs. Kobe usually might garner all the attention, the most important 1-on-1 this weekend may have already happened. Stern told Goodman on Wednesday to submit a proposal for how the city would handle betting on an NBA team, which he would present at the owners' meeting in April.
"This is the first time that he said he's not going to make the decision anymore, he's going to let the owners make the decision," Goodman said.
The events started Friday morning, when the rookies and sophomores practiced at Andre Agassi's academy for their game later that night. Saturday brought the 3-point shootout and the dunk contest, where Hall of Famers Julius Erving and Dominique Wilkins were to join Jordan, Bryant and Vince Carter on a judges' panel of elite dunkers.
Sunday is the game at UNLV's Thomas & Mack Center, the arena trivia buffs may recall is where Kareem Abdul-Jabbar surpassed Wilt Chamberlain as the NBA's career scoring leader in a 1984 game.
The Utah Jazz played some home games there that season, and perhaps someday Las Vegas gets regular-season action again. For now, it has to settle for a simple exhibition.
Not that anyone is complaining.
"I've never been there, so I'm really excited," Detroit's Richard Hamilton said. "I know there's too much to do - that's why I've never gone - but this is going to be great."