Since 1998, the finest wheelchair basketball players in the world have helped get the NBA All-Star festivities rolling.
Maybe one year, Dave Radbel will stick around for the main event and hang out with some fellow all-stars.
"We had a tournament that weekend, so I didn't get to see the slam dunk and 3-point contests, or the All-Star game," said the 35-year-old Munster native. "We did get to meet some current and former NBA and WNBA players."
For the fourth time since he joined the NWBA Chicago Wheelchair Bulls six years ago, Radbel was selected to play in NBA/NWBA All-Star Wheelchair Classic, which took place Feb. 13 in the Sprint Arena at the New Orleans Convention Center. The game was part of the NBA Jam Session, a precursor to the NBA All-Star Game, which took place the following Sunday at the Smoothie King Center in N.O.
Radbel played point guard for the East team, which also included Chicago Wheelchair Bulls teammates Gus Lease and Gary Maldonado.
"It was the first time we've had three players from our team selected to the all-star game," said Radbel, whose East team lost 49-38.
"I didn't score much," said Radbel, who was named MVP in his first "Classic" in 2009. "Playing the point, I mainly tried to set my teammates up."
The head coach for Radbel's East squad was former NBA All-Star John Starks.
"He helped make the substitutions and make sure everyone got in," said Radbel, who lost the use of his legs in an auto accident when he was 13. "Other than that, we mainly coached ourselves."
Coaching the West squad was former Philadelphia 76ers center Darryl Dawkins, famous for slaying backboards with his monstrous dunks.
The Chicago Wheelchair Bulls is a Championship Division team ranked in the top 20 among more than 200 NWBA-sanctioned teams. The Bulls recently won the Bluegrass Invitational Tournament, held Feb. 3-5 at the University of Kentucky.
The Chicago Wheelchair Bulls are teaming up with the Chicago Park District to hold the inaugural Neal R. Radbel Tournament on March 22-23 at Broadway Armory Park in Chicago. The Championship Division tourney is being held in memory of Radbel's late father, who helped promote wheelchair basketball when Dave first started playing.