CHICAGO - Like the snow that blankets mount Kilimanjaro, this city I call home is covered with a bed of mushy white powder that would make for a great postcard.
For frigid residents here, the cheeky warm smiles gamely surrender to an icy, teeth-clinching grin this time of year. We're in the dead of winter in February.
So why bring the 2020 NBA All-Star Weekend in this frozen tundra?
Because this event hadn't been here since 1988 when Michel Jordan made his famous flight at the Slam Dunk contest. And Chicago is a giant media market and a convention city equipped to host a massive influx of people looking for fun with basketball's biggest stars.
Like the Super Bowl, the NBA All-Star is usually held in warm weather cities, but the cold can't ice the fun either. We saw that happen at the 2015 All-Star in New York and the 2016 edition in Toronto.
As I peck this column in chase of a deadline, the temperature outside is a scant three degrees. It's supposed to climb up to 30 degrees in a few hours by 10 am but according to The Chicago Tribune, the horrifying wind chill will make it feel like it's minus 15 degrees.
I don't care. Running around four separate venues today will keep me warm. Hot basketball stuff melts bitter cold.
I will be among the 425 international reporters from 54 countries credentialed for the this midseason classic. I will be preoccupied the next few days and will be spewing out stories and features across multiple platforms including Rappler, Sports on Air, PhilBoxing and this column of course.
My first stop is at Quest multi-sports where I get to watch Kai Sotto for the first time in the flesh. Reporters aren't allowed to talk to him yet but we can at least see him in action.
Then I head off to Navy Pier on the banks of mighty Lake Michigan where the NBA Crossover and Junior NBA Day will take place. Kawhi Leonard and Joel Embiid are among those expected to attend.
From there I head off to Wintrust arena for the Celebrity Game before winding up the long Friday with the Rising Stats Challenge at the United Center.
Led by Giannis Antetokounmpo of Greece and Luka Doncic of Slovenia, a record 19 international players from 15 countries will take part in the festivities. Unlike 2016 when the Bulls had All-Stars in Jimmy Butler and Pau Gasol, the host city will have no representation to the All-Star Game.
Zach Lavine is a star but not quite an All-Star yet, no thanks to the Bulls' 19-36 record which is hindering the high-flyer like a brick around to the neck.
The 2020 NBA All-Star showcase can be seen in 215 countries and territories via TVs, computers, mobile phones and tablets. So even without the all-access pass that I have you can still immerse your eyes with all the fun.
DON'T SLAUGHTER YOUR CAREER, GREG. If Quinito Henson is the Dean of Philippine sports, Jun Migallen and Jonas Panerio are tenured professors in all things Cebu basketball.
So when this kerfuffle surrounding Greg Slaughter erupted, I hit them up.
I've known Migallen, a popular radio host and sports editor of SunStar Super Balita, since 1993. We were partners on DYMF Cebu's NBA broadcasts and we were also best buddies after work, pissing away our P150 talent fees on anything alcoholic.
"He is a super great kid." he tells me. "Too bad he is going through some stuff right now."
Panerio is basketball scholar disguised as a SunStar Cebu sports reporter. He too has a good impression on the 7-foot Slaughter.
"He can come off as aloof but definitely one of the nicest guys around," said Jonas.
As he contemplates retirement, I hope Greg ultimately decides against it. There is no sadder story in the world than wasted talent.
When the heavens gift you with so much height and talent for hoops, Greg, the inference is that you share that to the fans. Can you imagine if Van Gogh had kept his paintings from the art world or if Mozart kept the music to himself?
No one is bigger than basketball. The PBA and Ginebra will move on without you. But let this be clear, the league will be better with you.