CLEVELAND — Sunday night wrapped up the 2022 NBA All-Star Weekend hosted in Cleveland, and with it, athletes, musicians, actors, politicians, influencers and other well-known individuals will fly off, back home and out of The Land. But what perceptions are they leaving this city with? How do some of them really feel about Cleveland?
We asked around and here's what we heard.
The rapper all but said "Yeah Boy!" when asked about Cleveland said that his has always been a city he enjoys coming to.
“I love it. Loving it. Always love it here,” he said. “I've been coming to Cleveland since 1987. You know what I'm saying and one of my favorite places to perform here, which is no longer there. It's called the Front Row Theater. I always love Cleveland."
Hall of Fame center Dikembe Mutombo was thrilled to be back in Cleveland, a city that is full of excitement, he said.
"I'm so happy to be back in Cleveland almost after three years," he said. "I know that the people of Cleveland are opening the door to welcome all those many visitors that are coming here for the All-Star Weekend so I'm so excited to be a part of all the exciting events taking place—not just the game, to discover the city, to meet people and to have fun."
During his time in Cleveland this past weekend, rapper Fat Joe was a popular man, making his rounds to events and pop-ups around the city. But his favorite thing about Cleveland comes from the corner of East 99th and St. Clair.
"I've been coming to Cleveland for a long time, I'm very good friends with Bone Thugs-N-Harmony, I've been to all the East 1999-9-9-9-9, shout out to West Cleveland where all the Puerto Ricans are, I know all about the 24-hour gyro spot, y'all talking to the wrong guy, I've been here," he said with a smile.
And while Fat Joe said he enjoys other parts of Cleveland, there's one thing in particular he loves the most—his good friends.
"You want the truth? Bone Thugs-N-Harmony, that's the biggest thing in Cleveland ever. LeBron [James] there too, LeBron there, I'm not crazy, I'm not dizzy, I love LeBron, he's my favorite basketball player," he said. "But Bone Thugs, they changed the game of hip-hop forever, the landscape of music, so when I think Cleveland, I think Bone Thugs-N-Harmony."
While many of us from Northeast Ohio may have been a bit annoyed with the snow and cold that hit Cleveland the first two days of NBA All-Star Weekend, Las Vegas Aces forward Dearica Hamby was thrilled to get a taste of Ohio winter.
"The snow. I live in Vegas so there's not much snow there, but the snow is pretty," Hamby said.
Hank Willis Thomas
Renowned artist from New York, Hank Willis Thomas, has spent a good deal of time in Cleveland over the years, and one of his favorite things about the city is the culture.
"There's a great history in Cleveland which is kind of something that's a sleeper but there's just so much complexity between the three different sports teams and the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame and the Cleveland Clinic and then the Cleveland Museum—for a relatively small city to have so much convergence of different kinds of culture is pretty awesome."
Snow was a common theme for many of the celebs and athletes in town for the weekend, and surprisingly many of them weren't upset about it, like country star Kane Brown, who also has a soft spot for the people of Cleveland and our beloved sports.
"I love the people here, love the sports teams. I just love the atmosphere," Brown said. "And we don't really get snow in Tennessee so it's cool to get some here."
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Gov. Mike DeWine
No one knows Ohio cities like the governor of the state, and Gov. Mike DeWine said his favorite part about Cleveland is that there's so much more to it than any one thing.
"All of the neighborhoods, the diversity of this community, the vibrancy of this community," DeWine said. "This is a community that's alive. There's so much to do, it's becoming more of a young persons' community with the arts and theater, world-class sports—it's just a great place."
The rapper took the stage at Cleveland Public Auditorium Sunday afternoon for an All-Star Pregame Concert and had some good things to say about the city.
"I think people sleep on Ohio," Jack Harlow said. "We at the best city in the world tonight."
Daniel "Booby' Gibson
Well-versed in all things Cleveland from his time with the Cavs, Booby Gibson still has love for the city and makes sure to stop at his favorite restaurant, because as we all know, Cleveland's food scene is one of its shining qualities.
"The people, let's start with that, the fans the love. And the food is great too, I've got a place called Pearl's Kitchen I go to all the time," Gibson said. "For me, it's just the genuine love I got for playing hard, I just think I connected with the city in that way and that was the best part about it for me."
Another former Cavs player, Channing Frye, loves the impact Cleveland has left on him and loves every chance he gets to be back here, praising the people of Cleveland for their friendliness and down-to-earth nature, and he had a lot to say.
"People just work hard as crap in Cleveland, and in the state of Ohio in general, and they value their friendships and their time," Frye said. "If you're by yourself, you can go to any bar, any restaurant, anywhere you want and meet somebody who, if you're a fan of sports, obviously you're at All-Star Weekend, you can meet somebody and talk sports all day long."
Frye shared that one of his favorite parts about Cleveland is being able to form real bonds with fans out and about in everyday life.
"That's what I love is that I got to be No. 9 Channing when I played, but then I'm going to Dover Gardens [Tavern] in Westlake talking to Joe Schmo the local about our game plan and what's going on for the rest of the league as Channing, as a fan of basketball, and then football season goes even crazier, right? It's like, I'm a Cardinals fan and I'm talking to people about the Browns. And we're talking—other than the last few years—about whose team is worse or whose team is better. And I love that," Frye said. "And if you want that real relationship, if you want real conversations, Cleveland is your place. And I think you'll be shocked at what it is because it's real and it's authentic."
"It's not a secret of my love for Cleveland," Frye noted.
Influential Clevelanders giving Cleveland a good name
We heard from some celebrities not from here, but what were the well-known people in Clevelanders saying about the city to their famous friends this weekend? Well, they had to let it be known that this city is a great place to be, even when the weather isn't cooperating.
Cleveland's mayor had a busy week making sure things went off without a hitch for NBA All-Star Weekend. But in between city planning and working on his jumper for the All-Star Celebrity Game, Bibb took some time to reflect on his favorite things about Cleveland.
"The people," Bibb said. "And I also love some good Mt Pleasant Bar-B-Q so people have to go check that out when they're in town."
Cavalier All-Star Darius Garland has been telling people visiting the city to get out and explore, and that it's worth being cold for a bit.
"There's some great restaurants here, some great sightseeing. Right now it's pretty cold outside so I just tell everyone to bundle up, just try and stay warm and enjoy the experience," Garland said.
His favorite part about Cleveland?
"The food, it's a lot of different food options that I like here," Garland said. "It's different restaurants that I like to go to, especially after games, I think the food options are pretty good here."
Despite the snowfall on the first day of All-Star activities, Cavs Rising Star Isaac Okoro made sure to share a positive mindset and let everyone know that Cleveland is still a beautiful place.
"It's snowing outside but Cleveland's still a beautiful city. There's still a lot of things to do, go downtown, you got Playhouse Square you can walk around with nice scenery," Okoro said. "It's just a hardworking city. People come here and they strive to be great and they demand greatness out of you. Cleveland's just one of those cities to explore and be at."
Cavs All-Star Jarrett Allen is getting his footing in Cleveland, and knowing he'll be here for years to come, he's taking it all in and sharing his great experiences with friends from all over.
"You hear it all the time but it's genuinely true that it's a one-of-kind city. You wouldn't know what's going on looking from the outside," Allen said. "People are here to cheer you on from the beginning, whether you're good or bad, they're just here to root you on as a person."
Allen had a word of advice for his friends and other celebs who come in town in the winter and deal with our weather whiplash.
"Welcome to Cleveland, it's an amazing place," Allen said with a smile.
Cleveland is a sacred place for all those from here. It stays with you when you leave, we take pride in it and no matter what others say, believe that this place is special. Sometimes it gets a bad rap, and sure, it's far from perfect, but at the end of the day, once you see what the city has to offer, Cleveland will always find a special place in your heart.
Camryn Justice is a digital content producer at News 5 Cleveland. Follow her on Twitter @camijustice.
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