Tweets were rife on Twitter calling on fans to go to the Galleria mall in Houston to see celebrities and sports-themed merchandise. It was standing-room only at the large luxury mall as thousands of fans and shoppers were on hand during the NBA All-Star game festivities on February 16. Russell Westbrook, for example, who plays for the Oklahoma City Thunder, was on hand to promote Air Jordan basketball shoes and other merchandise. By 8:15 p.m. the Galleria had reached its capacity when police and mall security began to clear the crowds, according to mall management. Apparently not taking any chances, Houston police brought out a phalanx of mounted officers, as well as squad cars and other vehicles. Houston Police Department officers came with a special response team, as well, to help block entrances and stairwells.
"At no time was there a riot or a disturbance," Houston Police Department spokesperson Victor Senties said. "At no time did anyone get unruly." For their part, Galleria management said in a statement "As always, our primary concern is for the safety and well being for our shoppers and mall employees." But Twitter users, however, reported several isolated fights. A similar incident occurred during the Super Bowl festivities in 2004.
During the day, crowds that normally would be seen during the Christmas shopping season went to the Galleria, where NBA fans spent money and attended celebrity events and, of course, circling for parking spots. Locals were joined by out-of-town visitors at special events, such as merchandise signings featuring other basketball stars such as Kobe Bryant, Chris Bosh and Anthony Davis. Shoppers, for example, assembled into queues to buy the new Jordan XX8 shoe and then waited in throngs to enter the new Jordan lounge that featured a bar and floor-to-ceiling depictions of basketball players.
The Jordan XX8 shoe was a big draw at the event. At the Foot Locker store, shoe designer Marc Dolce of Nike (the Jordan’s manufacturer) was on hand to sign shoe boxes. The shoes, available in black or white, retail for approximately $250. Manufacturers such as Adidas, as was the Galleria itself and retailers such as Foot Locker were Tweeting to attract the overflow crowds.
The mall officially closed for the night without event.
NBA All-Star visitors crowd the Houston Galleria mall. (Photo by gogetta80)
Kobe Bryant and other NBA stars visited the mall to sell endorsed merchandise. (Photo by ericlyy)
Police and mall officials said they closed the mall because of crowding. (Photo by Callme_Wes)