CHICAGO -- Hundreds of folks scattered throughout a cavernous room at the Navy Pier, had one thing in mind - to see Tacko Fall.
Tacko, all 7-foot-5 (without shoes) of him, wasn’t hard to miss.
Wherever he went during All-Star weekend, attention on him wasn’t too far behind.
Tacko did not log a single minute of play during All-Star weekend, and yet Tacko, much like what happens in New England with the Boston Celtics and the Maine Red Claws, was the center of everyone’s attention.
But during All-Star weekend, it’s different.
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Here, Tacko is surrounded by some of the greatest basketball players of the past and present, players who have been stars for decades in some instances.
Aaron Gordon and Derrick Jones Jr. waged one of the all-time great slam dunk contests, and all the talk afterward was how Gordon got robbed after he successfully dunked over Tacko.
Before that, Tacko was a counselor with Basketball Without Borders.
Upon entering the gym, some of the best teenage basketball talent internationally went through drills with Tacko around the rim, many of whom tried to dunk on Tacko instead of laying up shots.
“It’s the most I’ve been dunked on in my career,” quipped Tacko. “But in a few years, hopefully a lot of them will make it to the NBA. We’ll see.”
When he arrived at the various All-Star weekend events, at times draped by repeat All-Stars like Kemba Walker, it was Tacko who received the loudest, unprompted ovation from fans.
It was Tacko Time on the grandest stage of them all during the NBA season.
While his height is certainly a factor in the adulation he receives, Tacko has won folks over with his gentle-giant demeanor, balanced with the overpowering presence that you expect from a player his size, with an almost child-like innocence to the demand that so many have these days of trying to get a little Tacko Time.
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During an interview with NBC Sports Boston after he participated in a cooking show exhibition, he was relayed a request to meet up with former Celtic Rick Fox.
“Yeah, sure,” Fall responded as he quickly ducked to best ensure he didn’t hit his head against a concrete structure.
You can count Fox among the legion of fans who are caught up in Tacko-mania.
“At the end of the day, it’s entertainment, right?” Fox told NBC Sports Boston. “We want fans to love what we do. We want to enjoy what we do. Tacko has endeared himself to not just Celtics fans but the NBA at large.”
And he has done it in atypical fashion when it comes to NBA fandom.
Most fans jump on board after watching a player display skills on the floor that set them apart from the masses.
Tacko’s fandom is largely based on his personality and how he has connected with fans even though he has not played much in the NBA.
In fact, Tacko has played a total of six NBA games in this, his rookie season.
And yet when the final fan votes were tallied for the All-Star game, Tacko finished sixth among all frontcourt players in the East - one spot behind his Celtics teammate Jayson Tatum.
“Everybody loves Tacko,” Tatum told NBC Sports Boston. “Who doesn’t love Tacko?”
But as much as Tacko appreciates the attention he has received from fans, he knows that ultimately it will be his play that determines his future in the NBA.
That’s why there was a sense of relief on Tacko’s part when he didn’t move up into one of the top two spots among all-star voters which meant he would have been a starter in tonight’s game.
“I was scared. It’s all fun and games and I was very appreciative of it,” Tacko said. “At the same time, there are so many people that deserve to be there. Just imagine if I were to go … I would not have felt good about that.”
Being an All-Star is something that’s not on Tacko’s radar now.
First and foremost, he’s looking to take the next logical step which for him, will be to have his two-way contract with the Celtics converted to standard, 15-man roster deal.
While it’s certainly something that Tacko’s camp and the Celtics will discuss during the off-season, whether a new deal gets done won’t change the fact that right now, it’s Tacko Time wherever Tacko Fall goes.
And new deal or not, that’s not changing anytime soon.