Tuesday, Feb. 20, 2007 | 7:04 a.m.
Las Vegas tourism officials played only a small role in deciding which entertainers would showcase the city to more than 200 countries that televised Sunday's NBA All-Star Game.
The team responsible for putting together the dazzling pregame and half-time entertainment - and, oh yeah, the game - was the NBA itself.
NBA spokesman Matt Bourne said a "well-seasoned" group of entertainment experts working for the association produced the event. And the premier pro basketball league paid the big-name local headliners nothing, as is the NBA's tradition for its star-studded event.
"The entertainment we use supplements the game," Bourne said. "It is used to enlarge the main event. The game is the focus."
Not so, says a number of sports writers from around the country who praised Las Vegas legend Wayne Newton and headliners Toni Braxton and Christina Aguilera for their dynamic performances, but hesitated to say the same about the big game's performers.
Bourne said the Las Vegas Convention and Visitors Authority helped get the entertainers the NBA wanted who "best reflect the (host) city."
An authority spokeswoman said R&R Live assisted the NBA on the authority's behalf. R&R Advertising has long held the tourist agency's lucrative advertising contract.
And the lineup of entertainers - past and present - turned out to be just about the best that the NBA's money could not buy.
"The NBA All-Star Game was a wonderful opportunity to show the world our great city," Newton said of his decision to do a freebie. "I have nothing but admiration for the NBA organization and they are terrific people to work with."
Newton, chairman of the USO Celebrity Circle, said the NBA has been a longtime supporter of U.S. troops and its players have gone on several USO tours, including Phoenix Suns forward Shawn Marion, a former UNLV standout who went with Newton to Iraq.
Other entertainers taking the stage for free Sunday included retired illusionists and Vegas mainstays Siegfried & Roy; Danny Gans, who sang the National Anthem, and Cirque du Soleil, whose costumed performers danced with flaming sticks.
But the mix seemed to play well, if press clippings from around the country offer any gauge: