‘It’s over ladies and gentleman, it’s over.” These iconic words
by Kenny Smith made the Raptors mainstream when Vince Carter put on a clinic to win the 2000 slam-dunk contest.
After years of struggles and first round exits during the Bosh Era, the National Basketball Association (NBA) spotlight is finally going to be back on Toronto, even if it is just for a weekend.
Last week, the NBA announced that Toronto would be the host of the 2016 all-star game, which is a huge boost to the city and game of basketball in Canada. With Toronto being the only Canadian team in the NBA, this entire weekend will most likely be based around the growth of Canadian basketball and trying to showcase the up-and-coming talent of Canadian players.
The all-star game will come at a perfect time for Canadian basketball as by 2016, there could easily be a few Canadians that will represent the NBA in the game. Currently, the talent for Canadian basketball players has never been better and the league has already acknowledged this.
For example, Anthony Bennett (Brampton, Ont.) was drafted first overall by the Cleveland Cavillers in last summer’s NBA Draft. This was an iconic day as Bennett became the first ever Canadian player to be drafted first overall.
Bennett was a surprise first-overall draft pick but this cannot be said for his countryman Andrew Wiggins. Wiggins (Thornhill, Ont.) has already been talked about for years and before he has even played a collegiate level basketball game, he has been the unanimous choice for the first-overall draft pick in 2014.
If Wiggins and Bennett live up to potential, they could easily be named all-stars for many years to come. Bennett will be in his third NBA season and Wiggins will be in his second NBA season when the all-star game comes to Toronto so I definitely see one of, if not, both of these players in the line-up for that game.
Also, with fan voting being so popular nowadays, the Canadian basketball fans will do everything they can to vote in as many Canadian players as possible. Also, the correlation between Canada and the NBA all-star game has not be very relevant since Steve Nash’s MVP seasons in 2005 and 2006 so this is a very special time for Canadian basketball.
Not only is it an extraordinary time for Canadian basketball players to get recognized in their home country but it is also a great time to be a basketball fan in Toronto. Basketball fans in Toronto and even Raptors season ticket holders do not have the luxury to watch all-star players every night — especially Raptors fans — so the all-star game will allow fans to watch their favourite players and best players in the league showcase their talents.
Toronto fans will be able to watch Lebron James — probably in a Lakers uniform — go one-on-one against Kevin Durant or maybe even Wiggins, which is definitely something they don’t have the luxury to do every day.
The recent announcement of the all-star festivities being held in Toronto has also meant a new rebranding process for the Raptors. One of the music industry’s biggest stars, Drake, has been named as the global ambassador of the team and will now have a strong impact on the team’s rebrand.
Rap stars and the NBA are not a new theme as recently Jay-Z had a strong impact on the New Jersey Nets move to Brooklyn. With that being said, Drake should have a major influence on the new colour change in Toronto and expect the Raptors to go old school and incorporate the purple jerseys once again.
The 2016 all-star game in Toronto could not have been a more perfect time for the NBA’s greatest players to head north. The Canadian basketball talent could not be stronger and the world will be surprised at how passionate Toronto fans are. Also, with the incorporation of Drake as the global ambassador, expect this to be one of the biggest all-star games yet.