Stars in Toronto

Andrew Zhang, Staff Writer

For one weekend, Toronto became the center of basketball when it hosted the NBA’s All-Star Weekend.  From February 12-14, 2016, stars of the NBA, their kids, and celebrities gathered for an action-packed weekend at the first All-Star Weekend held outside of the United States.

The festivities began Friday night with the Celebrity All-Star Game.  Celebrities showed their basketball skills, or lack thereof.  The format this year was Team USA playing against Team Canada.  Comedian Kevin Hart and music star Drake were the respective coaches.  Former NBA stars Tracy McGrady and Chauncey Billups, along with celebrities such as actor Jason Sudeikis and musician Win Butler, played in this game.  Although Kevin Hart came on the court to play for his team in a last ditch effort to win, Team Canada came away with a 74-64 victory.  Butler won MVP honors after totaling an impressive 15 points and 14 rebounds.  The BBVA Rising Stars Challenge was the next event.  This event showcased the young talent of the NBA in a matchup of Team USA playing Team World, with the latter portraying the international talent in the league.  Team USA came away with a 157-154 victory in a high scoring game.  They were led by the Minnesota Timberwolves’ Zach LaVine, who scored 30 points and won MVP of the game.  The New York Knicks’ Kristaps Porzingis led Team World with 30 points.

Saturday Night featured three very entertaining events, the Taco Bell Skills Challenge, Foot Locker Three-Point Contest, and Verizon Slam Dunk Contest.  This year, the Shooting Stars Challenge was not part of the festivities.  Usually, the Skills Challenge features guards completing an obstacle course on the basketball court.  However, frontcourt players, “big” men, were added into the mix this year.  After beating out his competitors in his bracket and guard Isaiah Thomas of the Boston Celtics, the Minnesota Timberwolves’ frontcourt player Karl-Anthony Towns won the event.  In the Three-Point Contest, contestants were given one minute to make as many three-point shots out of 25 total attempts from five designated spots around the three-point line.  A regular basketball was worth one point, but multicolored ones, called money balls, were worth two points each.  One of the five spots contained a rack of only money balls, which was placed at any spot by the contestant.  The top three contestants advanced after the first round.  This year, there was a three-way tie for third place after the first round.  Thus, a shorter version of this event was conducted as a tiebreaker, with Devin Booker of the Phoenix Suns edging out James Harden of the Houston Rockets and J.J. Redick of the Los Angeles Clippers.  In the final round, the Golden State Warriors’ Klay Thompson defeated fellow teammate Stephen Curry, who won the event last year.  The final event on Saturday, the Slam Dunk Contest, proved to be nothing short of magnificent.  The Orlando Magic’s Aaron Gordon and Minnesota Timberwolves’ Zach LaVine put on a show in the final round.  They combined for six perfect dunks (a score of 50) in a row.  LaVine was crowned the winner after Gordon could not produce another perfect dunk, giving him back to back wins in this event.

The main event, the All-Star Game, was held on Sunday.  The game’s starters were voted in by fans and Kobe Bryant of the Los Angeles Lakers received the most votes.  This was Bryant’s 18th and final All-Star Game.  Along with him, the West Team had players such as Stephen Curry, Kevin Durant of the Oklahoma City Thunder, and Kawhi Leonard of the San Antonio Spurs.  On the other side, the East Team featured the Cleveland Cavaliers’ LeBron James, Miami Heat’s Dwyane Wade, and Knicks’ Carmelo Anthony.  Bryant was honored before the game with two video tributes, including one by Lakers’ legend Magic Johnson.  In a matchup with little to no defense, the West beat the East by a score of 196 to 173 – the highest scoring All-Star Game in NBA history.  Paul George of the Indiana Pacers led all players with 41 points, one shy of Wilt Chamberlain’s record, and an All-Star Record nine made three-pointers.  The Thunder’s Russell Westbrook led the West with 31 points and won his second-straight All-Star MVP award.

All 30 teams in the NBA were represented at this memorable All-Star Weekend. Now it’s time to look to the final two months of the NBA season, which promise not to lack any drama.