Toronto’s first All-Star weekend dazzles from start to finish


Tracy McGrady picks up Muggsy Bogues at the NBA All-Star Celebrity Game at Ricoh Coliseum on Friday, February 12, 2016, in Toronto, ON. (Photo by Ryan Emberley/Invision/AP)

Faaris Khan

Tracy McGrady picks up Muggsy Bogues at the NBA All-Star Celebrity Game at Ricoh Coliseum on Friday, February 12, 2016, in Toronto, ON. (Photo by Ryan Emberley/Invision/AP)
The NBA All-Star weekend is the annual exhibition weekend for the National Basketball Association (NBA), with several entertaining competitions marked in a three-day schedule. This year, NBA fans from across the globe witnessed a truly exciting All-Star Weekend. Records were broken, the Verizon Slam Dunk Contest was arguably one of the most captivating to watch and we saw the final All-Star performance from future NBA legend Kobe Bryant. Let’s take a look back at what made this Weekend so terrific.
[heading size=”14″]NBA All-Star Celebrity Game presented by Mountain Dew[/heading] Fellow celebrities kicked off the 2016 NBA All-Star Weekend on Friday, Feb. 12 with an amusing exhibition matchup which featured 21 renowned players. This roster included famous actors such as Stephan James and Anthony Anderson, TV hosts such as the Property Brothers, and WNBA players Elena Delle Donne and Tammy Sutton-Brown. Retired NBA icons Tracy McGrady, Chauncey Billups, Muggsy Bogues and Rick Fox also took part in the game. Coached by rapper Drake, Team Canada defeated Team USA 74-64 and Arcade Fire’s Win Butler left the Air Canada Centre as the MVP for the game, putting up 15 points and 14 rebounds in yet another entertaining All-Star Celebrity Game.   
[heading size=”14″]BBVA Compass Rising Stars Challenge[/heading] The BBVA Compass Rising Stars Challenge featured the most talented youngsters the league offers, all in one thrilling competition. This year featured Karl-Anthony Towns, the first pick in the 2016 NBA draft, 20-year-old Zach LaVine and Andrew Wiggins of the Minnesota Timberwolves, Nuggets rookie Emmanuel Mudiay, 7’3’ Knicks rookie Kristaps Porzingis and many more. Mudiay and Porzingis put on an incredible 3-point shooting display, each contributing 30 points to Team World’s scoreboard. However, their efforts failed to match up with USA’s historic offensive performance and fell 154-157, the highest scoring Rising Stars Challenge in NBA history. LaVine was crowned the Rising Stars MVP in what was a thoroughly entertaining matchup.
[heading size=”14″]Taco Bell Skills Challenge[/heading] Kicking off All-Star Saturday Night was the annual mini-tournament presented by Taco Bell: the Skills Challenge. The Skills Challenge, which tests picked players for overall skillset, consists of dribbling around five obstacles, making a clean pass into a net, dribbling the ball to the other end of the court to make a layup, and finally dribbling back to the other end of the court to hit a 3-point shot. The 2016 participants included Mudiay, Kings center Demarcus Cousins, Warriors forward Draymond Green, Pelicans forward Anthony Davis, Trailblazers guard C.J. McCollum, Timberwolves center Karl-Anthony Towns, Celtics guard Isaiah Thomas and Lakers guard Jordan Clarkson. Between these young competitors, Thomas and Towns were the final two to fight for the trophy in the final round. After going at similar paces, Thomas and Towns were ultimately both in a desperate battle to win the title at the 3-point line, missing shot after shot. The few tense seconds ended when Towns finally hit a trifecta and was crowned winner of the 2016 Taco Bell Skills Challenge. Towns was the first big man to win the competition in years.
[heading size=”14″]Foot Locker Three-Point Contest[/heading] The Foot Locker Three-Point Contest gained an increased popularity after Warriors guard Stephen Curry lit up the Barclays Center in last year’s Three-Point Contest, attaining the greatest result in history with a total of 27. Eager fans were looking forward to this competition, which featured sharpshooters such as the defending champion Curry, fellow teammate Klay Thompson, McCollum, Suns guard Devin Booker, Rockets guard James Harden, Clippers guard JJ Redick, Bucks guard Khris Middleton and Raptors guard Kyle Lowry. Curry and Thompson advanced to the final round, while Booker, a rookie, defeated Harden and Redick in a tiebreaker round. Booker began the final round with a personal score of 16, which was no problem for Curry to overcome, attaining a score of 23. Afterwards, Thompson, who was shooting extremely well throughout the entirety of the competition, answered back with a remarkable score of 27 to win the 2016 Foot Locker Three-Point Contest.
[heading size=”14″]Verizon Slam Dunk Contest[/heading] What seemed like an ordinary dunk contest for the All-Star Weekend would turn into one of the greatest performances in the history of the weekend’s festivities. This year’s contest featured four challengers: Timberwolves guard and defending champion Zach LaVine, Nuggets guard Will Barton, Pistons center Andre Drummond and Magic forward Aaron Gordon. A windmill dunk from Drummond and an eastbay dunk from Barton proved insufficient, while LaVine’s behind the back dunk and Gordon’s spinning eastbay dunk left them the remaining challengers in the final round. The excitement began from there. Gordon kicked off the final round with an exhilarating eastbay, jumping on top of the Magic’s mascot, Stuff. His effort earned him a 50. LaVine responded back from an alley-oop from approximately the free throw line, also receiving a perfect 50. This continued for several dunks, each player earning 50 by 50 and tension in the Air Canada Centre was at an all time high. Arguably the best dunk of the night was when Gordon jumped on top of Stuff, who was holding a ball above his head, brought the ball underneath both legs and slammed it home, almost hitting his head on the rim in the process. This was a dunk never before done in the Dunk Contest and received an extremely powerful response from the audience and fellow NBA players watching from the sidelines. The contest ended when Gordon received a 47 for a tomahawk double pump dunk, which received a negative reaction from the audience, considering the difficulty. LaVine, eager to win his second title, finished the contest with an eastbay dunk from about one step inside the free throw line, which earned him a 50 and crowned him as the back-to-back Slam Dunk Contest champion. LaVine’s win did not receive well among some fans, some of which believe Gordon was clearly the better competitor, combining power and creativity never before seen in the Dunk Contest. Either way, there’s no doubt that this was likely one of the best in NBA All-Star history, and made the nights of millions of passionate NBA fans in the arena and across the globe.
[heading size=”14″]NBA All-Star Game[/heading] The final day of All-Star 2016 had arrived: Sunday, Feb. 14. The day of the actual All-Star Game, thousands of fans arrived at the Air Canada Centre one last time to witness the best basketball players on the planet compete in an exhibition game devoted to entertainment. The starting lineup for the Eastern Conference included Lowry, Heat guard Dwyane Wade, Pacers forward Paul George, Cavaliers forward LeBron James and Knicks forward Carmelo Anthony. The Western Conference starting lineup included Curry, Thunder guard Russell Westbrook, Lakers guard Kobe Bryant (who appeared in his final All-Star Game of his career), Thunder forward Kevin Durant and Spurs forward Kawhi Leonard. George had the greatest performance in the game, scoring 41 points (27 of which came from beyond the arc) and falling just one point shy of NBA legend Wilt Chamberlain’s 42 point record in the All-Star Game. Bryant, a future Hall of Famer, scored 10 points and received a standing ovation from the audience in the arena late in the 4th quarter with 1:06 left on the clock. Westbrook, who won the MVP in the 2015 All-Star Game, scored 31 points for the West and once again received the MVP, paving the way for the Western Conference to beat the Eastern Conference 196-173. Both teams’ combined scoring output effortlessly broke the previous single team scoring record of 163. The incredible scoring display NBA fans saw was more than enough to conclude a truly historic NBA All-Star Weekend.