Ice hockey land feels basketball heat as NBA All-Star comes to Toronto

Canadian city of Toronto will play hosts as the NBA All-Star crosses the borders of the USA for the first time. With the who’s who of basketball in the city, it is time for ice hockey, or just ‘hockey’ as the Canadians call it, to take a back seat.

other sports Updated: Feb 13, 2016 12:37 IST
Saurabh Duggal
Saurabh Duggal
Hindustan Times
NBA,All-Star,LeBron James
USA’s Jabari Parker dunks during the first half of the NBA Rising Stars Challenge basketball game in Toronto on Friday.(AP Photo)

The land of ice hockey is feeling the heat of the hoopsters. Canada, whose national winter sport is ice hockey, is hosting the NBA All-Star game for the first time. In fact, it’s the first time the prestigious event has moved out of the USA.

Canada’s business and financial capital Toronto is hosting the 65th edition of the NBA All-Star Weekend and the high-voltage game, to be played between players from the Eastern Conference and Western Conference, is on Sunday.

Greats like Kobe Bryant, who gets his 18th All-Star berth, and LeBron James, who will be appearing in his 12th All-Star game, along with other big-ticket names will be seen playing under one roof.

Toronto, which is more famously associated with the National Hockey League (NHL) team Toronto Maple Leafs, also houses an NBA team, Toronto Raptors, which over the years has grown in size and now sees a sell-out crowd at their home games. But with the All-Star, it has taken a different dimension; from the airport to the subway, the city is in a basketball frenzy.

NBA All-Star James Harden of the Houston Rockets looks on during a match between the World team and United States team in Toronto, Canada. All-Star Weekend features the game’s biggest stars in an entertaining format. (AFP)

“I am a big fan of ice hockey… for all Canadians ice hockey is more than just life. But we are all happy to see the basketball greats coming to the city for the All-Star game. Since it is being hosted for the first time in Canada and that too in Toronto, it’s getting a huge response. For a change, everyone is talking about basketball,” said Fiorenzo Arcadi.

Making the most of the event coming to Toronto, a shoe brand, which is associated with former basketball great Michael Jordan, has opened a store for the weekend. And to be the lucky one to get hold of a limited-edition pair, Jordan’s fans had queued up 24 hours before the shop opened its shutters. “I am a great Jordan fan and when it was announced that the store will be open only for three days, which will be selling limited-edition stuff, I immediately rushed to the place. I am third in the queue and came here on Thursday morning (5am) and will be staying here the entire night to get hold of the shoe. It’s my way of showing respect to the legend,” said 23-year-old Alex, a construction worker.

Actor Kevin Hart takes part in the Celebrity Game, part of NBA basketball's All-Star weekend, in Toronto on Friday. (The Canadian Press/AP)

NBA All-Star, though an exhibition match, pits the league’s top players from both the conferences, Eastern and Western, against each other. The starting lineup is selected by a fan ballot, while the reserves are chosen by a vote among the head coaches of the 30 teams in the NBA. Coaches are not allowed to vote for their own players.

NBA All-Star is part of the All-Star Weekend, which is a three-day event that goes from Friday to Sunday featuring rising stars, a celebrity game and slam dunk, and ending with the All-Star game.

(Disclaimer:The writer’s trip is sponsored by the NBA)

First Published: Feb 13, 2016 12:26 IST