The NBA All-Star Game could be heading north of the border as it is likely to be announced that the event is to be held in Toronto in 2016. This would be a fantastic achievement for Canadian basketball, shining light on the game’s development over the last decade.
Ryan Wolstat of the Toronto Sun first reported the news: “Multiple sources told the Toronto Sun Tuesday that the Raptors are on the verge of landing the 2016 NBA All-Star weekend. An official announcement is expected shortly that will reveal further details of how one of the sport’s biggest weekends will tie in to the Toronto Raptors’ 20th-anniversary season”.
Wolstat also suggests that Tim Leiweke, CEO of Maple Leafs Sports and Entertainment, was most probably the biggest campaigner of the move north and a fan of the development of basketball in Canada as a whole.
In May he commented: “Clearly the 2016 All-Star Game is a flag in the sand that we planted with the NBA. It is a must have in my opinion and it will be the centre piece of how we rebrand this.”
Toronto is considered relatively small in comparison to other NBA markets. Despite the billions of dollars behind the Toronto Raptors franchise, basketball will always play second fiddle to hockey. However, 2016 may be the injection of fame and glory that Canada needs to jump start its basketball development and encourage the younger generation to pick up a ball instead of a hockey stick.
In three years time, the Raptors will likely have a couple of All-Stars of their own. With the continued development of Jonas Valanciunas and Demar DeRozan waiting to break out as global stars, 2016 may be a golden year.
The 2016 ASG would mark the first time the city of Toronto had hosted such an event since 2000, when it played host to the NHL All-Star Game. In 1991, just two years after the immaculate Sky Dome was opened, Toronto had the pleasure of showcasing baseball’s equivalent.