Toronto fans can’t get enough of all-star weekend already – even if they can’t afford to get into the prime-time events.
The Air Canada Centre was rocking for the Rising Stars Challenge featuring three young Canadian talents – Andrew Wiggins, Dwight Powell and Trey Lyles.
Thousands of Torontonians earlier turned out for the all-star celebrity game at Ricoh Coliseum, where opposing coaches Drake and Kevin Hart went toe-to-toe.
Backed up by Raptors guard DeMar DeRozan, Canadian NBA legend Steve Nash and Blue Jays star Jose Bautista, Drake’s side eased to a 74-64 victory.
Arcade Fire’s Win Butler won the MVP, but was cut off from speaking when he tried to say that the U.S. could learn from Canada in a political sense.
Bolstered by a slam dunk from tennis player Milos Raonic, team Canada controlled the game with solid performances Property Brothers Drew and Jonathan Scott, and former NBA star Tracy McGrady.
A who’s who of the sports and entertainment landscape was watching from the stands, including NFL wide receiver Odell Beckham Jr., film maker Spike Lee, TV chef Guy Fieri and Olivia Wilde.
Avid basketball and Raptors supporters queued for over an hour at various locations across the city to catch a fleeting moment with NBA legends like Michael Jordan and current superstars Kevin Durant, Steph Curry and LeBron James.
Raptors guard Kyle Lowry said “there’s a buzz around the city,” and fans couldn’t agree more.
“You can sense the energy in the city, it’s pretty high,” said Raptors fan Bawa Prashar.
“Everyone seems to be excited. A lot of people are wearing Toronto gear and representing the Raptors.
“I’d love to go to all the events but the prices are really high and there’s a huge demand.”
Prashar was trying to talk himself out of buying an Eastern Conference jersey because of the retail price of $109.99.
The extraordinary cost – tickets for Sunday’s game on resale sides started at $600 – wasn’t enough to deter fans from enjoying the many activities on offer.
“I’ve been around the city looking to meet some athletes,” said Ryan Caceres.
“We waited about an hour in line for the Air Jordan store that launched today on Yonge St.
“We met some people who go travelling to all the all-star games. That was cool, they went to Las Vegas, Dallas, and now Toronto.”
Neither was the extreme cold weather alerts enough to dampen spirits, although fans worried it could affect Raptors free agent targets’ perception of the city.
“Hopefully they check out Toronto and all the multicultural activities,” Caceres said. “It should definitely open up some possibilities for the Raptors.”
Prashar added that the weather might “hamper the players a little, but they’ll all be well taken care of.
“The party scene is great in Toronto. A lot of the cities they come from are not as big as here, where the action is happening.”