The starting line up for the 2016 NBA All-Star game, to be held from Feb. 12th to 14th, was released last week and there were few surprises.
Again, much like the NHL All-Star voting process, a fan voting process crowned many winners.
Starters for the Eastern Conference include Dwayne Wade of the Mimi Heat, LeBron James of the Cleveland Cavaliers, Carmelo Anthony of the New York Knicks, Paul George of the Indiana Pacers and, no surprise here, Kyle Lowry of the Toronto Raptors.
For the Western Conference, named starters as voted by the fans, include Stephen Curry of the Golden State Warriors, Kevin Durant of the Oklahoma City Thunder, Russell Westbrook of the Oklahoma City Thunder, Kawhi Leonard of the San Antonio Spurs and Kobe Bryant of the Los Angeles Lakers.
Now in his final NBA season, Bryrant led in votes from the beginning, with 1,533,432 initial votes. He was consistently ahead of last year’s fan favourite for the west and arguably the best player in the league, Stephen Curry. Last year Curry scored a total of 1,513,324 fan votes.
Another contest that was interesting to watch and would be determined right down to the wire were the two starter positions for the Eastern Conference backcourt.
Wade seemed to have a starting spot locked down from the beginning, while the second position would come down to fan votes for either Cleavland’s Kyrie Irving or Kyle Lowry. At the first vote update, Lowry was down by some 32,000 votes, so the push was on by the Toronto camp to get votes in to have their own starter on their home court.
Last year, Lowry overcame a similar situation in the final days of voting and valuated into the All-Star starting line up and this year was no different. As the clock ticked down, Raptors fans across the nation took to Twitter, got their thumbs busy and again, voted in their favourite Raptor.
As Canada’s only NBA team, the Raptors are true evidence that professional basketball does have a place north of U.S. border. This past week, the Raptors were fresh off an eight game winning streak after steamrolling the Los Angeles Clippers 112-94 on Sunday night. This is Toronto’s longest winning streak under Head Coach Dwayne Casey and also the franchise’s longest consecutive run of victories since 2002 which saw nine wins in a row.
To top off the victorious thunder, the 2016 NBA All-Star game will be held, for the first time ever, north of the border in Toronto, the home of the Raptors. The weekend will be a true showcase of Canadian culture and is proof that professional basketball is gaining popularity in Canada.
In addition to the NBA All-Star Game, the Air Canada Centre will also play host to the Rising Stars Challenge on Feb. 12th, the All-Star Saturday Night on Feb. 13th and the NBA All-Star Celebrity Game, also held on Feb. 12th.
Raptors Global Ambas-
sador and my favourite all-around Canadian Drake was named as head coach of the Canadian team. Drake will, luckily, be joined on the coaching bench by Steve Nash, former Raptor and MVP, and Jose Bautista of the Toronto Blue Jays.
Team Canada will face off against Team USA, which will be coached by actor and comedian Kevin Hart.
As for the remaining players in the All-Star game, seven reserves for each conference will be named this Thursday (Jan. 28th). These reserves are selected by NBA coaches and are a true recognition of a player’s successes in the season thus far. Money has it that Lowry’s teammate and partner in crime Demar DeRozan will be among the chosen few. There really shouldn’t be any surprises here either.