The dreams of many Canadian basketball fans will finally come to fruition next month. The 2016 NBA All-Star Weekend will take place in Canada’s very own Toronto, Ontario, marking the first time that the All-Star weekend will not take place in the USA.
The weekend of February 12th 2016 will be a historic moment for not only the NBA but for the entire country. Basketball in Canada has been known for it’s ups and downs, despite the founder of the game being Canadian the sport itself never remained relevant in the country for too long. In 1995 the NBA added two Canadian teams, The Toronto Raptors and the Vancouver Grizzlies. After a lockout in 1999 the Grizzlies basketball supporters started distancing themselves and when the NBA resumed attendance dropped enormously forcing the owners to eventually sell the team in 2001.
Canadian fans we’re devastated at the fact that their country lost an NBA team. However, these fans could not have kept their heads down for too long. The year after the Vancouver Grizzlies relocated to Memphis Canadian basketball fans surprisingly we’re more excited than ever! Not because of the Grizzlies departure, but because of the Toronto Raptors arrival in the mainstream media!
The “Raptors” became known as “Canada’s Basketball Team” and one of the most entertaining teams in the NBA in the early 2000’s. Toronto’s ticket sales jumped out the roof as they set league attendance records from 2000-2002. A man named Vince Carter who had the best years of his career, was playing spectacular basketball leading his team by being one of the most alluring players of that era. He was nicknamed “Half-Man Half-Amazing!” Carter took the NBA by storm as he was known for regularly throwing down some of the best dunks in NBA history. Even though he won rookie of the year in 1998. His fame sky rocketed after the 2000 All-Star weekend in Oakland California where he gave NBA fans one of the greatest, if not the greatest Slam-Dunk contest ever, leaving superstars like Shaquille O’Neal and others with their jaws open, dunk after dunk.
In 2001 Carter made the All-NBA second team averaging the most points in his career, scoring an astonishing 27.6 points per game. He led the Raptors to their only first-round playoff series win in the history of the franchise as they beat the New York Knicks to advance to the semi-conference round where they played the Philadelphia 76ers. Carter and Allen Iverson we’re easily the top five players and entertainers in the NBA at that time. Vince Carter scored 50 points in game three as NBA fans enjoyed one of the most memorable early 2000’s playoff series. Which made it all but better that the team putting on a show was located in Canada. The Raptors eventually lost in game 7. The following years we’re derailed by injuries for Vince Carter and a fallout with the City of Toronto began.
In 2003 the Toronto Raptors looked to repossess it’s mark in the eastern conference by drafting Chris Bosh a young stud out of Georgia Tech. However, the Raptors kept falling short of the playoffs while making Canadian fans once again lose hope in Canada’s Basketball Team. Players started getting disinterested in playing for Canada’s only NBA franchise, complaining about the weather, cable, taxes etc. Until this day they hold an NBA record for being the only team in history to not dress 12 players the entire season. They ended up trading Vince Carter to the New Jersey now Brooklyn Nets leaving Canadian fans even more heartbroken.
After Carter’s departure, the young Chris Bosh was given the opportunity to be the leader of the team and help Toronto get back to the playoffs. However, their first couple years without Vince was devastating. Coaching and General Manager (G.M) changes finally got the Raptors back on track and in the playoffs only to be eliminated in the first round every time they’d make it. In 2010 their leader who was averaging a career-best 24 points and 10.8 rebounds per game decided that he had enough losing before packing his bags to join the Miami Heat that off-season. From that point on Canadian basketball fans received another huge blow and once again we’re put in a grievance state as many started to lose hope in Basketball in Canada.
Despite low points in the franchise history many maintained strong and had faith in a man they drafted the year before Bosh departed ‘DeMar DeRozan ‘ aka the Compton kid who was selected 9th overall in the 2009 NBA draft. Toronto Raptor fans we’re looking forward to what the high flying man could do for them, as his jumping ability reminded them of their city’s old hero Vince Carter. All they were hoping for was for him to be half as good as VC was.
DeRozan struggled as a rookie scoring only 8 points per game, Raptors fans weren’t totally disappointed with his production, since he represented the city in the 2010 NBA Slam Dunk contest. Despite losing the competition they seen a sign of excitement in the Compton kid. He may not be as good as Vince Carter was but he definitely is not too far behind. Since being drafted one can easily argue that DeRozan’ has improved every year, he’s shown signs of patience, maturity and loyalty as he stayed composed during the rebuilding years for the Raptors who are now a force in a much improved and tough Eastern Conference. Alongside DeMar is his fellow All-Star point guard Kyle Lowry who also decided to stick around with the Raptors as he and DeMar have worked their way to becoming one of the best backcourts in the NBA. There efforts will likely pay off as they will probably be the second set of players in franchise history of the Raptors to have two player to participate in the Annual NBA all-star showcase since Vince Carter and Antonio Davis were selected back in 2000-2001 season. Also a Toronto native Andrew Wiggins, last year’s Rookie of the Year will be participating in the Rising Star Challenge during the All-Star weekend. Canadian fans are not only looking forward to be hosting the All-Star weekend, but also to maybe see two Raptors and 1 Canadian representing them that weekend.
Despite all the ups and downs Toronto Raptors fans and Canadian basketball fans have experienced over the last two decades the city of Toronto and basketball across the country has remained relevant over the past couple seasons. Now with the All-Star Weekend coming to Toronto it looks like that relevance won’t go anywhere anytime soon. One may ask why are the Raptors relevant if they still haven’t advanced past the first-round since 2001? Or how is the City of Toronto relevant? It certainly helps that two of the biggest names in music right now Justin Bieber and Drake were born and raised in Canada. Add the return of Masai Ujiri to the mix plus the phenomenal play of Andrew Wiggins (Toronto native), Kyle Lowry & DeMar DeRozan and you have all the ingredients for successful change of culture recipe.
Likewise Canada’s Men’s & Women’s national basketball teams both put on historic showings last summer. The men’s program had their best-ever finish in the history of Pan-Am Games finishing 4-1 and then went on to win the bronze medal at the FIBA games. As for the women’s they won their tournaments in a dominating fashion going undefeated in both the Pan-Am games & the FIBA Americas tournament earning a ticket to the 2016 Olympics in Brazil.
All these men and women are definitely worthy of praise and some credit for the uprising of not only basketball in Canada but the culture itself. But perhaps no one deserves more credit for the uprising of Canada and specifically the City of Toronto than the man who has carried Toronto, Canada on his back and has been the face of Hip-Hop the last few years. Raptors “Global Ambassador” ‘Aubrey Drake Graham’. Ever since his entrance in the hip-hop scene the city has never been the same. Drake has been one of the most decorated and most successful Hip-Hop artist the past six years. He’s received over 40 awards and around 250 nominees. The 29 year-old rapper has been on such a tear that “Toronto Life Magazine” listed Drake as the number 1 most influential man in Toronto in 2015.
Drake’s compelling determination to promote the city of Toronto has impelled the whole country to duplicate this movement which helped lead the media relations staff of the Toronto Raptors winning the 2014-15 Brian McIntyre Media Relations Award. This award is presented to the best media team in the NBA, the ‘6 God’ as Drake calls himself’ can surely take some credit for that award, the 6 as Toronto is now known for is easily becoming one of the most popular and exciting cities in the world. In one of Drake’s first hit with Lil Wayne in a song called “Ransom” Drake starts the song by saying ” Toronto I Got You, I Got Us!” and he’s certainly lived up to that statement. No one since Vince Carter has played more of a significant role in redefining the culture of the city of Toronto like the 6 God himself!
Enjoy the 2016 NBA All-Star weekend Ladies and Gentleman! Take nothing for granted fans, it will be a historic moment for the 6 and the country of Canada. Moreover it will be NBA’s Great ‘Kobe Bryant’s’ last All-Star weekend appearance in our very own backyard Canada! Basketball in Canada has gone through some tough times but as they say “Tough Times Don’t Last, Tough People Do!” Toronto, Canada and the rest of the World rise up and get ready for the 2016 NBA All-Star Weekend.
Great British Basketball Legend Luol Deng Retires Full Circle With Chicago
10 years ago this writer holding a microphone as nervous as if he was about to get his Bill Murray on in ‘Lost In Translation’ and perform karaoke for the first time in Tokyo, but with no Scarlett Johansson, palm sweaty, knees weak, arms heavy…moms spaghetti (and on the surface he does NOT look calm and ready) is taking part in his first press conference…let alone his first NBA one. All for a major magazine for his first writing job, just a mere month after he wrote his first ever article for what we the British call, “a laugh”. No Buzz, no blog. And who was my first question too?
No other but the commissioner…Mr. David Stern.
But as Stern as you could call him, the pre-Silver commish was the most warm and gregarious you could imagine. That’s when I got a little wind under my wings like I was wearing Air Jordan’s for this NBA London postgame Chicago Bulls vs Utah Jazz presser. I had a few questions for then Chi-town coach Vinny Del Negro. I don’t think I had the balls to ask Coach Sloan anything. But apparently I had enough confidence to tell the then Jazz leader Deron Williams that his team could test my Lakers…he didn’t agree (there’s the spirit D-Will). And then in walked the man of the hour. The whole reason this game was here and at the very least taking off on these shores. Sudan born but British raised Luol Deng. He too was kind enough to give me a quote worthy answer to my question. Then as he left past the cameras and tape recorders I reached out my hand and he shook it back.
Thank you for that Luol, and for everything you’ve done for British basketball…and also for being part of my beloved purple and gold Lakers for a season or two (or more as fate would have it). Although most fans who can’t look past that massive contract fail to see that the most underrated superstar of this era was worth every penny when healthy…no Lake Show aficionado talks smack about the Steve Nash cash.
Now as this writer a decade later pens this in a Japanese residence aiming to have his own contract to remain here throughout the 2020 Olympics in Tokyo, a week after taking in the cities NBA Japan Games featuring the Houston Rockets and Toronto Raptors, I look back to that Chicago Bulls London game of 2009 and the 2012 Olympics that came in London a few years later and everything you’ve done for the sport in my homeland and host nation. Knowing that from Brixton to Sudan you truly are a global ambassador like Dikembe Mutombo and like that mountain of a man will be at many a London exhibition for the National Basketball Association post career, no finger wag. No one-apart from former Orlando Magic big John Amaechi who truly changed the game from an equality perspective in the locker room-has done more for this game in the British Isles.
But this article isn’t about the U.K. Or even NBA Africa. Although that, just like your incredible and inspired charity work is worthy of its own book…let alone article. This is about the untouchable city of Chicago, from De Niro to Capone. The Windy City and the changing season you brought in with a gust and the Derrick Rose, Joakim Noah and Taj Gibson team of the new millennium and hope…that in the legendary United Centre seems as lost as the elevated train town that surrounds it, albeit still so classic. As American as apple pie…or Michael Jordan.
As you walk past his Statue of Liberty to this city iconic statue outside in the unmistakable windy granite look of this area, cemented in the nostalgia of the golden era 90’s like a Pippen bronze bust once you and your pulled tight coat get inside out the cold, you know what it’s about. Post Jordan and Baby Bulls era you were the team to compete, bring it all back. And although Rose was the next 23 in line star to grow from concrete you were the dependable all-star from the start and a ten years of your own. You’ll go down as one of the best Bulls ever. Like the 1 and only Rose, your number nine will be shot up there in the rafters with all the twenty and thirty-three’s and all the banners bar injuries you could have put up there.
Two All-Star selections an All Defensive Second Team selection and the J. Walter Kennedy Citizenship Award for starters that’s why. But the Duke grad who also logged some time with the Cleveland Cavaliers and the Miami Heat (after Pat Riley called him one of the most important acquisitions after he came in for the post King era in South Beach) was much more than a number, even if his will end up with the air up there when it is all said and done…which it is. Because after playing for the Minnesota Timberwolves last year after his Hollywood divorce, Deng is calling it a career. But he isn’t retiring Minny with the Wolves oh no. And there won’t be one last dance of a season sadly for those practicing their steps.
But still he is galloping out this association as a Bull. After signing a one-day contract with the team he entered the league with as an all rookie, seventh draft pick, Luol will retire and leave the league with the same team. It’s a grand gesture and nice move from the Bulls (even though it leaves talented player Perrion Callandret cut (bring him back)), as Deng’s 15 year career-with the lion share being with these cubs-comes full circle in Chicago like this town’s Loop subway system.
As Chicago as Common, Deng is back where he belongs if only for a night as the seasons of change and cities weather brings him back to where it all began for a fitting end blowing in the wind.
Lakers Licking Warriors All Preseason
Number 23, James jerseys being burnt in fiery flames of anger and anguish. Just like a Cavalier when he left the land for a new flame with the South Beach talents of the Miami Heat.
Political commentators almost telling him to “shut up and dribble” like they were Trump.
It’s been a rough week for LeBron James.
But it has been an even rougher year for the people of Hong Kong…and that’s the point LeBron.
For all the controversy in China-from billboards coming down like it was a decade ago. To think before you tweet, hypocritical tweets being sent like the Donald (you could have waited ‘Bron…period)-James had to rebound on his return to Hollywood after the reality of the last seven days. And boy did he like Barkley. Running a power move on them like Chuck. Just days after being made a Public Enemy for failing to fight the power for a nation of millions, refusing to be held back.
And saying no more about the situation, whilst admitting wrong. Taking blame and hoping for an accepted apology, Business LeBron let his game do the talking.
And it SANG!
Answering back on the hardwood court at least…if not the one of public and social media trending opinion.
After failing to close out the China Games for the West and find the nets against Brooklyn in the Far East, James and his Laker gang returned to their regular preseason schedule for their California clash series with the former champion Golden State Warriors.
And right now it’s all Lakers like A.D., A.C., A.B., J-McGee, D-Howard, Danny Green, Quinn cookin’ against his old firm and K.C.P.
First the Lakers were too hot for the Warriors Chase Centre house warming in San Francisco. Then across the Golden Gate and state the Lake Show’s new young core manned up with the beard and the brow sitting. As rook Zach Norvell Jr. had 22 in his number 21 (hey Lakers maybe don’t trade this one), leading a youth in revolt featuring NBA family legacy members Kostas Antetokounmpo and David Stockton against the splash brotherhood and their newly adopted sibling, former Laker D’Angelo Russell, wetting everything on the Pacific Coast right now. Even Dwight Howard proved again against all the odds and odd looks just how big a back-up he’s going to be with 12 points, 13 rebounds, 6 assists and 4 steals for the finest of lines.
And then there was the 126-93 candle blowing of last night for two teams who will meet tomorrow too. But right now with the Lakers licking the Warriors so much like a lizards tongue, Golden State are in the soft state of being the ice cream right now.
Let it melt!
But for all the cones like a kid holding two perhaps we’ve just SLAM cover jinked it all right now.
Still, tomorrow is another day.
As for yesterday all the Dubs troubles weren’t so far away as James’ La La Land company went full ‘Space Jam’ Monstar’s on the K.O’d champs. Playing some of the most beautiful basketball you’ll ever see…let alone in mere preseason play. Which rust dust off is taken so much more serious these days with the advent of social media allowing for instant replays in high-rises and hamlets across the world in the blink of a tweeting second. The drama is almost at a Shakespearian level…especially after last week. And to tweet or not to tweet (that is no longer the question) LeBron knows how to fine tune, orchestrate it all. Quarterback running it like the point position he was meant to take up like the number 6 and the chalk tossing headband days he’s strapping back on.
‘The Greatest Basketball Story Ever Told’ about the Milan miracle Hickory Hoosiers by Greg Guffey features many a classic line of inspired journalism. One being about how a big-man dunked the ball as gently as dropping an egg in a basket. This plagiarism aside perfectly describes one of McGee’s slam’s. But the rest he and the Ghidorah big-man three-headed monster put down was like the dunk contests they all used to partake. And this table of full courses was set perfectly by the King like a moat surrounding a castle, thanks to the arrow in the ground perfect picks hammered down and planted with the deepest roots by these seven feet high and rising pivots off the roll.
And that was when the King wasn’t American Football running his way through the paint to pastel his own touchdowns with easel ease. One touch pass from the palette to Dwight Howard had exquisite wrote all over it, alley to oop.
But that wasn’t even the best one.
That belonged to the contouring down court of LeBron’s falling out of bounds, M.J. against the Lakers switch hands pass to Danny Green, waiting at the corner shop to bag the three, paper or plastic and make the King look even better like the previous week didn’t even happen. After all the social media white noise to what was more a misjudgement and the mistake of a man that is still school opening and philanthropic more than an athlete, this master move, worthy of the greatest of all-time highlight package-let alone the regular season itself-inspired Instagram flame emojis from everyone from former meme teammate Lance Stephenson back in China to the merc with a mouth, Deadpool himself actor Ryan Reynolds here in Hollywood.
LeBron’s 18 to go along with four rebounds, 11 assists and one steal, next to Davis’ 8 points and assists, 10 rebounds, one steal and two blocks. Not to mention Cook’s broth of 16 points and 3 assists against his old Chef Curry boys, Howard’s end of 13 points and 7 rebounds, McGee’s 12, 6 rebounds, a steal and a block and Avery Bradley’s 18 was the most balanced of attacks and too much for friend to foe D’Angelo Russell’s Jordanesque 23, off some of the fresh pail of water purest buckets.
Sure this game the Warriors were without soldier Stephen Curry to match his soaked on the side-line Splash Brother and the departed Durant. But they still had Green on this day like the Lakers. And the purple and gold themselves are still without former Golden State big DeMarcus Cousins and the young Prince of the King’s men Kyle Kuzma whose just had the option on his contract exercised like ghosts.
Just wait until they get at least one of those guys back.
It’s going to be real scary in Hollywood this Halloween.
And we’re on the eve of seeing it all over again back across the Bay, to close it all out a week after this teams horror show.
Time to suit up in the league’s most famous costume.
Big Trouble For Lakers Against Nets In China
Making ’em move and shake like the guitar he strums, former Laker meme team reserve Lance Stephenson is making his name and game proud in China. Lifting trophies just weeks after taking off for the Far East. But as for his former team, they had nothing to dance about when they left China after their Shanghai/Shenzhen double-header with the Brooklyn Nets.
There was no Kevin Durant. In the end with a facial fracture no Kyrie Irving and no Anthony Davis for most of Game 2 with a sore thumb. It sucked. But there was almost no game for all the King’s men and the Brooklyn boys as China went dark on the NBA following the events of last week.
Billboards of LeBron and co came down like witnessing the first time he left Cleveland for the talents of South Beach following some comments from the Rockets G.M., James Harden and Russell Westbrook in support of the Hong Kong protesters. And they weren’t even in China. Playing big in Japan with the champion Toronto Raptors. Splitting their two game series in Tokyo a year before the 2020 Olympics, one game apiece. Commissioner Adam Silver back them up saying they, the protestors and everyone has a “right to free speech”…and then everything came down.
First China cut ties with the NBA like your exes friends on Facebook. Then all posters, media and the like were removed like any chance of these games being televised. It looked like they wouldn’t even tip off as the Lakers and Net teams were stuck in their hotel rooms wondering if they could even go outside to Instagram those iconic skyline sights. The Lakers-getting there first-didn’t even have WIFi to check what was going on or scroll through their Twitter timelines and take on the trolls. But in the end from Shanghai to Shenzhen there was LeBron bringing back the iconic chalk-toss pregame like he has the headband Heat days.
But if the King thought that was the end of his troubles in China then he was thumb sorely mistaken as the Nets bucketed the Lakers on the four frames of both trips. And if you want to talk about trolling Brooklyn also had the best bite back GIF reply to the Lakers “consider this a warning” tweet last week after beating the Golden State Warriors in San Francisco for their preseason opener.
Spencer Dinwiddie’s expression said it all.
Watch what you tweet.
Despite dropping two like Alka Seltzer tablets the Lake’s put on a show as ‘Bron bulldozed the lane like John Deere and the Ghidora three-headed big-man monster of the Lakers showed they could even take on Godzilla if they were ever to cross the continent to the city of Tokyo. A.D. again coming up big before injuries got in his way, even from downtown Shanghai on that night, showed how much he’s been working on his three-ball. But wolf McGee huffing, puffing and blowing the Nets painted post house down (before swatting the ball away from him like it was the hand of a significant other that had just pissed him off) and Howard finishing off alley-oops with that old Orlando magic (mosquito swatting all other shots. Looking more and more like a solid pick-up to round out the bolstered bench on his reunion redemption move as he blocks out any doubt) turned the lay-up line into a dunk contest. With both former participants liking it from their alternate takes on the bench and vice versa. Getting up and off it like it was their time to play.
McGee is one of this writers fan favourite Laker players…of any era. But if you bleed purple and gold you have to love the Bruce Bowen like Avery Bradley right now and all he’s doing for the team not only the defence end he dominates like the people’s court, but the shots he selects and creates for himself on the business end. From reigning champ Danny Green, to little Greek brother Kostas Antetokounmpo who also showed out (making it another NBA family affair for the Lakers after signing legendary Point Guard John Stockton’s son David from South Bay. A year after picking up Gary Payton II), A.B. in the offseason of A.D. may be one of LeBron’s Lakers best pick-ups. Especially in this pick-up game like preseason exhibition. Hopes for this purple season are higher than Meth and Red right now.
But in the end in China it was nothing but the Nets.
Spreading love the BKLYN way with some crazy, rich wins, the Nets tore down the Lakers 114-111 in Shanghai, thanks to a former Laker of all people. As former (former) D-League to big league sensation David Nwaba iced the game off the turnover with a huge, signature slam with 13.9 to go before KCP (he’s still here… that’s how abyss deep the Lakers are this year) couldn’t convert a clutch three. This after both Irving and Caris LaVert went down (the latter joining Kyrie’s facial fractures with being poked in the eye). Spencer ‘The GIF’ Dinwiddie with 20 et al picked up the slack however to show the Nets are just as deep. Especially upfront, even rivalling the Lakers big, big-three as Jarrett Allen and new free agent pick-up DeAndre Jordan combined for seven big blocks.
Not treading shallow water either the following game on the H.K. border of Shenzhen closed it all out for an eventful and stressful half week. With many fans wearing hearts on their jerseys and other on their sleeves as the former New Jersey Nets took on the former Minneapolis Lakers in the second Chinese city. LeVert returned and scored 22 in that many minutes of play to lead his team to a 3-zip postseason record ensuring the Lakers would get no sleep on their return flight ’till Los Angeles. And this was without Kevin Durant or Kyrie Irving. Even the locked down dreads of rookie Nicolas Claxton got in on the action with 8 points in nine minutes. If the Nets can beat the Lakers now just imagine what it will be like when their one, two punch hits. It looks like they have a dynamic duo to best not only ‘Bron and the ‘Brow, but the Shaq and Kobe greatest of all time too.
But if you thought that was how you send a message then just look at the Chinese fans who came to the game in their teams jerseys, but with a Chinese flag covering the Jerry West silhouette of the NBA logo.
Now that’s how you make a statement. Although let’s make one ourselves and continue to stand with the people of Hong Kong, but also look for peace and resolution in this critical time. Support the Lakers and Nets all you want but this was just a game…and a mere exhibition one at that. The support Hong Kong needs right now is so much more.
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