By Brandon ‘Scoop B’ Robinson
Not only was the NBA All-Star Game played for the first time outside of the United States over the weekend in Toronto, but it was also the highest-scoring game in the history of its existence. Historically a hockey city, Toronto is more than the place that Drake built and what genuinely stands out about the ‘T-Dot’ is that the city grew their Toronto Raptors fan base from scratch since the franchise’s inception in 1995.
The early days of Raptors basketball were interesting. The Raptors were a novelty and yet they weren’t really a good team. Remember Damon Stoudamire, Zan Tabak, Sharone Wright, Carlos Rogers and Marcus Camby? During their inaugural season, they finished 21-61 and in last place in the NBA’s Central Division. People still came to show support.
“They had what looked like goofy uniforms,” recounted TSN’s Jermain Franklin. “They looked like the movie, Jurassic Park. People thought they were named after that movie. But they’ve grown.”
Things briskly changed when the Raptors drafted both Vince Carter and Tracy McGrady in 1997 and 1998. A young team on the rise; Carter turned heads when his acrobatic dunks won him the 2000 NBA Slam Dunk Contest. Trips to the NBA Playoffs, drafting Chris Bosh, they built a fanbase. McGrady, Bosh and Carter would all bolt Toronto, but their impact left a great mark on the city for something other than hockey. Insert a little bit of Drake influence beginning in 2009 when he was signed to Lil Wayne’s Young Money label and the city dubbed, ‘The 6’ by the artist, has not looked back.
“It’s real cool,” former Toronto Raptor Alvin Williams told CBS Local Sports. “The city deserved it. The fans are more appreciative of the game. The game is worldwide, it’s global now. You’re seeing all the success the team is having now, it’s good to have it here.”
Toronto’s All Star Weekend debut was a great success and it didn’t disappoint. Aside from the league-wide support for Kobe Bryant who will retire at season’s end, the ultimate pandemonium that was Zach LaVine, Aaron Gordon, and the Slam Dunk Contest stood out. Klay Thompson winning the three-point shootout and Karl Anthony-Towns winning the Skills Challenge were also a hit. The hospitality, great money exchange rate and parties were just as great.
“I think everybody got the feel of the energy that we witness every single night when we play as Raptors players,” said Toronto Raptors swingman DeMar DeRozan.
“I think all the guys really got in tune of how the city of Toronto and all of Canada is to basketball.” “I’ve been telling people for years, the city, the food, the nice restaurants, places to go, great shopping, the money exchange rate is great,” former Toronto Raptors guard Morris Peterson told Jake Brown and myself on the Brown and Scoop Podcast yesterday.
Mo Pete surely told no lies. While not in the Air Canada Centre, writing and getting exclusive content, Brown and Scoop immersed itself in the sights and sounds of the city despite the -1 degree temperatures. Three gatherings stood out during All Star Weekend.
YesJulz and Viber Party
Media maven YesJulz hosted a Viber messaging party. DJ Esco was the in-house DJ and he played hit after hit. Sports notables like Odell Beckham Jr. of the New York Giants and the Toronto Raptors’ Patrick Patterson were on hand.
Mitchell and Ness All Star Brunch
The Philadelphia nostalgic clothing company hosted their annual All Star Brunch at e11even, a restaurant directly across the street from the Air Canada Centre. In house DJ, open bar, mimosas, sliders and more, William Warren, Mitchell & Ness’ organizer of the event had lyricists Fabolous and O.T. Genasis there and countless others in attendance.
Schea Cotton Movie Screening
Everybody knows about LeBron James and his chronicled preps to pros story. Ever heard of Schea Cotton? The University of Toronto hosted a screening of “Manchild” The Schea Cotton Story: A Dream Deferred,’ a documentary of Schea Cotton’s life devoted to the game of basketball. A McDonald’s All-American, his story was touching. Toronto Raptors rookie Norman Powell, Cleveland Cavaliers’ in-game host DJ Steph Floss and SLAM Magazine editor Ben Osborne were notables in attendance.
Brandon Robinson is a sports and entertainment writer and TV personality. You can catch him daily on CBS Radio Play.it’s Brown and Scoop Podcast. Follow him on Twitter @SCOOPB and visit www.ScoopB.com.