This article originally appeared on VICE Sports Canada.
Next year's NBA All-Star Weekend will be held in Toronto for the first time ever. The city will take center stage, and Mona Halem is sure to get a few "you the real MVP" texts next February. But more importantly, it will be an exciting time when we finally get to the basketball stuff. This past season, even with Justin Bieber not hashtagging things correctly, fans in Canada helped vote Kyle Lowry into the starting lineup of the All-Star Game. You have to imagine with the game on home soil next season, the fan base will push to get another starter in the game.
The "We The North" campaign will likely get a significant push as well, and you can be sure Drake will be center stage, if not ceding some of the spotlight to Andrew Wiggins, who will be very involved with the festivities of the weekend. But that's not enough. We need a full-court press on all things Canadian at next year's event. "We The North" is nice, Drake is a dandy ambassador, but we need to push it all to the next level and make it feel like a real all-Canadian affair.
Below are a list of suggestions on what should happen at All-Star Weekend next February in Toronto, sorted in order of likelihood, which means it wasn't determined in any order at all:
Turn the Rising Stars Challenge into a Canada vs. The World format
This used to be a rookie versus sophomores format. This year, we moved to a World versus USA format, and Wiggins was named the event's Most Valuable Player.
It seems logical, at least for next season, to change the format to Canada versus The World, just to give a chance to showcase all the homegrown talent in the NBA right now. Wiggins would be joined by Tristan Thompson, Nik Stauskas, Cory Joseph, Anthony Bennett, Kelly Olynyk, Andrew Nicholson, Tyler Ennis and Dwight Powell (OK, it's getting a little thin at the end of the bench, but this is an exhibition and we're just here for Wiggins to try and drop 50 anyway). We'll also have to make sure Sim Bhullar is on an NBA team because his parents seem cool.
The Canadian fans would surely dig deep into their patriotism to rally around this game, belt out the national anthem beforehand in unison, and turn Friday's festivities into what feels like a main event.
Assign Justin Bieber and Drake as captains of the Celebrity Game, with special guest appearances
In one corner, we have the modern day Pete Maravich:
In the other corner, we have this:
These are two of the biggest and most marketable names we have in our country. We must take advantage of this. Each of the celebrity teams should be required to have two Canadians as well, because imagine the ratings if the possibility of Bill Wennington dunking over Chad Kroeger is in play during the celeb game. This one sounds too obvious that I would be surprised if it didn't happen.
Invite Steve Nash to the skills competition
Nash is a national treasure—if this was hockey, his nickname would be Nashtional Treasure. Related: Hockey nicknames are terrible. He was also almost a Raptor several years ago before deciding to join the Lakers to be closer to his family and be with a more competitive team (or so he thought). He's a huge part of the national team, so why not bring him out of retirement for one night and have him compete in the skills competition?
Whether he wins or not doesn't even matter. The ovation would be worth it. Also, it's mandatory Nash has to wear the same attire as his 1994 Rap City appearance:
Make it mandatory for Paul Pierce to participate in the 3-point shootout
Every classic movie needs a worthy villain. The All-Star Weekend is our feature film, so I would like Adam Silver to make it mandatory for Paul Pierce to have to clear customs next February and participate in the 3-point shootout. This is the closest we have to a rival at the moment, although it's arguable if we're really a rival when Pierce has more playoff series wins than the Raptors in their 20 years in the league.
But having Pierce around for the weekend means at least two days worth of media availability, and I'm sure he will let a few classic quotes fly, and then a few 3-pointers fly Saturday as the entire Air Canada Centre roots against him.
What is the downside of this again?
Wiggins versus LaVine for the dunk contest
I briefly considered having Vince Carter perform an honorary dunk prior to the start of the contest, maybe a recreation of his dunk over Frederic Weis, but I think it's best to leave the classics instead of trying to remake it (plus, I have other plans for Vince below) and I'm not sure if Weis can be located and convinced to be embarrassed once more.
So, just give us two Timberwolves teammates, Wiggins and defending champion Zach LaVine, in a dunk off.
Sunday afternoon alumni game with former Raptors
The Raptors spent all season honoring former players, everyone from Vince Carter to Muggsy Bogues. How about we organize an alumni game, because who doesn't want to see Carter and Tracy McGrady connect for one more alleyoop, or Mike James completely taking over the second quarter and just waving off teammates as he bullies his way to 20 shots? Or how about the return of Walt Williams, or where is Nate Huffman again? A Charles Oakley behind-the-back pass for old times sakes? Butch Carter coaching Marcus Camby? The possibilities are actually endless.
To give this some legitimate throwback vibes, let's have it at the SkyDome which some people refer to as the Rogers Centre now.
Other assorted ideas: We should totally have Canadian sponsors for Saturday's events. The Foot Locker Three-Point Shootout? How does Sport Chek presents in collaboration with BioSteel The Three-Point Shootout sound? Tacky, but very Canadian. The Sprite Slam Dunk Contest? Nope, I think Canadian Tire should write a cheque for this. As for the actual All-Star Game, it would be hilarity (and entirely possible) if Canada rallied together and voted Bruno Caboclo in as a starter. But I'll settle for Anthony Bennett on the West team. Either way, some quirky voting campaign has to happen, if only to see if the commissioner steps in to shut things down, furthering the nobody likes Canada narrative.
In the end, this weekend is ours, and we should treat it that way and make sure everyone leaves Toronto with just one thought: that was really different, very weird, and definitely Canadian.