Well, this is awesome news.
According to a report from Ryan Wolstat of The Toronto Sun, the Toronto Raptors will host the 2016 NBA All-Star Game.
When Tim Leiweke took over at the helm of Maple Leaf Sports and Entertainment, one of his key talking points was making Toronto a destination for marquee events, specifically highlight the NBA All-Star weekend festivities as a goal. Well, mission accomplished, and here’s hoping it’s a positive indicator of Leiweke’s ability to follow through on his objectives.
From a business standpoint, this is a no-brainer. All-Star weekend brings plenty of players and celebrities with it, and the city of Toronto should see an appreciable economic boost that weekend (as should The Brass Rail). It’s always a positive when a team or franchise gets marquee event and could help towards increasing the team’s public profile as well, though it’s hardly a certainty.
From a basketball standpoint, there’s no impact on the floor. The Raptors are likely to be assured a player in at least one competition during the weekend but it’s far too early to tell who could be in what event. (Note that by 2016, Jonas Valanciunas will have his own All-Star Game and won’t bother participating with these peons.)
An additional consideration from a basketball perspective is that this is an opportunity to introduce a lot of basketball talent and personnel to the city of Toronto. We often hear criticism that Toronto can’t attract free agents or isn’t a great place to play, even though current and former players speak to the contrary (hello, Charles Barkley). Customs and border concerns aside, this is a great chance for the franchise to show potential players, coaches and management figures that Toronto is well worth the hassle at the airport.
As fans, there is no emotion to feel but elation, really. This is a no-lose for fans. Seriously, if you find a way to complain about this I’ll punch you in the teeth. A rookie-sophomore game (or whatever they call it now), a celebrity game, All-Star Saturday Night and the All-Star Game itself are all chances that not all fanbases get to see the NBA’s best up close and in one place at one time. Quibble in 2016 about the potentially exorbitant prices, but the chance to pay exorbitant prices seemed unlikely just a few years ago.
The marketing campaign locally will probably focus on the franchise’s 20th anniversary. Say what you will about the history of the franchise, but it’s definitely a good way to tie the team closely to the event rather than just ‘having it here.’ I, for one, would love for the organization to shoehorn some kind of Raptors Alumni game into the weekend; anyone who was once a Raptor is probably still in decent enough shape to get up and down the floor. (I’d also push for a “Toronto Celebrities and Bloggers Game” but I doubt there will be much traction there.)
Again, there isn’t a lot to analyze here. It’s an excellent get for the new management team and a potential boon to the local economy and the business side of the company. It also can’t hurt on the basketball side of things, and is a major victory for the fanbase.
Let’s hear some early thoughts on the announcement – Excitement level? How much would you pay for each event? What locally-themed event would you like to see added? Local celebs for the celebrity game? Half-time performer (spoiler: it will be Drake) preference?