5 things to watch during Sunday's NBA All-Star game
Michael Shulman, CTVNews.ca
Published Saturday, February 13, 2016 6:02PM EST
Last Updated Sunday, February 14, 2016 12:25PM EST
The NBA's biggest stars will take to the court of Toronto's Air Canada Centre on Sunday night, and while the game promises to be an entertaining affair, there are several other storylines that could steal the show.
The mid-season classic will likely see the league pay tribute to one of the NBA's all-time greats, showcase talent from, perhaps, the best team in history, and put the Raptors' dominant backcourt duo on display.
Here's the top five things to watch during Sunday's NBA All-Star game:
Curtains for Kobe
Kobe Bryant will make one final NBA all-star game appearance on Sunday.
In his storied career the future Hall-of-Famer has been selected to the all-star game a record 18-consecutive times, and has scored the most career points in the history of the mid-season classic. In November, Bryant, who has helped the Los Angeles Lakers win five NBA championships during his 20-year career, announced that he plans to retire at the end of the 2015-16 season.
The league put the all-star game practice on hold Saturday to pay tribute to the 2008 MVP with a highlight video. NBA legend Michael Jordan also celebrated Bryant's career by gifting him a full set of sneakers from the Air Jordan line.
The Golden State Warriors will be well represented at Sunday's mid-season classic, with three league-leading players -- MVP favourite Steph Curry, Draymond Green and Klay Thompson – set to suit for the Western Conference all-star squad. And the accolades are well deserved: with a record of 48-4, the Warriors are currently on pace for the best season in the history of the NBA. They will have to overtake the Chicago Bulls' 1995-96 season when they went 72-10.
Curry is also on pace for one of the best statistical seasons in the history of the league, and could top Wilt Chamberlain's record single-season player efficiency rating. Meanwhile, Green is the defensive anchor of the Warriors' versatile lineup, and Thompson is putting up 21.3 points per game.
Few bonds are tighter between NBA players than the one shared by Toronto Raptors stars Kyle Lowry and DeMar Derozan. So, it's only fitting that the club's backcourt pairing will represent the Eastern Conference all-stars together on Sunday. In their three full seasons together, Lowry and DeRozan have led the Raptors to back-to-back playoff appearances.
Coming off a disappointing sweep at the hands of the Washington Wizards last post-season, Lowry slimmed down and came into 2015-16 in the best shape of his life. Lowry's svelte physique has allowed him to take his game to new heights, and he is posting a career-best 21 points per game.
DeRozan, who struggled with consistency and injury in 2014-15, has also put together a strong season this year with career-highs in shooting percentage from the three-point line (.337) and points per game (23.4). Both players are making their second all-star game appearance.
British rocker Sting is headlining this year's all-star halftime show. The Grammy Award-winner and former frontman of the Police is slated to perform a compilation of his hits. Many fans reacted with confusion and frustration when Sting was named as halftime performer, particularly given Toronto rapper and Raptors' global ambassador Drake's connection to the host city. Last year's performance was headlined by singers Ariana Grande and Nicki Minaj.
Drake handles introductions
The aforementioned Drake will hand off coaching duties, and take up his usual position behind the mic on Sunday when he will make the player introductions at the Air Canada Centre. Drake was on the sidelines as part of the coaching staff that led Team Canada to victory over the United States during Friday night's NBA Celebrity All-Star Game.
The "Hotline Bling" MC has previously handled player introductions for the Toronto Raptors.