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USA celebrity head coach Kevin Hart and Canada celebrity head coach Drake are interviewed after the All-Star celebrity basketball game at Ricoh Coliseum in Toronto on Friday, Feb. 12, 2016. (Peter Llewellyn/USA Today Sports)
USA celebrity head coach Kevin Hart and Canada celebrity head coach Drake are interviewed after the All-Star celebrity basketball game at Ricoh Coliseum in Toronto on Friday, Feb. 12, 2016. (Peter Llewellyn/USA Today Sports)

2016 All-Star Weekend

The NBA All-Star Celebrity Game, a contest for outsiders, from an outsider's perspective Add to ...

To celebrate the spirit of the NBA All-Star Weekend Celebrity Game – featuring celebrities who enjoy basketball but do not play it professionally – The Globe and Mail sent a reporter to the game who enjoys basketball, but does not write about it professionally.

Wearing jerseys that matched Drake’s signature colours, gold and black, many celebrities tried to play basketball in Toronto Friday night. Some of them even won basketball.

Team Canada beat Team U.S.A. 74-63, which was nice because it was in Toronto, and we’ve really needed the feeling that comes with beating an entire country in a single game ever since the Jays lost in the ALCS last October.

MVP Win Butler undoubtedly scored a lot of buckets, but the real MVP was Drake, Team Canada’s coach, who was given the Key to the City on court before the tipoff, and on whom the spotlight is shining brightest this weekend. Opposing coach Kevin Hart kept trying to steal that spotlight – he literally started playing in the second half – but the night was Drake’s. Just look at those jersey colours. And that smile. Man, that smile.

Former Raptor Tracy McGrady, who is retired from basketball, sunk many baskets and still appears to be good at basketball. Milos Raonic, who is very good at tennis but who does not have a long history of lending his skills to an accredited professional basketball organization, made several baskets for the Canadian team to much applause. This included a dunk just before the half as the house organist played the Weeknd’s In the Night, giving Canada a comfortable lead of 37 to 28.

Hart made many jokes about being a four-time Celebrity Game MVP. He looked like he had fun. Muggsy Bogues, who may have been selected for team U.S.A. because he is one of few celebrities shorter than Hart, was also there for fun. He said exactly that before the game when The Globe and Mail asked what skills he would bring from starring in the widely acclaimed 1996 film Space Jam: “Fun.” Then, with perhaps a solemn acknowledgment of age: “That’s all I can give’m anyway.”

Milwaukee Bucks owner Marc Lasry played valiantly for team U.S.A. for a while, but kind of looked awkward with a T-shirt on under his jersey. He did not look as awkward as Guy Fieri, or at least a guy who looked like Guy Fieri, when he briefly showed up on the big screen.

Before the game, the celebrity basketball players offered a wide variety of perspectives about being good at basketball. “I’m just gonna be honest. I don’t play basketball,” eight-time Celebrity Game player Nick Cannon said.

When The Globe and Mail presented this news to his opponent Butler, frontman for the band Arcade Fire and himself a Celebrity Game alumni, Butler was quick to retort.

“I came to dominate today,” the Team Canada player said on the red carpet, wearing a New Orleans Pelicans bomber and Steve Nash’s old haircut (but not the same haircut as Skrillex, which he had for a while, maybe even before Skrillex). At one point he made a great basket while the house organist played Drake’s Just Hold On We’re Going Home.

Near the end of the game, Drake put a literal child on the court, presumably to compete with Hart, who, again, is not tall. The child was enthusiastic and adorable, and the crowd booed when he was pulled from the court. To more deliberately mock Hart’s height, in the game’s final minute, McGrady held the ball in the air to prevent Hart from getting it.

One of the Property Brothers – they’re identical twins and his name wasn’t on the front of his jersey so this reporter couldn’t tell from where he sat, please don’t judge – had a great free throw early on. Ahead of the game, The Globe and Mail asked what would happen if they found out their family bet on one becoming MVP and not the other. One of them – listen, this time they weren’t even wearing jerseys with their names on it – pointed over to Butler. “They don’t need to bet,” he said, “because they know it’s gonna be him.”

And it was him. Turns out it helps to have a guy named Win on your team in order to win. He might not be much help in future Celebrity Games, however, because he announced upon winning that he was “retiring as a celebrity.”

In a post-game scrum, Butler praised Drake as a coach. “He loves the game. He dresses great. What more do you want in a coach?” He also made a joke asking if the assembled reporters had heard of his band. The Globe had, and asked him a question about that band: Did breaking through Team U.S.A.’s defence and making a basket feel similar to breaking out of the suburbs of Houston, which inspired him to write a Grammy Award-winning concept album?

“It was actually not similar at all,” he said. “Dissimilar.”

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