Russell Westbrook scored 31 points and earned game MVP honours in leading the Western Conference to a 196-173 victory over the East in the 65th NBA all-star game on Sunday, the first time the game was played outside the United States.
Steph Curry added 26 points – including a dramatic three-point shot with two seconds left – that drew a massive roar from the Air Canada Centre crowd.
Paul George had 41 points to lead the East, including nine three-pointers that broke the previous record of eight set by Carmelo Anthony (2014).
Kobe Bryant, playing his 18th – and final – all-star game, finished with 10 points, and received a standing ovation when he left the floor with just over a minute to play.
DeMar DeRozan had 18 points, while Kyle Lowry finished with 14 in the first time two Toronto Raptors were voted onto the all-star team.
With Toronto providing the backdrop to the NBA’s annual party, Drake addressed the crowd pre-game, and summed up the fuzzy feel-good mood in the building.
“This is the best game with the best players – finally in the best city in the world,” the rapper and Raptors’ global ambassador told the giddy Air Canada Centre crowd.
The game, as always, was a dazzling offensive showcase, with huge alley-oop dunks drawing “ooohs” from a star-studded front row that included Spike Lee – in bright orange hat and glasses to match, and shiny gold sneakers – plus Super Bowl MVP Von Miller, Toronto Blue Jays legend Joe Carter, host of “The Daily Show” Jon Stewart, actors Jason Sudeikis and Olivia Wilde, and comedian Kevin Hart.
Bryant, who will retire after this season, was feted in a touching pre-game video montage introduced by NBA legend Magic Johnson. Both all-star teams gathered around Johnson to watch the Jumbotron.
The Los Angeles Lakers star then went out and promptly added another record to his illustrious resume, grabbing his 38th career all-star steal to pass Michael Jordan for most all-time.
Kawhi Leonard had 13 first-half points, while Bryant has 10 points and five rebounds to help the Western Conference take a 92-90 lead over the East into halftime, breaking the record for points in a half (89 set in 2014).
George led all scorers in the first half with 16 points.
There was plenty of Canadian content, including a tribute to Dr. James Naismith, the Canadian who invented the game. Naismith’s grandson Jim Naismith was presented with a ball signed by the all-star, and two-time NBA MVP Steve Nash told the crowd “I’m proud (the all-stars) will be showcasing their skills here in Canada.”
Canadian women’s star Natalie Achonwa introduced a celebration of the WNBA’s 20th anniversary.
Drake, dressed in a garish multi-coloured “Farewell Mamba” leather jacket in a tribute to Bryant, took the stage for the player introductions, with Bryant, Lowry and DeRozan receiving the loudest cheers.
The crowd booed East coach Tyronn Lue – Raptors fans argued Dwane Casey should have earned coaching honours – and cheered West coach Gregg Popovich.
Sting sang at halftime, while Cirque du Soleil performed a pre-game act that was part basketball, part parkour. Nelly Furtado sang “O Canada,” while Ne-Yo performed the American anthem.
The night capped a glitzy three days of festivities in Toronto. The only negative was the deep freeze that enveloped the city, as temperatures on Saturday plummeted to minus-23 Celsius.Report Typo/Error