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SPORTS NEWS THE PAST WEEKS
(Mini Reads followed by Full Reports below)

BRADLEY  VACATES WBO WELTERWEIGHT TITLE


FEBRUARY 10 -Filipino boxing idol Manny ‘Pacman’ Pacquiao and Timothy ‘Desert Storm’ Bradley Jr. first squared off on June 9, 2012 at the MGM Grand in Las Vegas. After splitting the first two bouts, both fighters will meet for a third time on April 9, 2016. The third fight between Manny Pacquiao and Timothy Bradley this April will be a non-title bout.
This after Bradley formally relinquished the WBO welterweight championship, which he, according to ESPN.com’s Dan Rafael, was supposed to defend against contender Sadam Ali. Rafael reported that Bradley wrote WBO president Paco Valcarcel last February 4 signifying his intention to vacate the title. “As you know I will be fighting Manny Pacquiao on April 9, 2016 in Las Vegas, NV. To accept this fight invariably means I cannot comply with my mandatory obligation and must forgo the mandatory against Sadam Ali, as ordered by the WBO. This is a difficult decision, but one I have to make to give fans the best fights as well as allow myself the toughest and biggest fights possible from both a competitive and financial perspective," wrote the American. “I'd like to thank the WBO and its president Paco Valcarcel for their support throughout the years and for allowing me to represent the organization as a two-time world champion," he added. Valcarcel, for his part, praised Bradley for the gesture.

ALSO: Roach taps unbeaten prospect as Pacquiao's sparmate


FEBRUARY 11 -Freddie Roach said Frankie Gomez will fly to the Philippines in the next few weeks to help Manny Pacquiao prepare for his fight with Timothy Bradley this April.
Freddie Roach has enlisted the services of an undefeated welterweight to serve as one of Manny Pacquiao’s sparring partners.
Roach said Frankie Gomez will fly to the Philippines once his travel papers are completed to help Pacquiao prepare for his fight with Timothy Bradley this April. "It depends on how fast Top Rank (Pacquiao's promotional outfit) can prepare Gomez's travel documents,” the trainer told Philboxing.com’s Eddie Alinea. Roach himself is set to arrive in the country this weekend to supervise Pacquiao’s training. Gomez will reportedly follow in the next two weeks. “He [Gomez]’s definitely coming in time for the start of the sparring sessions two weeks after I arrive. They (Top Rank) are already working on his papers,” Roach added. The 24-year-old Gomez, who fights out of East Los Angeles, California, totes a record of 20-0, with 13 KOs. Since turning pro in 2010, he has been training under the watchful eyes of Roach. Another prospect, super lightweight Jose Ramirez (16-0, with 12 KOs), has also been mentioned as a possible sparmate for Pacquiao. The Filipino icon will take on Bradley for the third time on April 9 at the MGM Grand in Las Vegas (April 10 Manila time). – Dino Maragay FULL REPORT

ALSO: NBA Commish Silver calls All-Star weekend in Toronto 'a homecoming'


FEBRUARY 13 -National Basketball Association commissioner Adam Silver, addresses the media at the S.A.Y. Detroit Play Center in Detroit. The first All-Star weekend held outside the U.S. is another success for Commissioner Adam Silver. And while things are going well, the honeymoon won't last long before either players or owners have to decide if they want the NBA to go in another direction. AP/Carlos Osorio, File
TORONTO — NBA Commissioner Adam Silver has opened All-Star weekend by paying homage to the league's history in Toronto. Silver spoke Friday morning at the NBA All-Star Technology Summit, and began his remarks by reminding attendees that the league's enormous success globally stems in part from what happened in Toronto on Nov. 1, 1946 — when the first game in what was then called the Basketball Association of America was played. Silver is calling this weekend "a very special one for us in the NBA, a homecoming." It was in Toronto on that night nearly 70 years ago when the New York Knicks visited and beat the Toronto Huskies 68-66. The game was played at Maple Leaf Gardens — "which, if you're curious, is now a grocery store," Silver says FULL REPORT

ALSO: FROM TORONTO - The buzz about the NBA all-star game
[Showcase basketball event draws celebrities, top athletes as Toronto gets set for big game, parties around city.
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FEBRUARY 12 -Stand out: At one of a number of star-studded parties to be held around the city this weekend, NBA star Andrew Wiggins makes his way into the crowd. The event was an NBA launch party ahead of the NBA all star game. RICK MADONIK / TORONTO STAR Order this photo 
Toronto is being overrun with celebrities big and tall, as thousands head to the city to take part in NBA all-star weekend. The event brings together some of basketball’s biggest stars, as well as their (shorter) celebrity fans. Nick Cannon, Snoop Dogg and Kevin Hart have all been spotted either in Toronto or on their way to the city, and Friday’s night’s celebrity all-star game will feature the Arcade Fire’s Win Butler and Canadian tennis pro Eugenie Bouchard. Drake, the god of “the 6ix,” welcomed LeBron “the King” James in what can only be viewed as an act of international diplomacy.
“Night one. And we’re just getting started,” Drake tweeted after posting a photo of himself with James Thursday night. The Canadian rapper will also be sharing the stage this weekend with his co-host and compatriot Justin Bieber.As Raptors spokesman, Drake has succeeded in helping Canada’s only NBA team become a household name, and in branding his hometown abroad. “We just landed in the Six,” said Stephen Curry of the Golden State Warriors in a video posted on Twitter early Thursday morning. “Long weekend, it’s gonna be a lot of fun,” Curry said. It’s the first time Toronto will host the event, which allows fans to vote for the teams’ starters. While the city is used to the shenanigans of the Toronto International Film Festival, the all-star game brings a new level of hoopla to the downtown core. READ MORE...MORE PHOTOS...

ALSO: FRIDAY GAME -U.S team beat the World team 157-154 in the rising Stars Challenge on Friday, Toronto All-Star festivities


FEBRUARY 12 -Zach LaVine highlights Rising Stars with 30 points, 7 boards
TORONTO -- Zach LaVine hoisted the MVP trophy above his head, laughing along with Minnesota Timberwolves teammates Andrew Wiggins and Karl-Anthony Towns as he stood on the podium. One win down at All-Star Weekend. One to go. LaVine had 30 points and seven rebounds and the United States team beat the World team 157-154 in the BBVA Compass Rising Stars Challenge on Friday night on the opening night of All-Star festivities. In the game featuring some of the best rookies and sophomores in the league, LaVine geared up to defend his slam dunk title on Saturday night by making 13 of 20 shots to beat Wiggins, who took home MVP honors last year in Brooklyn. Zach LaVine, in a game featuring some of the best rookies and sophomores in the league, geared up to defend his slam dunk title on Saturday night by taking home MVP honors. Elsa/Getty Images "I'm excited for tomorrow," said LaVine, who revived interest in the dunk contest with an electrifying performance last year. "I'm ready to put on a show." Kristaps Porzingis scored 30 points, and Emmanuel Mudiay had 30 points and 10 assists for the World team. Wiggins scored 29 points while playing in front of his hometown fans. Los Angeles Lakers sophomore Jordan Clarkson added 25 for the Americans. The Rising Stars game can sometimes take on the feel of a sideshow, something that forces the next generation into a spotlight that they aren't always ready for. But the court was loaded with talent on Friday night in Toronto, players like Wiggins, Porzingis, Towns, Elfrid Payton and Jabari Parker.
The influx of talent has given several long-suffering franchises -- the Timberwolves, Knicks, Bucks -- hope that better days are arriving soon. READ MORE...RELATED, Drake coaches Canada to win over U.S. in NBA Celebrity All-Star Game...

ALSO: NBA All-Star 2016 Saturday night: Dunk contest wows Toronto


FEBRUARY 14 -Zach LaVine, of the Minnesota Timberwolves, won his second-straight slam dunk contest in dramatic fashion on Saturday night. (Jesse D. Garrabrant/NBAE/Getty) RELATED STORIES: 'Sneakerheads' seek coveted kicks at Toronto's 'All-Star' Ultimate Sneaker Show Drake nabs NBA all-star celebrity game win on home turf ESPN reporter abruptly cuts off NBA all-star celebrity MVP Win Butler's political speech The rise of basketball in Canada: By the numbers Saturday night's dunk contest could very well be the highlight of the entire 2016 NBA All-Star weekend in Toronto. CBC Sports | Zach LaVine defends dunk crown in epic showdown 'This is a dream come true': Raptors superfan Nav Bhatia talks NBA All-Stars
The NBA's top talent put on a show at the Air Canada Centre, but on this night, the skills and three-point shooting just served as a warm-up for one of the most incredible dunk contests the league has ever seen. Just, wow. Toronto dunk contest..DOUBLE WOW! READ MORE...


READ FULL MEDIA REPORTS HERE:

APRIL FIGHT A NON-TITLE FIGHT: Bradley vacates WBO welterweight title


Filipino boxing idol Manny ‘Pacman’ Pacquiao and Timothy ‘Desert Storm’ Bradley Jr. first squared off on June 9, 2012 at the MGM Grand in Las Vegas. After splitting the first two bouts, both fighters will meet for a third time on April 9, 2016.

MANILA, FEBRUARY 158, 2016 (PHILSTAR) By Dino Maragay February 10, 2016 - The third fight between Manny Pacquiao and Timothy Bradley this April will be a non-title bout.

This after Bradley formally relinquished the WBO welterweight championship, which he, according to ESPN.com’s Dan Rafael, was supposed to defend against contender Sadam Ali.

Rafael reported that Bradley wrote WBO president Paco Valcarcel last February 4 signifying his intention to vacate the title.

“As you know I will be fighting Manny Pacquiao on April 9, 2016 in Las Vegas, NV. To accept this fight invariably means I cannot comply with my mandatory obligation and must forgo the mandatory against Sadam Ali, as ordered by the WBO. This is a difficult decision, but one I have to make to give fans the best fights as well as allow myself the toughest and biggest fights possible from both a competitive and financial perspective," wrote the American.

“I'd like to thank the WBO and its president Paco Valcarcel for their support throughout the years and for allowing me to represent the organization as a two-time world champion," he added.

Valcarcel, for his part, praised Bradley for the gesture.

READ MORE...

“Do know that we wholly understand your decision and commend you for always giving fans the best fights possible and doing what is best for your career at this important juncture," the WBO official wrote. "You have been an outstanding, honorable and loyal WBO junior welterweight and welterweight champion of the world and the doors of the WBO will always be open for you.

Valcarcel went on to say that the WBO will still recognize Bradley’s fight with Pacquiao, which is set on April 9 in Las Vegas (April 10 Manila time).

"Finally, I am pleased to inform you that we are preparing a special recognition for the Pacquiao vs. Bradley III winner – two remarkable fighters and worthy ambassadors to the WBO. Wishing you all the best," he added.

The choice to pursue a more lucrative fight with Pacquiao than go through a mandatory title defense is obviously the more logical option for Bradley, who wrested the same WBO title from the Filipino during their first meeting in 2012.

Pacquiao regained the crown from Bradley in their rematch two years later then surrendered it to Floyd Mayweather Jr. in their welterweight unification bout last year.

The WBO, however, stripped Mayweather of the same title for the boxer’s refusal to pay the organization’s sanctioning fee. At that time, Bradley was its interim welterweight champion and was promoted to full champion.

Also last year, Bradley defended the belt once against Brandon Rios, another former Pacquiao foe.


PHILSTAR

Roach taps unbeaten prospect as Pacquiao's sparmate (philstar.com) | Updated February 11, 2016 - 11:42am 2 54 googleplus0 0


Freddie Roach said Frankie Gomez will fly to the Philippines in the next few weeks to help Manny Pacquiao prepare for his fight with Timothy Bradley this April.

MANILA, Philippines – Freddie Roach has enlisted the services of an undefeated welterweight to serve as one of Manny Pacquiao’s sparring partners.

Roach said Frankie Gomez will fly to the Philippines once his travel papers are completed to help Pacquiao prepare for his fight with Timothy Bradley this April.

"It depends on how fast Top Rank (Pacquiao's promotional outfit) can prepare Gomez's travel documents,” the trainer told Philboxing.com’s Eddie Alinea.

Roach himself is set to arrive in the country this weekend to supervise Pacquiao’s training. Gomez will reportedly follow in the next two weeks.

“He [Gomez]’s definitely coming in time for the start of the sparring sessions two weeks after I arrive. They (Top Rank) are already working on his papers,” Roach added.

The 24-year-old Gomez, who fights out of East Los Angeles, California, totes a record of 20-0, with 13 KOs. Since turning pro in 2010, he has been training under the watchful eyes of Roach.

Another prospect, super lightweight Jose Ramirez (16-0, with 12 KOs), has also been mentioned as a possible sparmate for Pacquiao.

The Filipino icon will take on Bradley for the third time on April 9 at the MGM Grand in Las Vegas (April 10 Manila time). – Dino Maragay


PHILSTAR

NBA COMMISH Silver calls All-Star weekend in Toronto 'a homecoming' (Associated Press) | Updated February 13, 2016 - 6:00am 0 0 googleplus0 0


National Basketball Association commissioner Adam Silver, addresses the media at the S.A.Y. Detroit Play Center in Detroit. The first All-Star weekend held outside the U.S. is another success for Commissioner Adam Silver. And while things are going well, the honeymoon won't last long before either players or owners have to decide if they want the NBA to go in another direction. AP/Carlos Osorio, File

TORONTO — NBA Commissioner Adam Silver has opened All-Star weekend by paying homage to the league's history in Toronto.

Silver spoke Friday morning at the NBA All-Star Technology Summit, and began his remarks by reminding attendees that the league's enormous success globally stems in part from what happened in Toronto on Nov. 1, 1946 — when the first game in what was then called the Basketball Association of America was played.

Silver is calling this weekend "a very special one for us in the NBA, a homecoming."

It was in Toronto on that night nearly 70 years ago when the New York Knicks visited and beat the Toronto Huskies 68-66. The game was played at Maple Leaf Gardens — "which, if you're curious, is now a grocery store," Silver says


TORONTO STAR

The buzz about the NBA all-star game By: Robin Levinson King Staff Reporter, Published on Fri Feb 12 2016

Showcase basketball event draws celebrities, top athletes as Toronto gets set for big game, parties around city.
Share on Facebook


Stand out: At one of a number of star-studded parties to be held around the city this weekend, NBA star Andrew Wiggins makes his way into the crowd. The event was an NBA launch party ahead of the NBA all star game.
RICK MADONIK / TORONTO STAR Order this photo

Toronto is being overrun with celebrities big and tall, as thousands head to the city to take part in NBA all-star weekend.

The event brings together some of basketball’s biggest stars, as well as their (shorter) celebrity fans. Nick Cannon, Snoop Dogg and Kevin Hart have all been spotted either in Toronto or on their way to the city, and Friday’s night’s celebrity all-star game will feature the Arcade Fire’s Win Butler and Canadian tennis pro Eugenie Bouchard.

Drake, the god of “the 6ix,” welcomed LeBron “the King” James in what can only be viewed as an act of international diplomacy.

“Night one. And we’re just getting started,” Drake tweeted after posting a photo of himself with James Thursday night.
The Canadian rapper will also be sharing the stage this weekend with his co-host and compatriot Justin Bieber.

As Raptors spokesman, Drake has succeeded in helping Canada’s only NBA team become a household name, and in branding his hometown abroad.

“We just landed in the Six,” said Stephen Curry of the Golden State Warriors in a video posted on Twitter early Thursday morning. “Long weekend, it’s gonna be a lot of fun,” Curry said.
 


It’s the first time Toronto will host the event, which allows fans to vote for the teams’ starters. While the city is used to the shenanigans of the Toronto International Film Festival, the all-star game brings a new level of hoopla to the downtown core.

READ MORE...

There was a line around this block this morning outside a Jordan Brand pop-up store just north of the Eaton Centre as sneaker-lovers hoped to grab a pair of Air Jordans . . . or several.

Many of the players will be holding meet-and-greets and autograph signings ahead of Sunday’s game, a once-in-a-lifetime chance for fans to rub elbows with these giants of the sport.

Former Raptor Chris Bosh is back in Toronto, and seemed to have forgotten how cold it can get here. “It. Is. COLD #thatisall,” the Miami Heat forward tweeted, before heading off to the Eaton Centre to sign autographs for fans Thursday evening.

The league has debuted custom emojis for each player for the game. The Raptors’ DeMar DeRozan is immortalized as a Canadian flag with the No. 10 on it, while Kyle Lowry’s is a No. 7 in the design of a Raptor claw.

“I think the first time is always special, but now it’s home, in my hometown, where I play every night,” Lowry said during a media availability Friday. “It’s an exciting thing. There’s a buzz around the city and there’s a buzz around me and my family and friends. Especially a buzz for me and DeMar, it’s a special time.”

TEAM CANADA

TEAM USA


With files from Toronto Star staff


ESPN.GO.COM

U.S team beat the World team 157-154 in the rising Stars Challenge on Friday, Toronto All-Star festivities 10:12 AM ET Associated Press Email print comment

Zach LaVine highlights Rising Stars with 30 points, 7 boards play


Zach LaVine highlights Rising Stars with 30 points, 7 boards

TORONTO -- Zach LaVine hoisted the MVP trophy above his head, laughing along with Minnesota Timberwolves teammates Andrew Wiggins and Karl-Anthony Towns as he stood on the podium.

One win down at All-Star Weekend. One to go.

LaVine had 30 points and seven rebounds and the United States team beat the World team 157-154 in the BBVA Compass Rising Stars Challenge on Friday night on the opening night of All-Star festivities.

In the game featuring some of the best rookies and sophomores in the league, LaVine geared up to defend his slam dunk title on Saturday night by making 13 of 20 shots to beat Wiggins, who took home MVP honors last year in Brooklyn.

Zach LaVine, in a game featuring some of the best rookies and sophomores in the league, geared up to defend his slam dunk title on Saturday night by taking home MVP honors. Elsa/Getty Images "I'm excited for tomorrow," said LaVine, who revived interest in the dunk contest with an electrifying performance last year. "I'm ready to put on a show."

Kristaps Porzingis scored 30 points, and Emmanuel Mudiay had 30 points and 10 assists for the World team. Wiggins scored 29 points while playing in front of his hometown fans.

Los Angeles Lakers sophomore Jordan Clarkson added 25 for the Americans.

The Rising Stars game can sometimes take on the feel of a sideshow, something that forces the next generation into a spotlight that they aren't always ready for. But the court was loaded with talent on Friday night in Toronto, players like Wiggins, Porzingis, Towns, Elfrid Payton and Jabari Parker.

The influx of talent has given several long-suffering franchises -- the Timberwolves, Knicks, Bucks -- hope that better days are arriving soon.

READ MORE...

For most fans in attendance, Wiggins was the star attraction. He has been churning out highlight reels since he was 14 years old, was drafted No. 1 overall last season and won the rookie of the year award. The locals have called him "Maple Jordan" and openly pine for him to one day come home and play for the Raptors.

HEADLINERS:
EDITOR'S PICKS All-Star Grades: Rising Stars Here's Kevin Pelton's grades for the Rising Stars game, which pits the top young NBA players against one another in a Team USA-versus-World format. Team USA won 157-154.

Drake-coached Canada rolls in All-Star celeb tilt Grammy-winning pop star Drake led host Canada to a 74-63 win over the United States in the All-Star celebrity game on Friday night in Toronto to kick off All-Star Weekend.

With good cheer, Kobe Bryant embraces final All-Star Weekend The Lakers' star took on all questions during his news conference before the All-Star Game, sharing his views on many topics. He is expecting limited minutes in his last midseason exhibition. "It felt great," Wiggins said. "I got to play in front of a lot of people I haven't seen in a long time. My family, friends got to watch it. It was great being back home and playing in front of my hometown."

Wiggins has stated time and again that he loves it in Minnesota and envisions a long and bright future with Towns, LaVine and the rest of the Timberwolves' promising young core. But he has never shied away from his love of Toronto and he said he was looking forward to being back in Canada for an extended stretch this weekend while the rest of the basketball world finally trained its focus on his hometown.

Wiggins received a thunderous ovation upon introduction in the starting lineup and was serenaded with chants of "M-V-P! M-V-P!" late in the game.

"He's a rock star in his hometown," LaVine said.

For as much time as the 20-year-old Wiggins has spent in the spotlight in his young life, he is remarkably disinterested in attention. He threw down a few big dunks early in the game -- one off of a backboard pass from Mudiay -- to get the crowd on its feet, but was also happy to let his teammates get in on the action until a late flurry that got the World team back in it.

Porzingis, the Latvian who captivated the Big Apple and helped revive the Knicks, hit 5 of 8 3-pointers and threw down an alley-oop midway through the second half. And Mudiay, the Nuggets rookie who has struggled with his shot this season, hit 5 of 10 from deep.

Phoenix Suns rookie Devin Booker scored 23 points, and Towns had 18 for the U.S. team.

And Wiggins wasn't mad at all that LaVine walked out of the arena with the MVP trophy.

"I got it last year, he got it this year," Wiggins said. "(Towns) is going to get it next year. We're going back-to-back-to-back. That's the plan."

------------------------------------------

RELATED FROM CBC.CA

Drake coaches Canada to win over U.S. in NBA Celebrity All-Star Game on Friday By Gregory Strong, The Canadian Press Posted: Feb 12, 2016 9:32 PM ET Last Updated: Feb 12, 2016 11:18 PM ET

Toronto singer helping to showcase Toronto event


Drake stands in front of Team Canada's bench before the start of the NBA Celebrity All-Star Game in Toronto on Friday. (Chris Young/The Canadian Press)

Milos Raonic dunks in NBA Celebrity All-Star Game United States outscores World in NBA Rising Stars Challenge.

Chris Bosh out of NBA All-Star Game due to calf injury.

Air balls, comedic bits and the odd quality play — the NBA All-Star Celebrity Game had a little bit of everything Friday night at the Ricoh Coliseum.


Drake & Kevin Hart To Coach NBA All-Star Celebrity Game 2016: Canada vs. USA

Serving as the on-court kickoff to a weekend of festivities building up to Sunday's all-star game, fans were treated to an entertaining mix of characters who delivered a brand of basketball that was high on energy and short on flow.

Actor Jason Sudeikis showed off his shooting touch by burying a long jump shot right from the opening tip. That kicked off a 7-0 run for the American side that ended when tennis player Milos Raonic put Canada on the board with a layup.

Former Raptors star Tracy McGrady received one of the biggest ovations in the pre-game introductions. He got the crowd into it again early in the first quarter by passing the ball to himself off the backboard before laying in a finger-roll.

Many of the actors, musicians and television personalities in the lineup were showing their competitive side despite the dialled-down intensity. Arcade Fire singer Win Butler was taking no prisoners, driving hard to the basket with regularity.

Butler, who was rewarded after Canada's 74-64 victory with the most valuable player award, keyed an 8-0 run that put Canada ahead 20-15 in the early going. Butler finished with 15 points and 14 rebounds.

Raonic wowed the crowd by squeezing in a dunk in the dying seconds of the second quarter to give Canada a 37-28 halftime lead.

There were some funny moments too. The sight of the six-foot-eight McGrady posting up all five foot three of former Raptor Muggsy Bogues drew guffaws.

American coach Kevin Hart tried to give his team a boost by suiting up for the second half. He came trotting out from the locker-room to the theme of "Rocky" and hammed it up with his teammates before taking the court.

Meanwhile, Canadian coach Drake — looking dapper in a resplendent suit — remained on the sideline. The Toronto rapper was presented with a key to the city by Mayor John Tory before the game.


eb 12, 2016; Toronto, Ontario, Canada; Canada player Milos Raonic (27) dunks during the All-Star celebrity basketball game at Ricoh Coliseum.

Drake had his share of fans in the 7,800-seat venue, but actor Kris Wu was just as popular on this night. A few hundred fans, many armed with colourful Kris Wu posters, took in the pre-game shootaround and hollered with delight at his every move.

Wu showed he had game on the court, slicing his way through the American defence for a driving layup early in the fourth quarter and giving Canada a 60-53 lead with another bucket moments later.

Actor Stephan James iced the victory with a three-pointer in the final minute. The Canadian team also included former NBA star Rick Fox, television personalities Drew and Jonathan Scott, former WNBA star Tammy Sutton-Brown and actor Tom Cavanagh.

The American team was rounded out by former Raptor Chauncey Billups, WNBA player Elena Delle Donne, Milwaukee Bucks co-owner Marc Lasry and actors Nick Cannon, O'Shea Jackson Jr., Anthony Anderson and Bryshere Gray.

Blue Jays slugger Jose Bautista, Raptors all-star guard DeMar DeRozan and two-time NBA MVP Steve Nash helped Drake out with coaching duties.

With files from The Associated Press © The Canadian Press, 2016


CBC.CA

NBA All-Star 2016 Saturday night: Dunk contest wows Toronto Zach Lavine, Aaron Gordon CBC News Posted: Feb 14, 2016 1:16 AM ET Last Updated: Feb 14, 2016 1:16 AM ET


Zach LaVine, of the Minnesota Timberwolves, won his second-straight slam dunk contest in dramatic fashion on Saturday night. (Jesse D. Garrabrant/NBAE/Getty)

RELATED STORIES:

'Sneakerheads' seek coveted kicks at Toronto's 'All-Star' Ultimate Sneaker Show

Drake nabs NBA all-star celebrity game win on home turf

ESPN reporter abruptly cuts off NBA all-star celebrity MVP Win Butler's political speech

The rise of basketball in Canada: By the numbers

Saturday night's dunk contest could very well be the highlight of the entire 2016 NBA All-Star weekend in Toronto.

CBC Sports | Zach LaVine defends dunk crown in epic showdown

'This is a dream come true': Raptors superfan Nav Bhatia talks NBA All-Stars

The NBA's top talent put on a show at the Air Canada Centre, but on this night, the skills and three-point shooting just served as a warm-up for one of the most incredible dunk contests the league has ever seen.

Just, wow. Toronto dunk contest

READ MORE...


Aaron Gordon flies over his team's mascot, Stuff, for a ridiculous dunk. (Nathaniel S. Butler/NBAE/Getty)

Four dunkers entered the contest: Denver's Will Barton, Detroit's Andre Drummond, Orlando's Aaron Gordon and the defending champion, Minnesota's Zach Lavine.

Lavine won again. Because this:


LAVINE  JM2_9754 Hangtime. (Joe Murphy/NBAE/Getty)

But not before Gordon did this:


What do you think, Drake?


Yeah, Drake, our minds are blown, too. (John Rieti/CBC)

Speaking of celebrities, Drake sat next to Spike Lee. Jon Stewart, who introduced the slam dunk contest judges — including crowd favourite Magic Johnson — sat courtside with celebrity game standout Jason Sudeikis, Olivia Wilde and Steve Nash.

Nash actually came out to lend a soccer-style assist to Drummond during the dunk contest, which sadly didn't work out for the big man.

But don't blame Nash. Even Drummond watched the dunk contest finish in a state of disbelief.


Barton, however, gets the win for best entrance for his Thriller impression, complete with zombie cheerleaders.


Will 'The Thrill' indeed. (Vaughn Ridley/Getty)

In the other contests, two Golden State Warriors battled for the three-point shooting title, with Klay Thompson beating defending champ Stef Curry. And the big rookie Karl-Anthony Towns won the skills competition, to the delight of his teammate Andrew Wiggins, who watched from the sideline.

Toronto Raptor Kyle Lowry competed in the three-point contest but didn't make it out of the first round. But, he'll start in Sunday's All-Star game while his teammate, DeMar DeRozan comes off the bench.

Here's hoping Sunday's games will have some more highlight reel dunks.


Toronto Karl-Anthony Towns
Karl-Anthony Towns, of the Timberwolves, celebrates after winning the skills contest on Saturday night.
(John Rieti/CBC)

TO BE CONTINUED... TORONTO IS VERRRRRRY COLD; 20 DEGREES Celsius, BUT FEELING LIKE 30 DEGREES BELOW ZERO, THE WIND WICKED,  ALL WEEKEND LONG, BUT IS ABSOLUTELY THE GREATEST HERE AT THE ALL-STAR!!!!! cu all tomorrow, EARLY, for TONIGHT'S games....here's a preview,

5 things to watch during Sunday's NBA All-Star game CTV National News: NBA All-Stars in Toronto CTV National News: NBA All-Stars in Toronto

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.

Warriors' weekend
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.

Canadian connection

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.

Sting performs

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.


Chief News Editor: Sol Jose Vanzi

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