Fans get affordable All-Star experience at NBA Centre Court


Toronto Raptors star DeMar DeRozan signed merchandise for fans for one hour during Saturday afternoon.

Toronto Raptors star DeMar DeRozan signed merchandise for fans for one hour  Saturday afternoon.

For the first time ever, participating in All-Star Weekend wasn’t just for NBA players.

From Feb. 12 to 14, fans young and old came out to the interactive NBA Centre Court at the Enercare Centre at Toronto’s Exhibition Place, which allowed them to play, socialize, and experience professional basketball like never before.

Basketball fans were granted the opportunity to participate in different skills challenges and activities on more than 40 courts and baskets spread throughout the venue.

For those who didn’t play, attendees were able to watch exhibition games, shop, experience a virtual reality app, play NBA 2K16 on PlayStation 4, and attend meet-and-greets with different NBA players.

For Scott McLean, who went on the Friday and Saturday, part of the experience was getting autographs from players such as Kelly Olynyk, DeMar DeRozan, Karl-Anthony Towns, D’Angelo Russell and others.

“Most of us can’t even get tickets into the arena, let alone sit close enough to see [NBA stars] and bask in their presence,” said McLean, 20. “This allowed us broke folk, or those with kids, to experience that.”

Compared to the main All-Star events with ticket prices that ranged anywhere from $100 to $5000 for a single game, Centre Court provided a cheaper experience. Tickets were priced at $15 for children and $30 for adults, definitely affordable for attendees such as McLean, and Reddit user CR7_HalaMadrid.

“It was amazing for the people who could not afford [tickets to All-Star games at the Air Canada Centre] because you got to meet various current stars and legends,” said CR7_HalaMadrid, who took advantage of as many activities as possible.

“My favourite thing was the slam dunk court,” he said. “My brother was doing windmills on the 10-foot net, and I was hanging on to the rim like Shaq on the [eight-foot net].”

Despite large crowds at the venue, everyone was able to get a turn for just about every activity, whether it be playing for fun on one of the courts, loudly cheering on a team at an exhibition match, or the rare and exciting chance to meet their favourite players.


One of  40 basketball courts that allowed fans to play a game for fun.

Due to the league being U.S.-centric, it’s not often that Canadian fans receive the same opportunities as American fans, but the three-day event had McLean convinced that basketball in Canada is starting to receive more recognition.

“The players that were there definitely saw how rabid our fan base is. Not only do we enjoy our ball, but we know our ball,” said McLean. “There were a lot of kids there. Now these young kids get to experience and enjoy this. I’m sure there are more fans aged six to 12 now than ever before in Toronto and Canada as a whole.”

Canadian basketball players also received an opportunity to participate in All-Star events the previous weekend at the Bell NBA All-Star Challenge where young players were able to showcase their skills through various competitions.

The 2016 All-Star Weekend in Toronto marked the first time in NBA history that the annual event took place outside outside of the U.S., 21 years after the creation of the Toronto Raptors in 1995.