Voice Of The Fan: 2016 NBA All-Star Weekend
The 2016 NBA All-Star Weekend is currently underway in Toronto, and with it comes thousands of dedicated fans from all over Canada and the United States. Just who are these devoted supporters sitting in the stands? We decided to find out. During All-Star Saturday Night at the Air Canada Centre, we met some of basketball's most loyal followers. While every fan has a story to tell, here are some of our favorites in their own words.
Husein and Khatidja Moloo
Khatidja: We're just huge, huge fans of both the NBA and the Raptors.
Husein: We've been watching the NBA since the Michael Jordan days. We're originally from Toronto, she still lives here, but I'm in Ottawa now.
Khatidja: He's my brother. I grew up watching with him, so it's cool to be here with him.
Husein: Well, she hooked me up with the ticket tonight.
Khatidja: He just turned 40, so I felt bad for him...
espnW: That's the best pity present ever.
Husein: Yeah, I'll take it!
espnW: What are you hoping to see tonight?
Husein: I'm really excited for the Dunk Contest, I hope it's Vince Carter-esque. Also, it will be cool to see Steph Curry.
Khatidja: And I want to see Kyle Lowry win the 3-point shooting contest! Honestly, I think this event just legitimizes the Raptors and Toronto as an NBA city. They're having a great year, really a couple of great years, so this is just major for us. We're the only Canadian team, and they're representing for the whole country here.
Husein: The "We the North" marketing campaign really speaks to that.
espnW: It's such a great slogan and campaign.
Husein: It really is. We're desperately trying to find a hat for my daughter that says it, she really wants one, but they're not selling them here tonight. How disappointing is that?
Keisha, Katrina and Kiana Fearon
Katrina: I love basketball and the fact that it's here in Toronto, first time in Canada, I had to make it happen. We're from the area, and this is just so big for us. I've been supporting this team since the Vince Carter days. I feel like we're getting a lot of opportunities as a city lately, and to be able to open the door for so many tourists right now is amazing. This just helps put our city on the map.
espnW: What do you hope first-time visitors take away from their time here this weekend?
Katrina: Well, I hope they don't take too poorly to the cold! It hasn't been this cold in so long, so it's too bad it had to be like this today. But I hope they just enjoy and remember the diversity, the hospitality, the energy here. I hope they take that away from here, and come back.
espnW: And what about you, Kiana, are you a basketball fan?
Kiana: Um, yes.
espnW: Do you play?
Kiana: Yeah. Last time I played, I was kind of little, though.
espnW: How old are you now? Was it a long time ago?
Kiana: I'm 6. I played when I was 5.
Lisa Lawrence and Bernard Miller
Lisa: We came from L.A. for this, we're just huge Clippers fans. We've been big fans for 12 or so years.
Bernard: We're here to cheer on Chris Paul and J.J. Redick.
espnW: Is this your first All-Star Weekend?
Lisa: No! We started in L.A., and then Houston, and New Orleans, and New York last year. This is our fifth one. We love the dunk contest.
Bernard: And the game itself. It's a lot of fun to watch in person. The weather here isn't great, but this city seems like it's going to do a great job hosting. It's a beautiful city, it's just really, really cold.
Lisa: I don't mind it. As long as you layer up, it's not that bad. I packed properly. After the cold in New York last year, we learned our lesson. We're prepared.
Tasha Van Anken and Rob Miemstra
Rob: We actually won tickets to come tonight, through Mountain Dew and 7-11. We won a contest. They called last week, and said we had won tickets for today and tomorrow night.
Tasha: Yes, and hotel and spending money! Otherwise we probably wouldn't be here. We're from Kitchener, which is about an hour west of here.
espnW: That's amazing! How excited were you when you got the call letting you know you won?
Rob: Very excited.
Tasha: They had to tell us "This is a pretty significant prize," before we really understood how cool and rare it was.
Rob: We wouldn't normally come to this, but we're just excited for everything.
Tasha: It's really great to be a part of something so special for Toronto. The funny thing is, we actually just went to our first-ever Raptors game just a few weeks ago, and now we're here!
espnW: It seems like you both are destined to be Raptors fans.
Tasha: I think this really is the start of something for us!
Edward Cruz, Meziel Cruz, Jhozanne Manid and Mannichol Manid
Mannichol: We came all the way from San Francisco. We're the world champions so we had to be here. Got to represent.
Meziel: We took the red eye on Thursday night, and got in on Friday morning. We're still trying to get used to the weather. We bought our plane tickets last April to be here, but getting tickets to the events was harder.
Edward: Everything was sold out. We just got tickets for tonight a few days ago. We're still working on getting tickets for tomorrow.
espnW: Why are you such loyal Warriors fans?
Edward: Well they're pretty easy to watch. ... And Steph Curry and Klay Thompson are going to dominate the 3-point contest tonight.
Justin and Meher
Meher: We love basketball, especially Raptors basketball!
Justin: We've been Raptors fans since the beginning, really. We're season ticket holders, we have been for the last few years, and get to probably 10 to 15 games a season. Before we were season ticket holders, we had been coming to games, and just buying tickets from other season ticket holders, so we decided to just do it ourselves. We live about a half hour away, so it's not difficult to come here.
espnW: What do you think hosting the All-Star Weekend means for the city of Toronto?
Justin: I think we Raptors fans kind of did the "We the North" campaign on our own, but this really puts us on the bigger stage. We're always fighting for playoff time, prime time, all that stuff, but we're second place in the Eastern Conference, and we still don't get the recognition. I hope this helps change that. I really think it will. All the feedback I've seen, from the celebrities and visitors, has been that Toronto has done everything right this weekend so far.
espnW: What do you hope visitors to Toronto walk away feeling or knowing about the city?
Justin: The beauty of our city is really the multicultural piece, and the passion we have for our sports. Our soccer team gets huge support, of course the [Maple] Leafs have a ton of support, and the Raptors as well. We have such passion, and we really want people to see that.