The 2016 NBA All-Star Game will reportedly be played in Toronto, marking the first time that the league's midseason exhibition will be held outside of the United States.
The Toronto Sun reported that Canada's largest city will serve as host for the 2016 All-Star Weekend, which includes the main showcase game on Sunday and the Slam Dunk Contest, Three-Point Shootout, Skills Challenge and Rising Stars Challenge, among other events, on Friday and Saturday.
An official announcement is expected shortly that will reveal further details of how one of the sport's biggest weekends will tie in to the Toronto Raptors' 20th-anniversary season.
Tim Leiweke, Maple Leaf Sports and Entertainment president and CEO, made it clear upon taking over the company that landing the prestigious event was one of his early goals.
“Clearly the 2016 all-star game is a flag in the sand that we planted with the NBA. It is a must have in my opinion and it will be the centre piece of how we rebrand this,” Leiweke said in May.
Leiweke was hired by MLSE -- the company that oversees the Raptors, the NHL's Maple Leafs and MLS' Toronto FC -- in April. The Globe and Mail reported in May that Leiweke’s goal is to execute a rebranding effort that makes the Raptors appeal to all of Canada, in addition to Toronto. That effort included a bid for the 2016 All-Star Game as well as the possibility of a franchise name change and new uniforms.
The 2014 All-Star Weekend is set for New Orleans after Houston played host in 2013. The 2015 event will be held in New York, although the NBA has yet to reveal whether Manhattan's Madison Square Garden or Brooklyn's Barclays Center will host the event.
The Raptors play at the Air Canada Centre, which opened in 1999 and boasts a capacity of 19,800. The franchise joined the NBA as an expansion team in 1995 along with the Vancouver Grizzlies, who have since relocated to Memphis. In their 18-year history, the Raptors have won one playoff series and had three players -- Antonio Davis, Vince Carter and Chris Bosh -- earn All-Star recognition. The NBA has held an All-Star Game every year since 1951, with the exception of 1999, when a lockout canceled the game. Toronto is one of six NBA cities -- along with Brooklyn, Memphis, Oklahoma City, Portland and Sacramento -- to have never hosted the game. Toronto's population is about 2.6 million, making it one of the NBA's largest markets.