Nash: Host­ing NBA all-star week­end ex­cel­lent mo­ment for Canada, Toronto

The Guardian (Charlottetown) - - SPORTS - BY LORI EWING THE CANA­DIAN PRESS

Steve Nash says his eight NBA all-star ap­pear­ances were both val­i­da­tion for hard work, and a rare chance to re­lax and have fun in the midst of a gru­elling sea­son.

But on a grand scale, the league’s an­nual show­case gives those in­volved with global bas­ket­ball some­thing to come to­gether around, he said, and “that to me, is the spirit of all-star week­end.”

Nash, who re­tired last March af­ter 19 years in the league, played the role of all-star booster on Tues­day as tick­ets for the celebrity game, the ris­ing stars chal­lenge, the all-star prac­tice, and NBA Cen­tre Court – a fanfest at Toronto’s En­er­care Cen­tre – went on sale.

The 65th NBA all-star game will be played Feb. 14 at Air Canada Cen­tre.

It’ll be the first time that the show­case will be played out­side the United States, and is an “ex­cel­lent mo­ment for Canada and Toronto,” proof the Rap­tors and Cana­dian bas­ket­ball oc­cupy an im­por­tant spot in the NBA, Nash said.

“All of our young play­ers that have be­come NBA play­ers, the growth of the game in our coun­try and the Rap­tors suc­cess ... and, not just the suc­cess and re­spectabil­ity of the fran­chise, but also the way the coun­try and, in par­tic­u­lar Toronto, have got­ten be­hind the team, it re­ally is a mag­i­cal mo­ment for Canada and Toronto to host all-star.”

There were a record-ty­ing 12 NBA play­ers from Canada on open­ing-night ros­ters this sea­son, more than any other coun­try out­side the U.S. for the se­cond con­sec­u­tive year. And ac­cord­ing to the league, view­er­ship of NBA games in Canada has dou­bled on av­er­age across all net­works dur­ing the past three sea­sons – an av­er­age in­crease of 54 per cent since 201213.

Be­fore a back ail­ment de­railed the bet­ter part of his fi­nal three sea­sons in the NBA, the 41-yearold Nash made eight all-star ap­pear­ances: 2002-03, 2005-08, 2010 and 2012. One mem­o­rable mo­ment was the 2005 Slam Dunk Con­test in Den­ver, when his Phoenix Suns team­mate Amare Stoudemire threw down a 360 al­ley-oop dunk off a soc­cer-style header from Nash.

The all-star celebrity game goes Feb. 12 at Ri­coh Coli­seum and the ris­ing stars chal­lenge is the same night at Air Canada Cen­tre. The all-star prac­tice is set for the af­ter­noon of Feb. 13 at Ri­coh Coli­seum and the all-star Satur­day Night will be held that evening at Air Canada Cen­tre.

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