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NBA All-Star an economic slam dunk for Toronto

The just-completed NBA All-Star weekend put Toronto on a global market and is a source of huge economic gains

Hotels were full. Lineups at shoe stores were endless. Music venues were sold out. The NBA All-Star Weekend took over Toronto, and experts say it was a slam-dunk for the city’s economy.

“This is the kind of event we wish we could have every week,” said Andrew Weir, chief marketing officer at Tourism Toronto. “It’s not just hotels and restaurants, it’s also retail and taxis; everyone benefits.”

Toronto is projected to reap nearly $100 million from the festivities, which is comparable to past host cities. New York was the big exception last year, when it raked in almost $200 million from All-Star events.

According to Rukkus.com, a ticket marketplace based in New York, Toronto was the third most expensive NBA All-Star Game in history. The average ticket to the game was $1,113.

The All-Star event was also a social media boon for Toronto. On Friday, the NBA announced it had garnered more than a billion likes and followers on its social media platforms.

“You’ve got people all over the world talking about Toronto,” Weir said. “We’re like the centre of pop culture all weekend.”

As the first-ever host city outside of the U.S., Toronto certainly showed visiting NBA fans some Canadian hospitality. According to Toronto police, the weekend was uneventful.

“We're not aware of any incidents in relation to the NBA All-Star weekend,” said police spokeswoman Jenifferjit Sidhu.

Five highlights from the weekend:

1. The never-ending Slam Dunk Battle: 

Minnesota Timberwolves' Zach LaVine slam dunks the ball during the NBA all-star skills competition in Toronto on Saturday, February 13, 2016. LaVine won the event.

THE CANADIAN PRESS/Mark Blinch

Minnesota Timberwolves' Zach LaVine slam dunks the ball during the NBA all-star skills competition in Toronto on Saturday, February 13, 2016. LaVine won the event.

The final showdown between defending champion Zach Lavine of the Minnesota Timberwolves and Orlando Magic sensation Aaron Gordon quickly drew comparison to the historic dunk duel between Michael Jordan and Dominique Wilkins in 1988.

2. Bye-bye Black Mamba

Western Conference's Kobe Bryant, of the Los Angeles Lakers, right, poses for a selfie with actor Anthony Anderson during second half NBA All-Star Game basketball action in Toronto on Sunday, February 14, 2016.

THE CANADIAN PRESS/Mark Blinch

Western Conference's Kobe Bryant, of the Los Angeles Lakers, right, poses for a selfie with actor Anthony Anderson during second half NBA All-Star Game basketball action in Toronto on Sunday, February 14, 2016.

Kobe Bryant is an unforgettable name for Toronto basketball fans, ever since the Los Angeles Lakers’ great dropped 81 points on the Raptors a decade ago. Playing his final All-Star game in Toronto, Bryant got a well-deserved tribute from the crowd, fellow players and other NBA legends – including a speech from Magic Johnson.

3. Big game, big points 

Eastern Conference's Carmelo Anthony, of the New York Knicks, (7), goes to the basket against Western Conference's Kobe Bryant, of the Los Angeles Lakers, (24) during first half NBA All-Star Game basketball action in Toronto on Sunday, February 14, 2016.

THE CANADIAN PRESS/Mark Blinch

Eastern Conference's Carmelo Anthony, of the New York Knicks, (7), goes to the basket against Western Conference's Kobe Bryant, of the Los Angeles Lakers, (24) during first half NBA All-Star Game basketball action in Toronto on Sunday, February 14, 2016.

Defense is almost unheard of in an NBA All-Star game, but Sunday’s game took it to another level. The Western Conference came within four points of scoring 200, while the Eastern Conference poured in 173 points but still lost. When the buzzer sounded, it was the highest scoring All-Star game in history.

4. Drizzy in the Six 

Ryan Emberley

Drake was all over the place last weekend. He was awarded the key to the city by Mayor John Tory. He played a ping-pong game against NBA Hall of Famer Reggie Miller. He was the head coach of Team Canada at the NBA All-Star celebrity game, and he introduced the starters at Sunday’s game, declaring “this is the best game with the best players finally in the best city in the world.”  

5. Win Butler boosts Canada  

Arcade Fire singer Win Butler was named MVP for Team Canada during the celebrity game, but his performance in a post-game interview stole the show. After attempting to discuss the American election, saying “the U.S. has a lot they can learn from Canada,” Butler was abruptly cut off by ESPN host Sage Steele.  A clip from the awkward interview quickly went viral.

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