A couple of weeks after the NHL and NFL celebrated their best players, the spotlight is finally cast on the NBA. The association's All-Star Weekend 2016 has kicked off on Friday at Toronto's Air Canada Centre. This is the first time that the All-Star Weekend is held outside the U.S.
It is highlighted by eight events, showcasing top players as well as some of basketball's best young stars. The festivities will culminate on Sunday night when the 65th NBA All-Star Game, the only event scheduled on the said day, will take place.
The big three All-Star contests slated for Saturday are the Skills Challenge, the Three-Point Contest and the fan-favorite Slam Dunk Contest. The most popular names in the NBA took part in each of these contests. Patrick Beverley won the Skills Challenge in 2015, but he did not defend his title this year because of an injury. Stephen Curry is back in the Three-Point Contest after previously winning it, and Zach LaVine is the crowd-favorite to win the Slam Dunk Contest for a second consecutive year.
When it comes to the All-Star Game, the Western conference defeated the East in 2015's game at Madison Square Garden where Russell Westbrook was named the MVP. While the West has already beat the East in four of the last five years, Bleacher Report predicts that the former will still emerge on top of the latter this year.
The game will feature four first-time selections and one of them is Kawhi Leonard, who is starting for the Western Conference. Draymond Green, also an All-Star Game rookie, will play alongside Curry and Thompson, giving the reigning NBA champions three players in the upcoming match.
Sunday night's event will also be where Kobe Bryant will start in his final All-Star Game. Fans voted for Bryant to be a starter even though his recent performances are a far cry from his once dominant self. The four-time All-Star Game MVP has averaged 28.3 points over his last four games.
Here is the lineup of players who will start for the Eastern and Western Conference teams.
Eastern Conference All-Stars
LeBron James, Cleveland Cavaliers
Carmelo Anthony, New York Knicks
Paul George, Indiana Pacers
Kyle Lowry, Toronto Raptors
Dwyane Wade, Miami Heat
Western Conference All-Stars
Kobe Bryant, L.A. Lakers
Stephen Curry, Golden State Warriors
Kevin Durant, Oklahoma City Thunder
Kawhi Leonard, San Antonio Spurs
Russell Westbrook, Oklahoma City Thunder
The Eastern vs.Western showdown will be played on Valentine's Day at 8 p.m. ET. It will be streamed live online on the NBAs TNT Overtime site. Fans can also keep tabs on the All-Star Game at WatchTNT.