Kobe Bryant looks to heat up 'frigid' Toronto in his final NBA All-Star Game
Look for Kobe Bryant to put on a special show in his final All-Star game, which will be held outside the US for the first time. AP

TORONTO — Of all the goodies Kobe Bryant collects in his farewell season, one this weekend might be particularly useful.

After all, you need a good winter coat in Canada. Though Bryant probably wouldn't be too unhappy walking away with another All-Star Game MVP trophy.

The final NBA showcase for Bryant and the first to be staged outside the U.S. is in Toronto, the city that staged the first NBA game 70 years ago and is so enthusiastic for basketball now that it could no longer be ignored no matter what the thermometer says.

"I think it's going to be bonkers," former Raptors superstar Vince Carter said.

"I think it's overdue. It's a great city. I think they'll be a great host and I think guys are going to have a lot of fun. It's going to be cold."

Frigid, actually.

A relatively mild winter by Canada's standards will be nothing but a warm memory this weekend, when Saturday's forecast is for temperatures near zero degrees and far below it with the wind chill. The players can cover up with the parkas Canada Goose, maker of cold weather outerwear, designed for them.

The NBA long sought warm-weather locations for its winter road trip, and cities that had a good chance for a white Christmas generally had little hope of getting All-Star weekend.

But Toronto, where the Toronto Huskies and New York Knicks played on Nov. 1, 1946, in Maple Leaf Gardens and is so passionate about its Raptors that general manager Masai Ujiri was fined a couple years ago for using an expletive about playoff opponent Brooklyn — with Commissioner Adam Silver in attendance — is "an ideal host," Silver said.

"There is a special energy and excitement around All-Star this year, and we're looking forward to four days of great events that honor our marquee players and legends, celebrate the game, and provide loads of excitement for our fans," Silver said.

If Bryant heats up, he could add a fifth All-Star Game MVP award to his collection.

Bryant is a four-time MVP of the All-Star Game and its career scoring leader — though now just two points ahead of LeBron James. Does the 18-time All-Star's aching body have enough left at 37 for one more vintage performance? "Knowing Kobe as well as I do, I'm sure if he gets going, and the guys get him going, you know the crowd's going to want it to happen; certain players are going to want it to happen," former teammate Shaquille O'Neal said in remarks provided by TNT. "If he can find his stroke and get it going a little bit, I can guarantee you he's going to go for the MVP. It's his last one? Why not go out with a bang?"


However, Vinsanity won't be in the building to witness such possibility. Carter, now playing for Memphis, is the Raptors' career leader with 23.4 points per game and a former slam dunk champion. But he won't be in the city he called the NBA's "best-kept secret," instead spending his break watching his daughter play in a tennis tournament. "It's just bad timing because I know it's going to be epic and I would love to be there," he said. "It's just daddy duties first."

The events kick off Friday (Saturday, Manila time), the slam dunk and 3-point contests are Saturday and the game is Sunday night.


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