Count Hall of Famer Charles Barkley among those who think Toronto is an ideal place for the NBA all-star game.
Barkley, on a conference call with fellow stars-turned-television analysts Shaquille O’Neal and Kenny Smith on Thursday, called himself "a big Toronto fan."
"Canadian basketball’s on a roll right now," said Barkley. "Look at the NBA draft the last couple of years.
"I go there every summer. I have a bunch of friends up there. I think it’s one of the best kept secrets in the world."
The NBA all-star game will be held Feb. 14 at the Air Canada Centre, the first time it is to be played outside the United States.
Barkley, the former league most valuable player who played in 11 all-star games, said Toronto fans showed how wild they can get during the Blue Jays’ run to the Major League Baseball playoffs last season.
"I think it will be great to shine the light on that city," he said.
Former Houston Rockets star Kenny Smith said the game will help boost basketball north of the U.S. border and showcase the city to players, league executives and fans.
"What happens when you have the all-star game there is you have a celebration of all the best players, the best talent," said Smith. "So all of a sudden they get to be in a city for more than 24 hours and get to see the excitement.
"You saw it in Toronto last year when they were making a playoff run. There are a bunch of basketball fans in Canada that now have the opportunity to get seen.
"I don’t know if it has the impact of the Dream Team (U.S. Olympic basketball team) going overseas, but it has the Dream Team effect, where everyone is there and they see everything and you become more exited about it."
The Toronto Raptors will have two players on the East team at the all-star game. Point guard Kyle Lowry will be the starting five, while back-court mate DeMar DeRozan is on the reserves.
Other East starters are Carmelo Anthony (New York), Paul George (Indiana), LeBron James (Cleveland) and Dwyane Wade (Miami), while West starters are Kobe Bryant (Los Angeles Lakers), Stephen Curry (Golden State), Kevin Durant (Oklahoma City), Kawhi Leonard (San Antonio) and Russell Westbrook (Oklahoma City).