For the first time, NBA All-Star will take its festivities north of the border to Toronto. ESPN will have a significant presence in the home of the Toronto Raptors, led by its exclusive telecast of the NBA All-Star 2016 Celebrity Game presented by Mountain Dew (7 p.m. ET on ESPN/WatchESPN).
It will be an exciting night, filled with celebrities and competition, but the event will be extra special for one ESPN commentator: Toronto native Mark Jones. He graduated from York University in his hometown with a bachelor of arts degree in economics in 1985. He was an all-conference basketball player for York and worked for the The Sports Network in Toronto before joining ESPN in 1990.
He shares his thoughts on this the event coming to hometown, his chemistry with commentators Jon Barry and Cassidy Hubbarth and more.
What does it mean for Toronto basketball to have 2016 NBA All-Star Weekend in town?
The fact that the NBA All-Star has gone international is historic in itself. There has always been a passionate group of Toronto fans who loved the NBA going back decades. A few of them like me and my brother Paul Jones (who does RaptorsTV) who grew up watching the Buffalo Braves with [former ESPN commentator and Basketball Hall Of Fame head coach] Jack Ramsay and [former Braves star] Bob McAdoo. Others have since found out what Paul and I knew a while ago – that nothing beats NBA hoops.
Is there extra energy and excitement to call games in your native town?
I don’t think it’s possible to have more energy, whether it’s in Toronto or New Orleans or LA. NBA All-Star Weekend is the best pro celebration of any major sport. Nobody comes close. The league’s star players are so relatable and accessible, it’s mind-blowing. I’m happy Toronto will have a chance to see what a real “turnup” looks like.
You, Barry and Hubbarth are in your second year together as a trio. Describe why this team is a good fit for the Celebrity Game?
I think we all enjoy seeing the celebrity players live out their NBA fantasies and we are able to put that in a great sports, basketball and entertainment context. Man, you gotta be able to laugh at [comedian] Kevin Hart challenging [Olympic sprinter] Usain Bolt to a race, then cheating to win. We also can appreciate a guy like Arne Duncan (former Secretary of Education, who played at Harvard), who is a NBA All-Star Celebrity Game MVP. From dabbin’ to dunks, nothing is going to get by me, JB and Cassidy.
Who do you think will be the break out star on Team Canada?
I think the breakout star for Team Canada will be tennis pro Milos Raonic. He’s 6-feet, 5-inches tall, he’s at a lot of Raptors’ games, and he covers a lot of ground.