Kevin Hart

Nobody is pretending that the NBA All-Star Celebrity Game is an example of quality basketball. It is not. But as entertainment goes, the game has evolved into pure gold.

I've felt that way ever since 2011, when Scottie Pippen swatted the dignity out of a confident Justin Bieber. The celebrity game is an act of catharsis: None of us play in the NBA, but two squads filled with rich, famous amateurs can give us all the brief belief that maybe, just maybe, we could do better.

In honor of All-Star festivities in Toronto, this year's game will pit Team USA against Team Canada. It's always exciting to face our northern brethren in a sport not named hockey, if only because we tend to win.

Every NBA Team As A Drake Song -- Slideshow

Drake And Stephen Curry

Golden State Warriors: "0 to 100 / The Catch Up"

The Warriors went from being a good team to the NBA's best team in 2014-15 (coincidentally, this song was released in July 2014). In 2015-16, they are potentially the best team of all-time. The Warriors play a 0 to 100 pace, or as Dell Curry calls it, offensive intimidation. This track is the origin of "I been Steph Curry with the shot, been cookin' with the sauce, Chef Curry with the pot." Also, Drake and Curry went to In-N-Out Burger together last month.

Vivek Ranadivé And Drake

Sacramento Kings: "The Motto"

Wikipedia credits this 2011 song with popularizing the phrase, "YOLO." Well, Kings owner Vivek Ranadivé converts the term to NBA decisions. How else can one explain hiring Vlade Divac as general manager, tapping George Karl as head coach and putting together a roster of DeMarcus Cousins, Rajon Rondo and Rudy Gay? Vivek has obviously been hanging out with Drake (no, but seriously, they have) and learning his YOLO ways.

Kobe Bryant And Drake

Los Angeles Lakers: "Best I Ever Had"

Sorry to make Lakers fans teary-eyed, but this seems like a logical tribute to Kobe Bryant. The lines, "You the f***ing best," and "I want this forever," are nostalgic, even if Drake directs them toward a love interest in the song. Drake and all other NBA fans will miss Kobe, the best Drake's generation (post-Jordan) ever had.

Blake Griffin

Los Angeles Clippers: "Energy"

"The Clippers irritate," writes Bleacher Report's Howard Beck. "They infuriate. They inflame. They chafe." In other words, they've got a lot of enemies. From Chris Paul complaining to Blake Griffin flopping to DeAndre Jordan spurring the Mavericks to Doc Rivers getting himself traded to L.A., the Clippers have a lot of enemies. They are a good team, but a lot of people are tryna drain them of this energy.

Steve Nash And Drake

Phoenix Suns: "Come Thru"

This team seems like it just rents players. Since the back end of the Nash-Stoudemire-Marion Era, the Suns have brought in Hedo Türkoğlu, Josh Childress, Vince Carter, Mickaël Piétrus, Marcin Gortat, Goran Dragic (for a second stint), Jermaine O'Neal, Michael Beasley, Luis Scola, Gerald Green, Miles Plumlee and Tyson Chandler. What better place than sunny Phoenix for a player to come thru while not in his prime?

Damian Lillard

Portland Trail Blazers: "HYFR (Hell Ya F***ing Right)"

Literally the first line of "HYFR" is, "All my exes live in Texas like I'm George Strait." Well, it so happens that former Blazers LaMarcus Aldridge and Wesley Matthews play in San Antonio and Dallas, respectively. Meanwhile, the Blazers also lost Nicolas Batum, Robin Lopez and Aaron Afflalo this offseason. It is time for Damian Lillard to "work with the negatives" and take control of his franchise.

Kevin Durant, Russell Westbrook And Wanda Pratt

Oklahoma City Thunder: "You & the 6"

Wanda Pratt (Kevin Durant's mom), you the real MVP. "You & the 6" is Drake's ode to his mother, Sandi Graham. "At least I'm always being true to what you taught me," Drake says. Durant has never shied away from being a momma's boy. Wanda is even a mentor to Russell Westbrook.

Karl-Anthony Towns And Andrew Wiggins

Minnesota Timberwolves: "Over"

Like Drake in 2010, the Timberwolves are a young team growing up fast. Andrew Wiggins and Karl-Anthony Towns know way too many people now who they didn't know last year. "Man, they treat me like a legend, am I really this cold? I'm really too young to be feeling this old." The T'Wolves youngsters are performing and progressing, and Minnesota has a lot to look forward to, as Drake has proven he did five years ago.

Jameer Nelson And Will Barton

Denver Nuggets: "Furthest Thing"

The opening verse is, "Somewhere between psychotic and iconic, somewhere between I want it and I got it, somewhere between I'm sober and I'm lifted, somewhere between a mistress and commitment." Drake is trying to find balance. That fits the Nuggets, an incredibly average franchise: Winning percentages of .439 in 2013-14, .366 in 2014-15 and .368 at the time this post. Other teams are flashy, but they are just "drinkin' on the low."

Alec Burks, Trey Burke And Gordon Hayward

Utah Jazz: "6 Man"

This song is sort of Drake's attempt at a blue collar-Bruce Springsteen track. Drake constantly says he is "working the night shift," referring to his work ethic. Gordon Hayward and the Jazz are a hard-working Western Conference team much of the country does not get to see. Alec Burks was a Sixth Man of the Year frontrunner, similar to Lou Williams a year ago, before a fractured fibula put him on the sidelines.

Dirk Nowitzki

Dallas Mavericks: "Legend"

"Legend" is Drake explaining that he is the most influential rap celebrity from Toronto, and even as he gets older, no one is competing with him. "It's too late for my city, I'm the youngest n**** reppin," he says. Dirk Nowitzki has long been the NBA's best European player and no one has really come close. He is a sure-fire NBA legend who is still the youngest European reppin (although a certain Latvian in New York may be the guy to finally take over Nowitzki's crown).

Dwight Howard And James Harden

Houston Rockets: "Worst Behavior"

James Harden and Dwight Howard direct a hardwood soap opera in Houston. Kevin McHale led the Rockets to the Western Conference Final a season ago and got ousted 11 games into 2015-16. Harden wants the ball and Howard still wants to believe he is a superstar. They're on their worst behavior. "Do it look like we stressin'?" So far this season, yes.

Tony Parker

San Antonio Spurs: "Big Rings"

Too easy. "I got a really big team, and they need some really big rings, they need some really nice things." Tim Duncan and Gregg Popovich have five rings, Tony Parker and Manu Ginobili have four and Kawhi Leonard has an NBA Finals MVP. Overshadowed by the Warriors' success is the Spurs' 2015-16 dominance. San Antonio will be right in contention come spring. What a time to be alive.

Anthony Davis And Drake

New Orleans Pelicans: "Hold On, We're Going Home"

The Pelicans started an abysmal 2-11 after making the postseason last spring for the first time since 2011. Since Anthony Davis returned from a shoulder injury for a Nov. 20 win against the Spurs, the Pelicans have shown life. With a chunk of season left, New Orleans can still make a run at a playoff spot. The Pelicans are returning to 2014-15 form, although Davis knows, "It's hard to do these things alone."

Zach Randolph

Memphis Grizzlies: "Used To"

Honestly, this is just a tip of the hat to Zach Randolph. "When you get to where the f*** I'm at, you gotta remind 'em about where you been." Remember when Z-Bo toiled away with Eddy Curry in New York's heaviest backcourt outside the Carnegie Deli? It looked like all Randolph's potential was washed up. Randolph turned himself into an outstanding asset for an outstanding team, with Marc Gasol and Mike Conley, for the past seven years in Memphis.

Drake In Bulls Jersey

Chicago Bulls: "Headlines"

No matter how much fans want the old Derrick Rose, he's not coming back. Don't tempt him. This team floods the headlines for good and bad reasons. Firing coach Tom Thibodeau woke this team up a little bit, as seen by recent locker room smoke. As Jimmy Butler's teammates may say right now, "I had someone tell me I fell off, ooh I needed that." Side note: "Charged Up" was a close second just for the line, "Must I remind you that Jimmy got 20 million on it."

Jason Kidd, Jerryd Bayless And O.J. Mayo

Milwaukee Bucks: "Take Care"

The Bucks are a motley crew of previously rejected players. Khris Middleton and Miles Plumlee spent time in the D-League within the past three years. Former prized prospects O.J. Mayo and Jerryd Bayless appeared to fall short of their hype before finding roles in Milwaukee. Greg Monroe just signed a fat contract after five playoff-less seasons in Detroit. "I'll take care of you," the Bucks say. That is good, considering Jason Kidd "loved and lost" the Nets.

Drake, Paul George And Lance Stephenson

Indiana Pacers: "Miss Me"

"Gone for surgery but now I'm back again," seems written for Paul George. Drake raps about how he will be missed while on tour (and Lil Wayne focuses his verse on how he will be missed while in jail). After George's gruesome injury training for the 2014 World Cup, the Pacers missed the postseason in 2014-15 (George averaged 15.2 minutes in six games). This season, George in the non-Stephen Curry MVP conversation, and the Pacers are contenders again.

Reggie Jackson And Andre Drummond

Detroit Pistons: "Started from the Bottom"

Nearly every playoff-level team has an argument for this spot, but in 2015-16, the Pistons deserve it. Once a powerhouse franchise, Detroit has not reached a postseason since 2009. This year, behind Andre Drummond, who has never won more than 32 games, and Reggie Jackson, who spent three and a half years backing up Russell Westbrook, the Pistons are gaining legitimacy in the east. I wanted to place a song featuring Detroit native Big Sean here, but this fits better.

LeBron James And Drake

Cleveland Cavaliers: "Forever"

There are a lot of options here, but the choice comes back to the 2008 documentary, More than a Game, following LeBron James and his high school teammates. "If you ain't been a part of it, at least you to witness," Drake says on the track, recorded for the film. Seven years later, we are still all witnesses, even after Drake was a constant presence during LeBron's Miami stint. Also, check out the music video. It is so old LeBron is playing online poker.

Dwyane Wade And Drake

Miami Heat: "Preach"

This song, featuring PartyNextDoor, is pretty much Drake's Miami anthem. For Heat/LeBron haters, the line, "Doing is one thing, doing it right is a whole different story," should hit home. Let's see if Miami can win without a super team. Near the top of the Eastern Conference, Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh are on track to make a run at LeBron James and the Cavs.

Drake Jumpman

Charlotte Hornets: "Jumpman"

This is not as simple as it may seem. Yes, the Hornets' majority owner is Michael Jordan, the namesake for the Jordan Brand, but more importantly, the lyrics are perfect. "Them boys up to something. They just spent like two or three weeks out of the country." The Hornets traveled to China during the preseason. They subsequently got off to a hot start, peaking at 14-8. Honorable Mention: "10 Bands," for the line, "I get boxes of free Jordan like I play for North Carolina."

Jeff Teague, Al Horford And Paul Millsap

Atlanta Hawks: "Up All Night"

When this song came out on Drake's 2010 debut album, Thank Me Later, Nicki Minaj rapped, "We got the Hawks, I ain't talkin' about the Peach State," clarifying she was talking about knives and not the basketball team. Five years later, "Up All Night" fits Atlanta. The repeated chorus, "Man, I love my team," sums up a group that had four All-Stars last year. The Hawks are again in playoff position, despite not having a true superstar.

Nikola Vucevic

Orlando Magic: "Hotline Bling"

Dwight Howard's 2012 exit gives Orlando the coveted "Hotline Bling" title. "Ever since I left the city, you, you, you, you and me we just don't get along, you make me feel like I did you wrong, going places where you don't belong, ever since I left the city, you, you got exactly what you asked for." Howard left like he wanted, for L.A. and Houston, where he has had trouble fitting in. Meanwhile, the young Magic, led by Nikola Vucevic, may be better than the Rockets this year.

John Wall And Bradley Beal

Washington Wizards: "Marvin's Room"

It was a great run, Randy Wittman. But it has to end. "I know you still think about the times we had" and "I'm just saying you could do better." Wittman took the Wizards to two straight Eastern Conference semifinals, which preserved his job, although he constantly seems to underachieve with his John Wall-Bradley Beal core. The Wizards are struggling this year and it is time for change in D.C.

Carmelo Anthony And Drake

New York Knicks: "All Me"

This fits, but maybe not for long. Carmelo Anthony has a reputation as the most me-first player post-Allen Iverson, which made him a scoring champion with limited team success. However, Anthony is starting to give way to his teammates, as Kristaps Porzingis and Arron Afflalo present legitimate scoring counterparts. Can Melo maintain a level of unselfishness?

Brook Lopez

Brooklyn Nets: "Make Me Proud"

"Make Me Proud" is Drake's pump-up song to Nicki Minaj. "I know things get hard, but girl, you got it," he says. The Nets are in a dark place right now. Brooklyn is near the bottom of the standings and has no 2016 lottery pick thanks to the 2013 Paul Pierce/Kevin Garnett trade with the Celtics. "Don't take it too fast," Nets. It is going to be a long rebuilding effort.

Isaiah Thomas And Brad Stevens

Boston Celtics: "Trophies"

A common misconception of "Trophies" is that it is about winning. It is actually about unsung success. "I'm just tryna stay alive and take care of my people and they don't have no award for that. Trophies, trophies." The Celtics have always been a hard-nosed team, and guys like Isaiah Thomas, Avery Bradley and Jared Sullinger are humbly getting the job done for the franchise that which actually has the most trophies. Also, Brad Stevens is brilliant, but he never plays that up.

Jahlil Okafor And Joel Embiid

Philadelphia 76ers: "6 God"

Finding a track for the Sixers is incredibly difficult considering most of Drake's songs are about accomplishments. "6 God" has one particular line that defines the Sixers: "Here go another mo'f***er that don't understand the concept of puttin' money first, boy." The 76ers are throwing away their third straight season with a new level of embarrassment. With a new draft pick and cap relief coming (they are still paying Gerald Wallace and JaVale McGee!), help is on the way.


Toronto Raptors: "Know Yourself"

The Raptors deserve the most Toronto of his Toronto songs. In "Know Yourself," Drake, Raptors' global ambassador, is "runnin' through the 6 with [his] woes." He refers to long-time friend Ethan "pushin' a Subaru hatchback" "way before hashtags." "Know Yourself" is a timeline of Drake's rise from and return to Toronto, which is "too turnt up I'll take the fine for that," referring to his recruiting of Kevin Durant. There is a certain Toronto culture, and Raptors fans "know how that should go."

previous next

But again, this game isn't about winning -- this is about entertainment, and both rosters feature players that should possess a great combination of adequate basketball skills and superb performance IQ.

On the Team USA side, Kevin Hart has hung up the laces and transitioned from player to coach. He'll face off with a Canadian coaching trio comprised of Drake, Steve Nash and MLB slugger José Bautista. Each team has nine players on the roster. Here's where they all rank in terms of their total entertainment potential.

1. Muggsy Bogues, former NBA star (Team USA)

Muggsy! Are you kidding me? The list starts and ends here. Bogues' inclusion is a clear nod to every NBA fan over 30, and also anyone who's ever seen Space Jam. Bogues is best known as the shortest player in NBA history. He was a point guard for several of those great Charlotte Hornets teams in the 1990s and was insanely popular as a player despite career averages of 7.7 points and 7.6 assists.

Those mediocre numbers show just how popular he was as a player -- yours truly even owned a book about his life many moons ago. If the NBA is smart, it'll put a spotlight on Bogues -- who had memorable cameos on "Saturday Night Live" and "Curb Your Enthusiasm" -- and tell him to go to town.

2. Drew Scott, star of HGTV's "Property Brothers" (Team Canada)

Property Brothers

Drew Scott, along with his brother Jonathan, team up as the premier eye candy of the HGTV network. They'll endow the Celebrity Game with a unique female audience that loves both attractive male reality stars and home renovation -- a scarcely tapped market for the NBA. But Drew isn't just a pretty face: He was a very serious basketball player in high school, and recently told GQ he had a 43-inch vertical at the time.

He's also been practicing to get in shape for the game, so expect him to enter the game on a mission.

3. Anthony Anderson, star of ABC's "blackish" (Team USA)

Anderson is a well-known basketball fan, and he possesses his own flair for the dramatic. Expect him to grab the camera's attention in one of two ways: Either by displaying a work ethic rarely shown in the Celebrity Game, or by playing up his lack of endurance and gradual defeat by not only Team Canada, but the game itself. Either way, you'll enjoy yourself.

Elena Delle Donne

4. Elena Delle Donne, WNBA MVP, Chicago Sky (Team USA)

Fingers crossed that Delle Donne lights it up in this game. After all, nobody in the world -- male or female -- shoots free throws better than she does. Last season, she was 95 percent from the line. She's also a sharpshooter from distance. She could take it easy, rest on her laurels and let the actors have their fun, but why let them take the spotlight? She's the best player on the court -- you heard me, Tracy McGrady -- and if she decides to prove it, we'll all walk away satisfied.

5. Jonathan Scott, HGTV's "Property Brothers" (Team Canada)

Like his brother, he's got a basketball pedigree and more female fans than anyone else in the game. But he's not quite the hoops obsessive his brother was growing up, and that leaves just a little bit of concern that he won't be as competitive/desperate to prove himself under the bright lights. The only downside of the USA-Canada showdown is not seeing these brothers go man-to-man in a classic sibling rivalry.

6. Jason Sudeikis, actor and comedian (Team USA)

Best-known for his days on SNL, Sudeikis is a classic everyman: Decently handsome but not gorgeous, neither fit nor flabby, partial to craft beer but willing to sling back Budweisers with Peyton Manning. He's got competent basketball skills but seems like your classic "settles for 16-foot jumper" kind of player. We hope we're wrong, and we also hope the the cameras can catch his subtle humor on display, which is where Sudeikis is at his best.

7. Win Butler, lead singer of Arcade Fire (Team Canada)

Butler is a musician, so many would assume he is not good at basketball or any athletic enterprise. You would all be wrong. Butler is surprisingly good at basketball.

He may not be the flashiest player, but the Arcade Fire frontman could work his way into the MVP conversation.

8. Stephan James, actor (Team Canada)

You've seen James everywhere lately, as he's playing Jesse Owens in the biopic, "Race." At 22, and coming off a performance in which he portrays an all-time great Olympian, it may be assuming too much to think James will be a key contributor to Team Canada. But depth on the Canadian side appears to be an issue, so James will probably be counted on to help carry his team. Maybe Coach Drake, a fellow "DeGrassi" alum, will draw up a few plays to get James some open looks.

9. Michael B. Jordan, star of Creed (Team USA)

I'm already groaning at the joke of how he's got the same name as the game's GOAT, but Jordan is a basketball fan, and if he looks anything like he did in Creed, he'll be a physical machine on the court.

Again, the name joke is going to be tough to swallow.

10. Natalie Achonwa, WNBA's Indiana Fever (Team Canada)

Achonwa isn't a superstar on Delle Donne's level. But she played a key role for the Fever, which fell to the Minnesota Lynx in this year's WNBA Finals. She only averaged eight points in her first season as a pro, but Achonwa's still much better than most of the players on the court, and she'll help give Team Canada some much-needed credibility and skill.

11. Bryshere "Yazz" Gray, star of "Empire (Team USA)

Like James, Gray is also 22, born and raised in Philly. He gave up sports early in high school to focus on music, but his youthful athleticism will be a huge asset in this game. From a distance, he looks a lot like Cleveland's Iman Shumpert. If Gray focuses on slashing to the hoop and pushing the ball upcourt, he might be able to create some easy buckets.

12. Tracy McGrady, former NBA star (Team Canada)

It may be necessary to put forth a watchable game, but it's a bit grating to see NBA players in the celebrity game. McGrady is as good of an option as you can hope for here -- a guy who starred in Toronto, and who's only a little bit removed from his professional days. He probably won't put on the scoring clinic he's capable of, instead deferring to teammates and getting people involved, but he'll be a pleasant, welcome sight in the game.

13. Milos Raonic, professional tennis player (Team Canada)

Raonic has pulled out of his next tournament due to injury, yet he's playing in the celebrity game. Interesting decision. Assuming he's physically capable of putting forth an effort, it'll be interesting to see a tennis player attempt a very different sport. At 6-5, he's got the height, but can he do anything without a racket in his hand?

14. Kris Wu, actor and musician (Team Canada)

From what I can tell -- and I haven't put much effort into figuring out the answer -- Kris Wu is a Chinese-Canadian version of Bieber. Apparently, since its success with Bieber, Canada has decided to make obnoxious-looking pop stars one of its top exports. Neato. Well, I probably wouldn't care at all about watching Kris Wu play basketball, except for this:

When life gives you lemons, make lemonade.

15. Rick Fox, former NBA player (Team Canada)

Rick Fox won three NBA championships with the Los Angeles Lakers, has a perfectly sculpted face, and has appeared on every reality show you forgot DVR. He gets bonus points for having the decency to have been retired for a while, but loses points for being so saturated on TV in the first place.

16. Chauncey Billups, former NBA star (Team USA)

Too soon, Chauncey. You've only been retired since 2014, some people might assume you're still playing. It's awkward seeing you here already. We don't miss you yet. You see Muggsy? We miss the hell out of Muggsy. You'll never be Muggsy, but you'd be higher on this list if you come back a half-decade down the road.

17. Nick Cannon, host of "America's Got Talent" (Team USA)

More Nick Cannon? Still? Didn't he lose every season of America's Got Talent? Didn't he and Mariah Carey break up? So why? Why does this keep happening? Sigh.

18. Marc Lasry, Milwaukee Bucks co-owner (Team USA)

Nobody knows Marc Lasry, and nobody cares. If I wanted to watch the fantasies of some billionaire whose only qualification is his money, I'd go watch a Donald Trump rally.

Plus, Robert Pera of Memphis set the bar among owners last year when he dunked during warmups of the celebrity game:

More NBA: Vinsanity Turns Back The Clock In Dunk Showcase