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.
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)
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.
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: