Simu Liu loves his hometown — even when he’s being chirped at the free-throw line. On Saturday, Toronto’s very own Marvel superhero hit the hard court for the second annual Canadian Chinese Youth Athletic Association (CCYAA) celebrity classic, this time to a packed audience at the U of T’s Goldring Center for High Performance Sports. Liu was joined by a slew of celebrities and players including former raptor and NBA champion Jeremy Lin. There was laughter, two lovers got engaged and Hasan Minhaj declared Torontonians the most beautiful people in the world. Here’s a full list of highlights.
Forget Shang-Chi – Simu wishes he was Shawn Kemp
Yes, he is an international movie star. And yes, he’s a best-selling author and a sheriff on social media. But in his heart, Liu only wants to be a basketball player. “Oh my god, I’ve got my first press conference coming up,” he said through his teeth as he entered a steam room full of journalists alongside Lin and CCYAA co-founder Clement Chu. “I’ve never felt like a professional athlete.” Liu then downplayed his fame and instead highlighted Lin’s legendary game at Madison Square Garden, where he scored 38 points en route to defeating Kobe Bryant’s Lakers. The real superhero was Lin. “I was only in a Marvel movie,” Liu said, to which Lin replied, “Somebody talk some sense into this guy!”
Jeremy Lin wants to retire in Toronto
Jeremy Lin is the first Asian American to win an NBA title and He did it with the Raptors in 2019. Champions like Lin often have the honor of pro sports to decide where to retire via token one-day contracts. So will he choose Toronto? “I would like that,” he said. “This city has given me so much.” Always the role model, Lin was quick to add that he hopes by the time he dies, Asian champions will no longer be “novelty” — that kids don’t have to be “the next Jeremy Lin,” but just being able to be themselves.
Basketball bridges the gap
Chu said he chose hoops as one of the CCYAA’s core sports because it could empower youth. (It’s an exciting, low-cost sport that can be played in community centers and playgrounds.) He first approached Liu about a partnership in 2016, when the actor was breaking up Kim’s convenience. The proceeds of the classic go to the Jeremy Lin Foundation and a new CCYAA community center in Toronto.
Hasan Minhaj thinks we’re sexy
Comedian Hasan Minhaj, who took on Simu on the court, was having so much fun that he unprompted interrupted a tribute to Toronto’s sexy people. “Everyone in this city is beautiful. They look like they’re straight out of a fashion catalog,” he said. “The people here are this beige mix of the future – dear children of Drake and Bruno Mars. They are [like the most] most beautiful Sudanese-Egyptian-Indian-Pakistani Filipino people I have ever met.”
Jeremy teaches kids the hard way
The celebrations began around noon (Liu was still having coffee at the court because it was “so early”) with a Youth Jam: Dancers, Wushu Warriors, a performance from Los Angeles DANakaDAN, and a shootout in which Liu and friends took on children – all 10 or younger – from Lin’s foundation. With the celebs lagging behind, Linsanity, who is around 1.90m tall, showed no mercy and roughly took the shots from the kids wide open. The children were still victorious. “It wasn’t my finest moment,” Lin said. “Do what I say, not what I do.”
She said yes!
It wasn’t all blood sports. To Jump over Simu Liu for a vicious slam, professional dunker Sherman Shu suggested to his partner Micaela. And she said yes and sent the crowd into one Madness on Jurassic Park level.
Prejudice takes the L
Lin has been open about his struggles with accepting his Asian identity. He told the crowd he was embarrassed as a young player – scouts would judge him by his looks; Fellow players would call him “Yao Ming” and “Chicken Fried Rice”. Today he has an 11-year career in the NBA (with some good years in the tank) and a championship ring. Victory: Lin.
Simu discovered his destiny as an extra Pacific Rim
Once upon a time, Simu told the audience, before he took over Hollywood, he worked as an accountant at Deloitte and hated it. In fact, he loathed the gig so much that one day the actor played truant to work as an extra Guillermo del Toro‘s Pacific Rim, which was filmed in the Port Lands. The experience was so electrifying that Liu just kept walking to do extra work.
Ronny Chiang is ruthless
The stand-up artist and star of Crazy rich Asians was a madman on the ground, playing aggressive defense and attacking Liu with the ball whenever he got the chance. After watching Liu miss a free throw, Chieng roared a soul-shattering “You suck!” – prompting the biggest laughs of the night.
It’s not just about being Asian
Amid the mishaps and good times, Liu looked at the cameras and reminded us of the purpose of the event. “As a kid, when I saw the media, I didn’t feel like I belonged,” he said. “I can’t stress enough how much the media influences our perception. Many communities were not properly represented. This is more than just an Asian thing.”
Celebrities showed up and showed themselves
Also in attendance: NBA all-timer Dominique Wilkins (who at 62 looks like he could still dunk over a chair); Speakby Elaine Lui; TikToker Tiana Shern; Riverdaleby Charles Melton; Hometown Songsmith Alex Porat; and TIFF CEO Cameron Baileylooking fresh in t-shirt and jeans.
Raptor fans want Kevin Durant. Or maybe not?
The game – and with all wisdom – was set by Sportsnet 590’s William Lou and Alex Wong The Raptors Show. They drew both cheers and jeers as they debated which in-house celebrities would put together a suitable trade package for Kevin Durant. But do the raps have the pieces to land the superstar and stay competitive? A whole list of celebrities along with Wilkins could be the only way to close the deal, the pair joked. Wilkins looked dissatisfied at the commentary box.
The Raptor doesn’t disappoint
The NBA’s most famous dino was all over the event, stirring up the crowds, hitting halffield shots on the first try and messing with pretty people in the Drake courts. Many hugs were given.
Team Liu wins the day
Liu’s team won the game after a quick final in the fourth quarter and he was happy. Throughout the night, Liu chatted with Raptors coach and Eastern Commerce legend Jamaal Magloire about strategy while encouraging his teammates and throwing in some nice assists along the way. Above all, Liu was thrilled to share the yard with one of his own heroes. “In all my basketball fantasies,” he said, “I always wanted to be Jeremy’s teammate.”