you haven’t caught Toronto Raptors fever in their first
ever trip to the NBA finals I am half tempted to ask what
is wrong you with as the series reaches a conclusion in
one of the next two games?
full transparaency, I grew up in Toronto and played for
a provincially ranked, elite high school basketball program
and also played for two seasons here at Carleton University
some 30 plus years ago so I am a tad biased. For this scribe,
#WeTheNorth is real.
One in three
Canadians, so far, has watched some or meaningful portions
of the Raptors games on TV versus the mighty Golden State
It can be argued
that only basketball and professional soccer (or football
as the purists call the beautiful game) are the true two
global sports played and revered all over the world. And
with all due respect to hockey, contact football, baseball,
cricket, volleyball or tennis, they just don’t have this
global reach or acceptance.
The NBA finals
is being broadcast to over 215 countries and territories
in 50 languages on TV, radio, computers, tablets and mobile
devices. Fourteen television and radio networks from Brazil,
Canada, China, France, Italy, Japan, Mexico, Latin America,
Poland, Spain and Taiwan are broadcasting live on site.
And six international television networks – from Australia,
Estonia, Hong Kong and New Zealand – will present the NBA
Finals remotely for the first time. Oh
and the pre-series media day attracted over 1,000 journalists
from every corner of the earth.
What makes basketball
(and soccer) so attractive is their simplicity and accessibility
to all strata of society. For both sports all you need are
a ball and shoes and a pitch or court respectively.
will tell me about many poor kids barefoot in far flung
places around our planet still playing soccer, so point
is taken. This is much different than hockey, football or
baseball which require much more equipment and for many
families (mine was one of them), the costs to even participate
in house league and recreational play was simply too much.
Back to the NBA
Over 25% of its players were born outside of the U.S. and
Canadians from Leo Rautins to Steve Nash (a former league
MVP) to Andrew Wiggins and soon R.J. Barrett (predicted
to go 2nd is this year’s college draft) have made their
Of course, it
deserves mention that the game was invented by Almonte native
James Naismith in late 1891 in Springfield, Massachusetts
and that the first NBA game, according to the league, was
actually played in Toronto on November 1, 1946 in front
of over 7,000 fans between the Toronto Huskies and the New
has a great footprint here in Ottawa and Orléans. Over 15
years ago, I had the pleasure of running the Gloucester
Cumberland Basketball Association (GCBA) Tykes program for
a few years and the GCBA also has a range of programs and
league play for kids of all ages not to mention their Select
and Wolverines offerings for greater player development
and elite club play experiences that can take kids across
Our local public
and Catholic high schools have been blessed with passionate
teachers/coaches who have produced competitive and OFSAA-level
champions over the years with female and male players going
on to compete and thrive in top-tier Canadian and American
university programs while getting a post-secondary education.
Then there are
the great summer camp options for aspiring ballers including
the Rautins-House Basketball School and Above the Rim Basketball
School. The gem in our community has to be the Capital Courts
Academy in the Taylor Creek business park, founded and run
by former Lester B. Pearson high school standout Merrick
Palmer who also starred at St. Francis Xavier in Nova Scotia
and played pro in South Africa.
Suffice it to
say, Orléans punches above its weight compared to other
communities across Canada when it comes to giving the game
future generations of players and stars.
will continue to grow in our backyard. If you doubt me,
take a drive for half a day in various neighbourhoods, every
street is adorned with garage-mounted or stand-alone basketball
hoops with more going up each year. As well, each new housing
development from Chapel Hill South to Bradley Estates to
Avalon, Cardinal Creek, Chaperal, Navan and beyond is designed
with outdoor basketball courts as a default, not an option,
for local recreation.
Or just slow
down when driving by any middle school or high school in
our community to see the kids sport NCAA and NBA basketball
adorned backpack, snapback hats, replica jerseys, t-shirts
and hoodies. Oh and one more thing – GO RAPTORS GO!