All aboard the Raptors bandwagon
I was never a big basketball guy.
Growing up on the prairies, it was pretty simple. All the best athletes played hockey and if you weren't good enough to lace up the skates, you slapped on skimpy little shorts and played for the high school basketball team.
In fact, the only time anybody got really excited about basketball was when a certain team from Harlem would come to town; and no, I'm not talking about the Globetrotters. Instead, a "B" level group of barnstormers would make an annual stop in our small Alberta community - a team called the Harlem Clowns. Sure, they couldn't pull off the tricks performed by Meadowlark Lemon and the world famous 'Trotters, but it was the best basketball any of us had ever witnessed.
These days, of course, basketball has become a lot bigger in Canada and, thankfully, so have those skimpy little shorts.
Steve Nash is a two-time NBA most valuable player.
Anthony Bennett of Toronto was the first pick in last year's NBA draft with another GTA guy, Andrew Wiggins, the potential top selection this time around.
Meanwhile, sports fans across the country have been eating up the Toronto Raptors. Just over one million Canadians tuned in to TSN this week to watch the Raptors beat Brooklyn in game five of their NBA play-off series - an all-time record for hoops viewership in Canada.
But while those are the cool, hard facts, there's also a lot of secondary evidence pointing to a basketball boom in the Great White North. If you watched "March Madness", the annual U.S. college basketball extravaganza, you couldn't help notice the amazing Canadian content. A record-breaking 33 Canadians (including Wiggins) suited up for the tournament this year and a few hundred other Canucks, male and female, are playing college hoops south of the border.
Kid's basketball is also booming in Canada, with more and more youth leagues sprouting up. My 8-year old lad, for instance, has become a huge basketball fan and has just signed up to play in a Toronto league that starts this fall. To the delight of his hockey-loving dad, he's still going to play minor hockey. Basketball, however, is the game that really butters his bread. I took him to a couple Raptors games this season, and he completely bought in. He hasn't been to a Maple Leafs game yet, as I'm not willing to sell one of my body parts to afford the tickets. However, we managed to get our hands on a few cheap Raptors ducats when they faced the horrible Philly 76'ers and Milwaukee Bucks. But despite the low quality opposition, my little guy had a ton of fun. When we go to a hockey game (usually the Marlies or the Jr. A St. Mike's Buzzers) my little guy often spends most of the time with his head buried in a "Diary of a Wimpy Kid" book he brings along.
But at the Raptors game his eye balls never left the court and he loved all the bells and whistles that go with the NBA, especially the entertaining Raptors mascot.
Well, he's not quite old enough for that. But you can definitely see why so many youngsters are buying into basketball.
For one thing, there's obviously a lot more scoring than in hockey. Kids love seeing the ball or puck go in the net. In hockey, however, Sidney Crosby can go a long time between goals. Crosby, in fact, was completely blanked in the Penguins first-round play-off series against Columbus. In basketball, on the other hand, a guy like Raptors star DeMar DeRozan can have a bad night and he's still going to pick up 14 points.
So, yes, it's been quite a ride for the Raptors this season.
It comes as no surprise that more and more folks are jumping on board the bandwagon, and hey! A hoop-loving son is even dragging his old puck-head of a dad into all the excitement.