March 25, 2019

The NBA trade deadline has come and gone and the Anthony Davis sweepstakes had no winner. However, the Toronto Raptors were well in the mix as dark-horse contenders for the coveted big man, according to ESPN’s Brian Windhorst.

The hype around the NBA and its trade deadline this year was proof of how far the sport has come in Canada since I was a kid.

In the week leading up to the NFL Super Bowl, it seemed the NBA was dominating the headlines in every sports publication and network you could think of and, while the Raptors’ dreams of acquiring arguably the best power forward in the game fizzled out, the fact still remained: A lot of people follow and get very excited about basketball in Canada.

For my generation in Ontario, hockey was the dominant sports staple of our youth. Youth of today, though, may end up remembering something entirely different.

A viewer watches the Raptors game at home, Kitchener, Ont., Feb. 9, 2019. Photo by Matthew Nowell, Spoke News

This begs the question: Is basketball overtaking hockey as the most popular Canadian sport?

While the game wasn’t invented in Canada (it was invented in Springfield, Mass.), it was devised by a Canadian. Dr. James Naismith invented basketball in 1891, so one could easily consider it a Canadian-made sport.

According to an article from Forbes magazine, basketball has steadily been rising among our nation’s youth.

“Today, the growth rate of basketball participation in Canada among the country’s youth exceeds that of hockey and soccer. Since 2010, basketball participation has seen a growth rate of 16 per cent.”

Yes, hockey may still have the highest viewership, but a lot of that can be attributed to the older generation watching the sport of their youth. The future of Canadian sports may be in the hands of the NBA as the younger generation matures.

“I definitely think basketball is on the rise in Canada,” said Wynne Badoe, a patron at a local bar during the Raptors game on last week. “I remember being one of the only basketball fans in my class when I was a kid, but nowadays it seems like the cool sport to like.”

Another patron at the bar felt the same way. Sergiu Kondon of Kitchener said, “Soccer is still my favourite [sport] but I can’t lie — basketball has to be my favourite domestic sport.”

While the Raptors weren’t able to get their hands on Anthony Davis, they did still make a major splash at the deadline by acquiring Marc Gasol from the Memphis Grizzlies. Gasol, a former all-star and defensive player of the year, definitely brings some veteran leadership and toughness to an already strong Toronto roster.

Hockey may still hold a special place in a lot of Canadians’ hearts, but basketball is clearly on the rise in the Great White North. As the NBA’s popularity rises in Canada, it’s unclear what will be the future of Canadian sports. But basketball is certainly creating a strong foothold for itself and will look to build off of that going forward.

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