For the first time since the league expanded to Canada in 1995, the Toronto Raptors will be playing in the National Basketball Association (NBA) finals.It’s a big deal, of course, for Toronto fans, but a local basketball executive told 680 CJOB the impact is being felt across the country.“This is new territory for us. I would relate a lot of this to what baseball experienced back in the early ’90s with the Blue Jays and their success they had at the world stage,” said Adam Wedlake, Basketball Manitoba’s executive director.“We’re definitely feeling the buzz out there in the community. What it does for us, really, as a sport – locally and definitely across the country – is it makes what we do a lot easier, a lot more effective to get more and more people excited about the game.
Basketball Manitoba’s Adam WedlakeBasketball Manitoba
Story continues below
Ultimately, it’s more than just fans, but active participants on the court, be it a player, coach, or volunteer… so this is all win-win for us.”Hoop fans, of course, are hoping the Raptors/Warriors series, which begins Thursday, ends in a win-win for Canada’s lone NBA team.Regardless of the outcome, Wedlake said the raised profile of basketball due to Raptorsmania is already contributing to the growth of a sport that is on the rise across the country.“It just inspires that next generation,” he said.“I can remember when I started at Basketball Manitoba here back when the Raptors first entered the league… at that point it was a high-water mark for the sport and the country.”Wedlake said Manitoba is experiencing a basketball renaissance due, in part, to the sport’s popularity with new Canadians who were fans or players in their countries of origin, but also because it’s an easy game to pick up.“We deem it as a low-barrier sport, both for equipment but also participation fees,” he said.“Most kids, if you’re ready for gym class, you can really be ready for basketball. You just need a pair of shoes and a ball.”View link »