Winter is here and as the Toronto Raptors continue to demonstrate their incredible skill level, the north has shown that they have what it takes to be a powerhouse basketball kingdom in their own right.
For years, viewers have seen cities heavily rally around an underdog team (Cleveland, we’re looking at you), but never before has an entire country turned up as hard as Canada has for this year’s playoffs as the Raptors look to clinch their first championship title.
Original predictions anticipated that this year’s playoff numbers would be significantly lower than years past, but what they failed to take into consideration was the 37 million potential viewers north of the border. According to the NBA, Game 1 was the most-watched NBA game on Sportsnet, reaching 7.4 million Canadians — basically 20 percent of the nation’s population. The average size of the Canadian audience was 3.3 million viewers and peaked in the final minutes of the game with 4.1 million Canadians tuning in to see the finish.
So is Canada ready for a second NBA team?
Logically, it would make sense. Canadian and American cultures are probably more similar than any other two large nations in the world, sharing not just a similar language, but similar tastes in music, entertainment, and pop culture. (And I think we have shared custody of Drake.)
Last fall, a Montreal-based investing group held a press conference where they said the NBA has been made aware of the interest, which originated back in 2014, but has been ramped up with the addition of GardaWorld founder Stephan Cretier as the main investor, willing to put up 10% of the cost of the franchise. Other major cities such as Vancouver have also expressed serious interest in a potential NBA franchise. (Vancouver was briefly home to the Grizzlies in the 1990s, but poor marketing and dismal turnout caused the team to eventually move to Memphis.)
When asked about potential Canadian expansion, NBA commissioner Adam Silver just smiled and pointed out that the internet and social media have proven to be more important than geography. “I think that if we have Giannis Antetokounmpo in Milwaukee — viewed as a small market in the U.S., [yet] he happened to be the No. 1 vote-getter for fans globally for the All-Star Game this year — I think that makes the point that with digital media and social media these days you can be a huge global star regardless of where you are,” he said in an interview with CBC (a Canadian news outlet).
Should another team come to Vancouver, Montreal, or any of Canada’s other major cities in the coming year, one thing is certain about this year’s playoff- we will always remember the North.