NBA Basketball Is Rebranding In Toronto

By Richard Nurse
Air Canada Centre
John E. Sokolowski-USA TODAY Sports

When most people think of Canada, they think of hockey, cold weather and the new Toronto Raptors global ambassador/rapper Drake.

No one thinks of it as the place where the New York Knickerbockers took on the Toronto Huskies in what the NBA regards as the first official game played in basketball history. They probably don’t even know it. But what they do know is that the country is in the midst of a basketball boom, starting with the Raptors.

Although they aren’t changing their name, they’re setting up to change the culture around the home team. And it’s not just the colors. The Raptors brought in the ex-architect of the Denver Nuggets‘ success — GM Masai Ujiri — to guide their future.

They will also have the pleasure of having an entire season to build around Rudy Gay with new role players like Steve Novak and D.J. Augustin and returning compliments, DeMar DeRozan and Kyle Lowry. That should at least have Toronto competing for a playoff spot much earlier than last year’s late push.

Toronto Raptors
John E. Sokolowski-USA TODAY Sports

This would be good motivation for the kids, the same way it was for the youth that grew up watching Vince Carter — like prep star Andrew Wiggins.

He’s the 6-foot-8 Canadian native that’s been touted to terrorize the league as the NBA‘s next big thing, and these predictions have been coming before he was even eligible to be the No. 1 pick in this year’s draft. That’s where everyone is expecting him to be. It also doesn’t hurt that he’s going to the same school (Kansas) as his fellow Canadian (Dr. James Naismith) who created the sport with a soft soccer ball and peach baskets.

Put Wiggins with this year’s no. 1 pick Anthony Bennett, Cleveland Cavaliers double-double machine Tristan Thompson and the GM of Canada’s senior men’s basketball team Steve Nash, and Canadian basketball has a bright future in the NBA and Olympic games.

Cap that all off with the 2016 NBA all-star game coming to Toronto, and you can see why the Winnipeg Free Press says that Drake envisions “everybody wearing Raptors stuff” and being “patriotic about being from here (Canada)”.

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Richard Nurse is a Miami Heat columnist for Follow him on Twitter @blackirishpr or add him to your network on Google.

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