The growth of basketball is alive and well, according to prominent Raptors beat reporter Doug Smith.
“Back in 94-95, there was a basketball subculture, but it was very small. Now it’s become very mainstream. It is becoming the sport in Toronto,” Smith said. “It reflects the diversity of the city; the diversity of the fan base and it’s become this thing, this sort of critical mass. It’s very interesting to see.”
Smith was part of a panel Wednesday night with Sportsnet reporter Michael Grange and basketball TV and radio announcers Paul Jones and Jack Armstrong. The Firkin on King was home to Hoops Talks Toronto by HoopsTalksLive (https://twitter.com/HoopTalksLive) . A live taping of ‘The Post-Up’ podcast by reporters Holly Mackenzie and Eric Koreen, featuring an interview with Raptors Director of Analytics Keith Boyarski, also took place. The host for the night was Donnovan Bennett.
Kevin Kennedy, creator of Hoops Talk, Pitch Talk and Puck Talk, organized the event to share his love of sports with like-minded people. Even though he has been making these events for about a year, he is hoping fans gain a valuable knowledge.
“I think it’s really important to have events that are not centered around the games. It’s about story telling,” he said. “And we all like to hear stories so this event is trying to recreate the experience of when you’re in a bar with a bunch of beat writers and you get the real stories. TV and radio is great but…there’s not enough time to hear the long stories… and Hoop Talks is all about that.”
A former standout player at York University, Jones also knows the first-hand struggle of basketball in Canada. He recalled a story of going to a bar in downtown Toronto in the mid-80s and begging a bartender to change one channel to a Lakers-Celtics game. He even gave the bartender the exact satellite coordinates for the game. He acknowledges basketball is popular but still has a long way to go.
“It’s been on a growth continuum and it has been for 20 years. We’re seeing it with the team, the fan support, and the players. Next to the USA, Canada has more players on NBA rosters than any other country in the world. That says something,” Jones said.
Brooklyn native Armstrong used to recruit Canadian kids when he coached in Niagara University. He has also covered the Raptors since there infancy. He wants to let the fans know they are following basketball at a critical point and fans should not lose faith.
“It’s growing. It’s not there yet. Definitely a work in progress…but I’m happy to be here in the ground floor,” he said.
Basketball fan Kate Condon was thrilled about the event. She agrees basketball is here to stay.
“The thing that I enjoyed the most (tonight) is there is a lot of energy, there’s a lot of synergy. They’re a lot of people excited about basketball whether it’s Canada basketball or NBA basketball. I love the energy.”