Much has been made about the fact that the Toronto Raptors won the first major league championship for a Canadian team since the Toronto Blue Jays won their second World Series in 1993 and the Montreal Canadiens won the last Stanley Cup for a Canadian team earlier that same year.
The suggestion is that somehow NBA basketball will somehow become more popular in Canada than NHL hockey or major league baseball.
The Raptors, however, are simply the icing on the cake when it comes to the surging popularity of basketball in Canada and around the world, compared to hockey.
Visit any residential neighbourhood in Prince George and across the country.
For previous generations, there were hockey nets to be seen in most driveways and a road-hockey game could be found at all times of the day and night.
Those nets are increasingly rare and are now completely outnumbered by basketball hoops.
When today’s young people step away from their gaming consoles and put down their smartphones long enough to play an actual sport, they are playing basketball, either in somone’s driveway, out in the street, down in the school yard or in the gym.
Unlike any other sport, including hockey, basketball is an all-year sport.
Even hockey takes a bit of time off in Prince George in the summer months but not so with basketball. There is no month on the calendar in Prince George where organized leagues and youth development camps aren’t going for basketball.
Where basketball is cleaning up, in Canada and around the world, is among the youth. Just compare the broadcasts of the Stanley Cup finals and the NBA Finals.
Based on the TV commercials, people who watch hockey drink beer, go to Tim Hortons and drive trucks.
People who watch basketball eat and drink trendy stuff, order food through Skip The Dishes, shop entirely online and hang out there with their friends, too.
Hockey is white, male and older. The viewers of Hockey Night In Canada look at Ron Maclean and see themselves talking back at them.
Basketball’s fanbase is diverse across both race and gender, while also being significantly younger. The pre-game, half-time and post-game show during the NBA Finals was hosted by a white woman, along with three men of colour.
Hockey is traditional Canada and sells itself to smaller communities through events like Hometown Hockey.
Basketball is new Canada, stylish and big city.
Hockey is the Tragically Hip.
Basketball is Drake.
Hockey is Huawei.
Basketball is iPhone.
In Canada, older, white men sit at Tim Hortons in June arguing about the upcoming NHL draft and whether the San Jose Sharks made the right move signing defenceman Erik Karlsson to an eight-year contract.
Meanwhile, Canada’s younger generation is on social media debating whether the Raptors should sign Kawhi Leonard and if the Raptors could have beat a healthy Golden State Warriors.
Hockey will not be displaced as Canada’s sport anytime soon but as the country becomes increasingly urban, diverse and young, basketball will only continue to increase in popularity.
Two and three decades from now, it will be this current generation of young Canadians, who grew up idolizing LeBron James and Steph Curry far more than Sidney Crosby and Connor McDavid, who will in their thirties and forties.
Most of today’s young Canadians, both male and female, don’t know Fireworks or Bobby Orr or, to incorrectly quote the song, “give a fart about hockey.”
When those kids grow up, don’t be surprised if We The North resonates far wider and deeper in Canadian society than We Are All Canucks.