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Why The NBA Will Fail In Canada

By Aidan Hyland

Just like the Canadian geese that fly South every winter, so goes another NBA franchise in Canada. It is simply a matter of time.

Everyone can remember the enthusiasm and excitement that surrounded the announcement by the National Basketball Association to expand its league inside Canadian borders, with Vancouver and Toronto both

awarded professional basketball franchises. The theory was that both of these markets had the necessary interest by its constituents to make basketball a successful commodity. During the first season of

both of these franchises, it would have been difficult to find anyone who would have disagreed with that statement. I myself was even excited at the prospect of seeing NBA players live rather than waiting

for the NBA on NBC at the conclusion of the Super Bowl each winter. However, it would become more apparent after the first few seasons that this endeavor would not last.

First of all, the success of each franchise early on can be attributed to the "curiosity factor". The majority of Canadians at the time were not familiar with names such as "Barkley" or "Pippen". Jordan was a household name to anyone who owned a television, and to most, Larry Bird was simply known for more for the color of his skin than his accomplishments on the basketball court. As polite as Canadians are, we attended the games, we bought the jerseys and for the first couple of seasons everything was going as planned.

Would it be bad management (Heisley buried the team in dept in just 5 seasons)? Poor draft choices (picking Antonio Daniels at number 4. They would later draft Steve Francis, but were forced to trade him because he didn’t want to play for a Canadian team? Waning interest from the community (lockout in ’98 didn’t help)? Or just plain losing (their best record was in the ’00-’01 season going 23-59). Whatever it was, it didn’t take very long for the Vancouver Grizzlies to show their wrinkles. Even in a basketball market, if the management is

unable to put a winning product on the floor, the fans will not come to the games, its that simple. Unfortunately, for the Grizzlies, they were unable to post a winning record in any season while playing in

Vancouver. That is enough to spell death for a franchise. This was also happening while the Canucks, the hockeys equivalent, who were in their rebuilding stages, and weren’t winning a lot of games either giving them a great opportunity to become the number one franchise in the City. No matter how hard the team tried to sustain interest in the franchise, one by one the people of Vancouver were turning away from professional basketball. The owner would pursue moving the team to Memphis, which was eventually approved by the league after only 6 seasons in Vancouver.

For its Canadian equivalent, the NBA had all the hopes in the world at becoming a success in Toronto. First and foremost, Toronto is the largest sports market in Canada with the necessary resources available

to support a professional team (drawn around 4 million fans to SkyDome in their heyday 1989 to 1992). At the time, there was also talk about building a new arena for the Toronto Maple Leafs since Maple Leaf Gardens was starting to lose its luster. So, with a new arena on the horizon and an extreme and enthusiastic fan interest, the Raptors were born (50 years earlier, Toronto would play host to New York as the Toronto Huskies -

the franchise would fold one year later). Almost immediately, the Raptors showed promise (It was the only City to have three separate groups bidding). To everyone’s surprise, picking 7th overall, the Raptors selected Damon Stoudamire from Arizona in their first draft. Most in attendance had expected the Raptors to select Ed O’Bannon from UCLA. Continuing in the early success of the franchise, Stoudamire was voted "Rookie of the Year" after the first season (It would not be the only time the Raptors selected a future Rookie of the Year with

Vince Carter repeating the feat a few years later). Although the Raptors suffered through the typical up’s and down’s associated with an expansion franchise, most fans remained optimistic about the teams future. This culminated when the team would come within one basket of making the Eastern Conference Finals in 2001. Since then, the team has suffered many trials and tribulations that has eroded the product on the floor and the ticket sales. Since that breakout season, the Raptors have not produced a winning record and barely made it to the playoffs the following year (the team won 8 of their final 10 games to make it to the playoffs only to be beaten by Detroit in five games). With injury woes, mismanaged hiring of coaches and internal strife

within the organization, the Raptors are also showing signs of disintegration. The biggest of all coming a few weeks ago with the announcement of Vince Carters trade demands. It is safe to assume if the Raptors are unable to obtain a player of Vince Carters popularity in return, the franchise will go the way of the Grizzlies. At

present, it would be almost impossible for the Raptors to receive equal value considering the injuries that have plagued Carter the last few seasons, along with the notion around the league that he is soft and is not committed to winning. If Carter goes, so does the hope of any Raptor fan that the team will remain in Toronto.

Dr. Naismith, the inventor of basketball and a Canadian, spent the majority of his working life in the United States. Coincidence? I don’t believe so. It will be a sad day to see the Raptors go, so I suggest we all start getting comfortable with the idea.


Name: Aidan A. Hyland

Age: 26

Location: Vancouver, BC, Canada

Occupation: Self-employed

Favorite Team: Toronto Raptors

Favorite Former Player: Magic Johnson

Favorite Current Player: Tony Parker, San Antonio Spurs

Most Hated Team: Philadelphia 76ers

Most Hated Player: Allen Iverson

Prediction for Eastern Champs: Detroit Pistons

Prediction for Western Champs: Houston Rockets

Prediction for NBA Champs: Houston Rockets