By Shawn Goff and David Bardwell
Canada is known as the country that loves hockey, but with winter around the corner, basketball is a warmer indoor alternative that is gaining popularity.
The NBA All-Star tour visited New Brunswick at the end of November affirming that there are many fans of basketball, even in the smaller provinces. The tour had free throw contests, varsity games, and even famous basketball players.
Slam dunk champion Justin “Jus Fly” Darlington was there to show his skills. He said that he loves travelling week after week, but wishes he had more time to take in his surroundings.
“Even though I’m touring around, it sucks that I’m only in places like Newfoundland and New Brunswick for 24 hours, so I don’t really get to enjoy the small cities or the small towns,” said Darlington “Hopefully next time I’m on tour I can get two to three days here.”
Darlington said the smaller places in Canada tend to bring better crowds than some bigger provinces.
“To be honest I’ve travelled quite a bit of the world and some of the best shows are in the small towns, the small cities and stuff because they appreciate it more,” Darlington said. “When they finally get something they want or get something new, they show a lot more love than the bigger cities.”
Another All-Star in attendance was five-time NBA champion Ron Harper. Harper said basketball is not just a south-of-the-border sport.
“Our NBA game is a global game,” Harper said. “As an NBA fan we love all the fans.”
Some might not expect NBA players to come to a small province like New Brunswick but, according to Bell Media, basketball viewership across Canada is increasing at a healthy rate. For example, in 2014, game four for the Toronto Raptors yielded six million unique viewers, more than any hockey game in Canada.
The NBA All-Star event is set to take place in Toronto next February. It’s the first time it has been held in Canada.
Though basketball seems to be gaining traction in Canada as a whole, Fredericton YMCA Youth Program manager Moe Perez says that they have less kids signing up for basketball lately.
“The numbers have declined a bit in the youth participation program,” Perez said. “It’s a variety of things, one definitely being that there are two
clubs in town.”
While the numbers are low this year at the YMCA, more clubs and facilities being offered around Fredericton suggests there is a growing demand for basketball.