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Raptors, Canada Basketball Celebrate Fastest Growing Sport In Canada

anuary 9, 2009

Canada Basketball and the Toronto Raptors announced that Friday January 9, 2009 will be Canada Basketball Night, a celebration of the sport of basketball in Canada. Festivities will take place at Air Canada Centre when the Raptors play host to the Memphis Grizzlies.

“Our Game is Growing” is the theme for the fourth annual Canada Basketball Night, as the evening highlights the development of the sport from the grassroots level to the elite. The event serves as an opportunity for basketball fans to get in the game and give back to the sport they love. Festivities include:

  • Entrance collection boxes to help raise funds for youth through the Canadian Basketball Foundation (Gate 1 entrance only)
  • FREE giveaways for the first 5,000 fans (Gate 1 entrance only)
  • Halftime show featuring Steve Nash Youth Basketball players
  • Special on-court presentation with Toronto Raptors and Canada Basketball
  • Spectacular items still available online at NBA Auctions (visit auctions.nba.com keyword: “CANADA BASKETBALL” until January 12, 2009)

    “Thank you to the Toronto Raptors for the opportunity to showcase the great game of basketball and the positive impact of our sport in the community particularly with youth,” said Executive Director and CEO of Canada Basketball Wayne Parrish. “We are honoured to celebrate our Canadian pride with Canada’s NBA team.”

    The greatest growth in the game is at the grassroots level, in communities from coast to coast. Since the inception of the Toronto Raptors and NBA Canada in 1995, basketball has quickly evolved into one of the top three most played team sports in Canada. Recent studies by Solutions Research Group and Statistics Canada confirmed that basketball is the fastest growing sport for children aged 5-14, (an increase of 37% between 1998-2005),and is the fastest growing and most popular sport amongst visible minorities.

    Children and youth represent the largest population with almost 630,000 participants nationwide, according to a Statistics Canada study on sports participation. With the rise in health and fitness issues amongst youth (childhood obesity, diabetes), Canada Basketball, the Toronto Raptors and the NBA see basketball as a viable means to improve the quality of life for the nation.

    “We’re excited to team up with Canada Basketball and the NBA to grow and develop basketball across the country,“ said Tom Anselmi, executive vice-president and chief operating officer of Maple Leaf Sports & Entertainment Ltd., and Canada Basketball Board of Director. “Our annual Canada Basketball Night is a great way to celebrate the game with our fans and the community in general.”

    All three organizations are already delivering with community programs like Canada Basketball’s Steve Nash Youth Basketball initiative for youth ages 5-13 years old to learn the fundamentals of the game. The Toronto Raptors and NBA Canada work in partnership to offer the Junior NBA program.

    Toronto Raptors star forward Chris Bosh realizes first-hand the role that basketball can play in building communities. “Basketball plays a huge role in the development of youth. It emphasizes health and nutrition, and teaches people how to work together as a team. It’s great to see Canada gaining such interest in the sport I love.”

    The Raptors are committed to supporting Canada Basketball and have made a generous investment of $300,000 to help develop the next generation of hoopsters that dream of one day representing Canada. Raptors President and General Manager Bryan Colangelo will formally present the gift to Canada Basketball at halftime of tonight’s game.

    The hope is that this will be a catalyst for other corporations and donors to contribute to the cause and assist youth through basketball. Friends of the game can make an investment through the Canadian Basketball Foundation by visiting www.canadahelps.org keyword “CANADIAN BASKETBALL FOUNDATION” or www.basketball.ca. As a registered charity, all donations are 100% tax receiptable.

    Donors have the choice to designate their gift to five funding options: Steve Nash Youth Basketball Fund for grassroots development; National Elite Development Academy (NEDA) Fund to support Canada’s top 24 young basketball players ages 15-18; Men’s Elite Performance Fund and the Women’s Elite Performance Fund to assist the Team Canada’s men’s and women’s programs with training and international competitions; and the Canada Basketball General Fund to support development of all aspects of the game including coaching education, youth development and tournaments/events.

    Basketball is also developing at the national team level, particularly for the age-group teams (under-19 or junior national teams). Canada is currently ranked 13th and 19th overall in the men’s and women’s programs respectively, out of 213 FIBA countries. Yet, the age-group national teams are both ranked 4th in the world over the past quadrennial (2005-08).

    The success of these future stars is largely due to the integration of the NEDA program, as many of these NEDA athletes have played on the junior national teams. In 2009, both national teams will compete in the FIBA U19 World Championships after medaling in the zone qualifiers last summer. The Junior Men’s National Team earned a bronze medal, while the Junior Women’s National Team picked up the silver, coming second only to USA.

    Canadian Basketball Hall of Fame honoured members will also be in attendance including Jay Triano (’93 Player), Sylvia Sweeney (’94 Player), Leo Rautins (’97 Player), Ron Foxcroft (’99 Official / Builder), Warren Reynolds (’01 Player), and Ray Jones (’07 Team – ’76 Olympic team).

    Tonight’s game will be broadcast nationally on TSN at 7:00 p.m. ET, with the pre-game show airing on Raptors NBA TV starting at 6:00 p.m. ET. Post event, basketball fans are encouraged to visit the Canada Basketball website at www.basketball.ca for an opportunity to purchase Canada Basketball merchandise at a special discount price, as well as learn more about Canada Basketball events and basketball news from across the country.