Reader Mail: Canada Basketball

by Lang Whitaker

Saw a headline from above the border, that the Canadian Men’s National Team knocked off Germany yesterday, holding Dirk Nowitzki to 8 points and 4 boards. That’s a fun win for Canada and everything, but it’s all rather inconsequential, as Team Canada isn’t even taking part in the World Championships in a few months because, well, they aren’t invited.

I know we have a lot of Canadian readers here, and I figured this well-written missive from reader Graham Haigh would sum up a lot of feelings up north…

Hey Lang,
Longtime reader, first time (in quite a while at least) e-mailer. I haven’t had much access to a computer lately, (being a university student who has little money for DSL bills), so maybe somebody has already beaten me to the punch on this one, but what is up with the World Championships?

I guess you could say I’m biased, but I think it is outrageous that Canada did not make the FIBA event this summer in Japan. Although I guess its just another burden Canada will have to politely over-come in the eyes of the basketball world. But for a disgruntled guy like me, (who used to be insulted by the Basketball 101 commercials they would run during Grizzlies telecasts) its just another slap in the face.

Yes, I know Canada stunk it up at the Americas qualifier, finishing only ahead of Mexico, but I have a few problems with their omission, and I’m going to go on a Louis Black length rant here, so hopefully you can bear with me.

Side note: obviously there is little that my opinion counts for, but the more I think about it, the more frustrated I become, and seeing as how you (and the website and magazine that you work for) are the only person (people?) that I could think of that might remotely care, I thought I’d e-mail you to get your perspective.

Firstly, what is with this “Americas” buisness? Is South America not big enough to warrant its own qualifying region? Is North America not? Lumping these massive continents together is ridiculous when two of the four premier basketball playing nations in the world (the U.S. and Argentina) compete in it. There are only 5 actual berths given (and this time around: one wildcard) for this region. what gives?

Break it up, none of this Americas buisness, its bizarre, especially when you consider that Oceania gets two seeds, and they only have TWO TEAMS in their whole damn qualifying tournament.

Secondly, the wild cards. I’m sure Puerto Rico, Turkey, Italy and Serbia & Montenegro are lovely, and they’ve produced some great basketball players, but let’s get serious here. The FIBA criteria for wildcard entry were as follows:
— Popularity of basketball in the country
— Quality and sporting results of the national team of the country
— Quality of work by the National Federation
— Involvement of local television and/or competitions in domestic and international basketball
— Importance of country to FIBA’s marketing and television partners
— Importance of country to the Organizers of the World Championship

Obviously, hockey is king north of the border, but anyone who thinks basketball is not popular enough in Canada to warrant a wild card berth is crazy. I live near Dolphin Park, Richmond, BC, the playground SLAM did a piece on in your first streetball issue, and the courts there are packed almost every day. And that is one court, in one suburb, of one city, in one province. Look at the Raptors for God’s sake, they stunk last year and they  still averaged something like 15,000 a game. I find it hard to believe that 24 countries surpass Canada in this regard, and I find I even harder to believe that any of them are called Turkey or Italy. Anybody heard of Steve Nash? While I know he doesn’t play internationally anymore, the guy is an ambassador of the sport and there are thousands of young kids in this country who aspire to be like him, does that count for nothing at all?

Results of the national team? They’re ranked 12th by FIBA, well ahead of Turkey.

Obviously I cannot comment on what Canada Basketball has done in the board
rooms, but I will give them the benefit of the doubt and say they’ve done
enough to warrant a wild card berth.

Local TV? They televise every Raps game, not to mention at least a game a night of other NBA action, the Grizzlies were on all the time when they were still in Vancouver, and I know they televise the WC’s and Olympics regularily because I’ve watched them. No problems so far I hope.

As for importance of Canada to FIBA. Let’s see, not to mention we have a domestically based franchise in the best league in the world, a vibrant university basketball scene, and that the two-time NBA MVP is from this side of the 49th parallel, there are 30 plus million people in the country. Lots of corporate money floating around, sponsorships, etc. Puerto Rico has a population of 3 and a half million people. thats the size of Montreal. I find it hard to believe that Puerto Rico or Turkey for that matter are potential gold mines for FIBA to tap into.

I think its a shame that the World Championships of Basketball will not feature ALL of the world’s 24 best teams. With a basketball legacy that includes, off the top of my head, Todd “dust off those sixers jersey’s in your closet, kids” MacCullough, Leo Rautins, Bill Wennington, Carl English, Juan Mendez, Denham Brown, Jamaal Magloire, and Steve Nash, the result is that Canada should always deserve to be included in a competition of the
world’s best.

As a matter of fact, as I’m writing this I see that Canada knocked off Germany, who, surprise surprise, are in the tournament.

I apologize for the length of this, but as you can see I had to get it off my chest. At the very least I hope you skimmed through my e-mail, and know that there is at least one die-hard canadian basketball fan out there who still cares about the national team.

Thanks for listening,
Graham Haigh

PS If the Sonics leave town it’ll be a shame to see another franchise ripped out from under the hard core pacific north-west hoop junkies, but I guess that’d be a whole other e-mail.

Yeah, Graham! Well done. Alright readers, your thoughts?