Basketball making history at home . . .
The Toronto Raptors made history last night defeating the Golden State Warriors and winning the first NBA title for the city and Canada. With the excitement around the Raptors this season, basketball has been growing in popularity in Canada. An NBA report quoting Sportsnet figures said the opening game for the NBA Finals reached an average of 3.3 million Canadians. Game One of the NHL Finals, meanwhile, drew an average of only 1.8 million viewers in Canada.
Asia getting in on the game . . .
The popularity of professional basketball continues to grow in Asia. In China, the NBA has become the most popular professional league, and more than 300 million people reportedly play the sport. As Jeremy Lin, a Californian of Taiwanese descent, becomes the first Asian-American on an NBA championship winning team, his success will only expand the sport's fan base in Asia. NBA Deputy Commissioner Mark Tatum, meanwhile, has promised to expand the league’s market in the Philippines, Indonesia, Thailand, Japan, and Australia.
The demographic factor . . .
While the Raptors’ success this season has played a significant role in the growing viewership of basketball among Canadians, shifting demographics may also have contributed to the Toronto team’s popularity. According to the 2016 Census, close to 15 per cent of Canada’s population identifies as an Asian visible minority. This is significant because while only eight per cent of all Canadians follow basketball, that number jumps to 19 per cent among visible minorities. The Raptors’ epic victory, in many ways, adds to the positive image of Canada as an open and welcoming country in the Asia Pacific where a diversity of fans keenly follows the sport.