If you only remember one thing from this section, let it be that the Toronto Raptors are your 2019 NBA Champions. Got ‘em.
Professional basketball is made up of four quarters lasting 12 minutes each. Five players on each team are on the court at the same time. The point of the game is to shoot a basketball in a hoop to get the most baskets (and the most points). A basket counts as either two or three points, depending on how far the shooter was from the basket they hit the shot. Courtside seats gives fans unprecedented access to the players, so basketball brings out celebrity sightings like no other sport. Just look at Drake getting up close and personal with Toronto Raptors coach Nick Nurse during the 2019 playoffs.
How is it organized?
The highest level of the sport is the National Basketball Association aka NBA. The league is divided into two conferences (East and West), and each of those conferences are further divided into three divisions. There are 30 teams in the league, and only one team in Canada - our Toronto Raptors! In the 2018-19 season, the Raptors went all the way to the NBA Finals against the thought-to-be-unstoppable Golden State Warriors and WON, bringing the Larry O’Brien trophy (like the Stanley Cup of the NBA) home to Toronto. Unreal.
The best of the best
This season, the Toronto Raptors were the best. How'd it happen? Well, a blockbuster deal in the summer of 2018 sent longtime Toronto favourite DeMar DeRozan to the San Antonio Spurs in exchange for superstar Kawhi Leonard. The rest, as they say, is history. Kawhi led the Raps all the way to a championship with the help of supporting cast Kyle Lowry (a seven-season Toronto veteran), breakout star Pascal Siakam and three-point shooter Danny Green. #NeverForget
But then…. Kawhi broke the hearts of a lot of Raptors fans in the offseason by turning down Toronto’s contract offer and heading to the LA Clippers to play in sunny California where he grew up. He’ll be joined there by Paul George and the duo will be a force to be reckoned with. Meanwhile, LeBron James is busy building a superteam of his own in the same city with Anthony Davis on the LA Lakers. And then there’s 2019 NBA MVP Giannis Antetokoumpo (pronounced YAWN-IS ANT-TET-TO-KOOM-PO), whose Milwaukee Bucks will also be in the mix. This season is going to be a doozy.
Play like a girl (it’s better that way)
The Women’s National Basketball Association (WNBA) is one of the best professional sports leagues for women in North America as these basketball bosses actually get airtime on top sports networks in the U.S. and Canada. Keep your eye on Canadian WNBA All-Star Kia Nurse (New York Liberty), reigning WNBA MVP Elena Delle Donne (pronounced EL-ENA DELL-A DON) who led her Washington Mystics to the championship last season, and WNBA legend Candace Parker (Los Angeles Sparks). At a 6’4” she became the first woman to EVER dunk in a NCAA (National Collegiate Athletic Association) back in 2006 when she was only a freshman. Like, pardon me?! We can’t even jump high enough to reach the top shelf in our kitchen...
Wow! Can I get more info on the WNBA?
Absolutely! The WNBA season runs from May until late September or early October, with each of the 12 teams playing 34 regular season games. The league has actually been around since 1997, though only three teams remain from inception: the New York Liberty, Los Angeles Sparks and Phoenix Mercury. Go deeper on how the league is organized .
These women still have a long way to go before reaching parity with their professional male counterparts, but it probably helped that the WNBA Final saw Connecticut Sun take the Mystics to a thrilling Game 5, winner-take-all showdown that garnered national attention and a sellout stadium in Washington.
And in 2020, we finally saw the WNBA bet on itself by signing a groundbreaking new collective bargaining agreement (CBA) that will significantly benefit the players. Among other things, players receive an increase in salary that improves the average compensation from $79k to $130k (!!!) with the league’s top players set to earn $500k — more than three times the previous maximum. Cardi B would be so proud. It also includes added bonuses for top players, guaranteed fully paid maternity leave, better travel conditions and mental health resources. And maybe the most notable addition: access to offseason job opportunities with the league to limit the number of women playing in leagues overseas to make ends meet, which has become a nagging necessity for WNBA players. Can we get a hell yeah?!
There’s obviously still a long way to go before there’s parity with the men’s professional leagues. That being said, this is a BFD — the WNBA listened to its players and took their input into account more than ever before. It’s refreshing to see a league partner with its players and bet on its women to move closer to closing the inequality gaps that still exist in women’s sports.
One last thing…
The most important (although we are admittedly biased) fact about basketball is that the sport was created in 1891 by Canadian James Naismith! O’ Canada, indeed!
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