Canadian Basketball Primer

AS two new pro-basketball teams commence play in Canada, here's a snapshot of the game's popularity north of the border.

How many Canadians play basketball?

Just over 900,000 between the ages of 6 and 54. This number is expected to grow significantly, just as baseball participation jumped after Canada got the Montreal Expos (1969) and Toronto Blue Jays (1977).

How does youth basketball stack up with youth hockey?

About 4-1/2 times as many young people (500,000) are involved in organized hockey than in organized basketball.

How good are Canada's top college teams?

Basketball Canada, the national governing body for the sport, equates top-level Canadian squads with low-level Division I American teams.

How have Canadian squads fared in international play?

Third place at the 1986 men's world championships is Canada's best recent result. Neither the men's nor the women's team qualified for the 1992 Olympics, and only the women will compete in next summer's Centennial Games. Canada's lone Olympic medal came in Berlin in 1936, when it earned a silver in the inaugural basketball tournament.

Do any Canadians play in the NBA?

Rick Fox (photo, left) plays for the Boston Celtics and Bill Wennington for the Chicago Bulls. Both were US collegiate stars, Fox at North Carolina, Wennington at St. John's. Altogether, 12 Canadians have logged time in the NBA, none of them as all-stars.

How have Canadians shown their interest in basketball?

The men's world championship tournament broke every attendance record in its 44-year history when it was held in Toronto last year. The Raptors have sold some 16,000 season tickets, the Grizzlies 13,400.

What do new NBA franchises cost?

Each team has to pay a one-time $125 million franchise fee to the league.

What television coverage is planned?

CTV plans to air 20 regular-season games, with an emphasis on the Canadian teams. For years, Canadians simply tuned in US game telecasts.

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