Hall inductees know basketball and the moment have both arrived

Tony Simms inspected the hall, saw a glimpse of Canadian basketball that spans almost half a century, saw players, coaches and builders and those who were passionate about the sport long before he was in fashion and not be surprised.

Caught off guard and proud because the 63-year-old Olympian, a member of Canada’s national team for a decade, a member of the iconic Canadian team at the 1983 World University Games in Edmonton, finally realized how much he and his contemporaries had helped get the game to where it is today.

« To be honest with you, I didn’t feel as excited to come here, and then I got to see (former teammate) Stew Granger, I got to see so many familiar faces and I have my son (Anthony ) with me, all of a sudden, I realize this is a great moment,” Simms said during the Canada Basketball Legends Brunch at a breezy restaurant in downtown Toronto on Sunday morning.

« When we started, there was nobody like us on the pitch. And breaking down barriers, then leading the way and then not just breaking down barriers, but being part of the bigger picture, contributing tremendously to our country. , it is a powerful thing.

Canadian basketball history goes far beyond the arrival of the Vancouver Raptors and Grizzlies and it was the prevailing sentiment at brunch to officially induct Simms, Granger, Steve Nash, Rick Fox, Angela (Johnson) Straub , Michèle Bélanger and John Bitove — the classes of 2021 and 2022 — in the Hall of Fame.

Simms and Granger were integral to truly exceptional Canadian teams in the 1980s, Belanger’s coaching career spanned four decades and touched hundreds of other coaches, Johnson-Staub was an Olympian in Montreal in 1976 when the women’s basketball made its Games debut.

Recognizing and publicizing the pre-NBA era must be a priority for the Hall of Fame and Canada Basketball.

« You see what the sport is now compared to what it was in the early 90s, it’s a dream come true for all of us, how well established basketball is in Canada, » said Bitove said.

“Kids today don’t understand that, they see basketball and the NBA in Canada as something we’ve always had and part of our history. And all we had when I was a kid (in Toronto) was we had a few Buffalo Braves games a year. We didn’t have a team, we didn’t have players… You look at this now, it’s part of the fabric of Canada.

Belanger, the only coach among the two years of induction, amassed 854 wins during a 41-year career at the University of Toronto.

And given the ever-increasing number of female coaches across Canada, her induction should serve as a signal to others to pursue the profession.

“I think there is recognition. It’s not just, ‘Oh, so what else do you do? What do you do with your real job? » she said. « I think there’s more understanding that it’s a profession.

“I want to see the public recognize that our game, the women’s game, is as important as the men’s game. You don’t have to go to the men’s game to be recognized as a good coach.

Sunday’s event was the most elaborate ceremony Canada Basketball has held to honor its Hall of Fame inductees. It should become the new standard for celebrating the game’s past.

« It just means basketball is mainstream in Canada now, that’s what’s expected of the sport, it’s a great time, » Bitove said. « It’s what every basketball player has always dreamed of. »


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