As long as you speak “basketball”, you’re welcome.
Sunday was an emotional day for fans of Toronto Raptors.
In case you missed it – that day marked the team’s historical moment into the NBA finals, making it the first Canadian team ever to reach the championship series.
Toronto Raptors itself reflects the multicultural spirit of the Canadian country – fans can cheer for African players (Serge Ibaka and Pascal Siakam), as well as Canadian-born talent like Chris Boucher or Marc (Big Spain) Gasol.
Guard Jeremy Lin was so popular with the Greater Toronto Area's Asian community that he won cheers at Scotiabank Arena in downtown Toronto even when he was on rival teams.
Watch out – it’s Linsanity
The star took Asian basketball fans’ world by storm as he launched himself into NBA in 2012, the year of Linsanity. The Asian-American superstar also inspired the country’s Asian community to form their own professional league, namely the Toronto Chinese Basketball League.
“When Linsanity happened, it’s exactly what I dreamed of — a Chinese player who would become pro, play against Kobe Bryant, and even hit a game-winning shot in front of thousands of fans,” Team founder Chris Li told The Star in an interview.
“He’s a huge impact to our community, and he really achieved the dreams we had as players, an Asian player in the NBA.”
While the most entertaining scenes in stadium is of course, the breath-taking actions in the court; but what also caught our eye is the multicultural fan base – an extremely culturally-diverse community that is brought together to cheer their team on the journey of impossible.
There's no doubt that Canadian rapper Drake is the most photographed fan in the court, however – this guy will surely claim the title as the Torontoian team’s number one most dedicated fan.
Superfan since 1995
Meet Nav Bhatia, a die-heart fan who hasn’t missed a Raptors home game in the team’s entire existence. You heard it right – he is 67 years old and he’s been a season-ticket holder since 1995.
But who is Nav Bhatia anyway?
Ethnically Indian, he immigrated to Canada in the ‘80s with almost nothing, but a positive attitude (oh and of course, his love for basketball). As a brown turbaned guy with a heavy accent, he failed to continue his path as an engineer, instead he ended up working as a car salesman at dealership in a rough part of town.
Sad story right? Not quite.
Bhatia sold 127 cars in just ninety days, then eventually bought two dealerships.
But the story didn’t stop there – every year he spends $300K of his own money to send kids – mostly from brown, immigrant families – to Raptors games.
“When you’re an immigrant, nothing feels more Canadian than waving a Canadian flag while cheering your team. Sports is the great equalizer,” says journalist Muhammad Lila on twitter.
Diversity as part of NBA’s DNA
In the past 20 years, the NBA took the lead among men’s sports for having the most diverse teams.
In fact, there is large increase in the grade for racial hiring. – with 80.7% of players being people of color, the NBA takes the lead among men’s sports for player diversity, according to the racial and gender report card released last year by the Institute for Diversity and Ethics in Sport (TIDES).
“The NBA remains the industry leader among men’s sports for racial and gender hiring practices even with the increased grading scales introduced last season,” said Richard Lapchick, the director of TIDES, which is a part of the University of Central Florida, and the primary author of the report.