It’s finally here and the excitement levels are going through the roof! I can’t wait for the 14th! No, I’m not talking about Valentine’s Day… sure it’s that as well but what I’m referring to is the 2016 NBA All-Star Weekend. It only took 65 years for this to finally take place in Toronto and basketball lovers in Canada are loving every moment of the countdown to this weekend.

So how exactly did basketball become such a big deal in Canada? Since 2008, the NBA’s revenue grew over 224% in Canada alone and that is with the aid of the lone Canadian team in the NBA – our beloved Toronto Raptors. Amongst a vast number of contributing factors, the influx of newcomers to Canada from all over Asia has had an undeniable influence. Every time we walk into the ACC during a Raptors game and take a look around, the diversity in audience is quite apparent. Dan Mackenzie, Vice President and Managing Director of NBA Canada rightly acknowledges the changing demographics for this surge in popularity. Each year, approximately 250,000 new immigrants arrive in Canada and a high percentage of them are from the Philippines and China. Basketball is the number one sport in both these countries.

To give you an idea of just how big basketball is in China, here’s a fun stat: China has 300 million active basketball players. Take that number in for a moment.. The population of the United States is a little over 318 million! The Chinese community’s love for basketball is undeniable, which is why its always nice to see a Chinese New Year greeting from the NBA.

South Asians aren’t far behind in expressing their affinity to basketball. When Sim Bhullar became the first player of Indian decent to be drafted by the NBA, it invoked a great sense of pride within the local Ontario communities and further extended the sport to new demographics. Acknowledging the presence of such a diverse fan base, MLSE (Maple Leaf Sports & Entertainment) even sponsored a Bollywood Night during halftime at one of the Raptors games. Not only in Raptor land, but there are Chinese Heritage nights , Hispanic and Bollywood themed nights across the throughout the NBA season. The NBA truly does a fantastic job recognizing and celebrating the diverse cultures in their fan base and why wouldn’t they? They’re generating millions of new fan bases across the world.

These are just some of the ways that diversity has been acknowledged and celebrated in basketball in the recent years and we can’t wait to see what’s in store for the future. Here’s to all of the future Yao Mings, Jeremy Lins and Sim Bhullars in the making in Canada! #WeTheNorth