Like the ‘Lucky Loonie’ placed under the ice during the 2002 Winter Olympics in Salt Lake City, organizers are hoping to place a little luck under Team Canada’s feet during the FIBA Basketball Olympic Qualifiers in Victoria this summer.
Although this time, the luck isn’t for our nation’s hockey teams, but for men’s basketball — and the luck will come in the form of something bigger than a loonie: an entire basketball court.
Canada Basketball has secured the same court on which the Toronto Raptors became the first team outside the United States to win an NBA championship back in 2019.
The court, which belonged to the Golden State Warriors (the team Toronto beat in Game 6 of the NBA Finals to secure a 4-2 series victory), took nearly 11 months to lock down and cost upwards of $270,000 but it has finally been acquired in full.
The floor had been installed at Oracle Arena in Oakland, California, and, since Toronto’s historic win, had been dismantled and earmarked to be sold and turned into beer tap handles for local breweries.
Additionally, 16 of the floor’s centre panels – the section that contained Golden State’s logo – had been shipped off to Idaho in order to be sanded down for use on a floor at the team’s new arena in San Francisco.
According to Canada Basketball, it took six months of negotiations to purchase the floor, then an additional five months of trying to chase down the correct center court panels all to get a court with “a story” – an iconic piece that will spark hope and maybe bring the slightest bit of luck to the program and its athletes.
The men’s basketball program hasn’t qualified for the Olympics since 2000 in Sydney, Australia and officials with Canada Basketball are hoping that will change following the upcoming qualifying tournament on home soil in Victoria this summer — the squad’s last chance to secure a berth to the Tokyo games.
The six-team FIBA Olympic Qualifying tournament is slated to be held at Save-On-Foods Memorial Centre in late June 2021 and will feature Canada, Greece, Uruguay, China, Czech Republic and Turkey. Canada will have to win the tournament in order to qualify for Tokyo.
Now that all the hoops have been successfully jumped through to land the infamous finals court, the reassembled floor will first be unveiled as a tribute to the Raptors’ title team, then refinished with FIBA logos and installed at Save-On-Foods Memorial Centre.
The court won’t be the only connection to the Raptors’ historic championship run in Victoria this summer either, as Toronto’s head coach, Nick Nurse, will be at the helm of Team Canada during the qualifiers.
Needless to say, Canada Basketball believes that any ties to the historic Raptors’ run, which had so much significance and meaning to the sport in this country, can trigger warm thoughts and bring good vibes.
The last time Canada qualified for the Olympics nearly two decades ago, Victoria’s own Steve Nash was leading the team, so it might also be fitting that this summer, Victoria plays its part in vaulting the team to a successful berth.