May 24th, 2024

Basketball autographed by 19 Canadian NBA players up for grabs in online contest

By John Chidley-Hill, The Canadian Press on April 23, 2024.

It’s something of a tradition before Raptors games in Toronto. Any Canadian players on the opposing team will come out of the visitors locker room at Scotiabank Arena and sign a basketball, as shown in this handout image provided by the NBA. That memento — covered in nearly two dozen autographs — is now up for auction. THE CANADIAN PRESS/HO-NBA **MANDATORY CREDIT**

TORONTO – There’s at least one piece of basketball memorabilia that Bennedict Mathurin wishes he was a part of.

A basketball with the signatures of 19 Canadian players currently in the NBA is up for grabs in an online contest through the NBA Represent website. All of the signatures were gathered in the hallways of Toronto’s Scotiabank Arena as teams came through the venue over the course of the season to play the Raptors.

Mathurin, the Pacers swingman from Montreal, didn’t get to sign the ball because he didn’t travel for Indiana’s first game in Toronto on Feb. 14 due to illness, and the contest had already begun on April 9 when the Pacers returned to Scotiabank Arena.

“Man, I want my signature to be on awesome stuff like that,” joked Mathurin in the visitors’ locker room when he learned of the autographed ball. “But I don’t want my signature all small and stuff. It should be big.”

Raptors players RJ Barrett of Mississauga, Ont., Kelly Olynyk of Kamloops, B.C., and Montreal’s Chris Boucher – the last player NBA staffer Jahnick Lambert got on the ball – are three of the autographs on the memento.

Hamilton’s Shai Gilgeous-Alexander, an NBA MVP candidate with the Oklahoma City Thunder, and Jamal Murray of Kitchener, Ont., who led the Denver Nuggets to the championship last season, have also signed.

The contest ends on May 12.

Mathurin said it’s been a great year for Canadian basketball.

“Great to have a lot of Canadians going to the league,” said Mathurin. “You have a lot more guys going into the league this year, next year.

“We have (collegiate star) Zach Edey, who had a monster March Madness, we’re going to have those guys represent the country in a big way.”

The ball is part of the NBA’s “Represent” campaign, a season-long initiative designed to promote the Canadian talent in the league. The NBA has designed and produced custom merchandise promoting all or groups of Canadian players broken down by city, top scorers or top duos like Gilgeous-Alexander and Lu Dort of the Thunder.

Contest prizes have included courtside tickets and signed jerseys. A trip to see Canada play the United States in Las Vegas this summer is another prize in the works.

Mathurin loved the work that NBA Canada and Basketball Canada have done to promote the support to kids across the country.

“They’re doing a great job,” he said. “I’m trying to do a great job as well, trying to be involved in the community and be involved on and off the court.”

This report by The Canadian Press was first published April 23, 2024.

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