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On Sunday, October 5th, I had the chance to attend an event on behalf of Best Buy hosted by Take-Two Interactive (Developers of the NBA 2K series) and NBA Canada as part of the NBA Canada Series. With the Raptors’ We the North tour coming to Vancouver, I attended a day of fun at Rogers Arena to show off the upcoming NBA 2K15 release, as well as attend a Fantasy Camp and watch the Raptors and Sacramento Kings tip off in the first NBA action the city’s seen in years.

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Let’s start by talking about NBA 2K15, since I’m a gaming contributor here after all. The NBA 2K series has taken basketball gaming by storm the last few years, and this year should probably be no exception. The graphics have been tightened up a bit more again, and the players look better than ever. The controls have been loosened a bit to allow for a little bit more pizzazz (and be a little bit more forgiving) and the experience is still just as good as ever. Pharrell Williams was called upon this year to provide some musical guidance as well. It will be interesting to see how this year’s edition performs against NBA Live 15 which is touting a better graphical and on-court presentation experience.

That said, NBA 2K15 will definitely be a treat, and you’ll be able to read more about it in an upcoming blog.

Pictured above:  A shot of me playing the game and realizing I still remember how to Alley Oop but none of my players would take the bait (Photo courtesy of Elliott Chun)

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We then attended NBA Fantasy Camp, which consisted of getting dressed in our NBA 2K15 gear and hitting the court for a quick practice and scrimmage coached by the Toronto Raptors broadcast team. We had coach Jack Armstrong and were up against Play by Play man Matt Devlin’s team. Unfortunately, what skill I had has diminished to the point where I play a lot more like one of the Monstars from the movie Space Jam before they stole any talent. Even then, I can still pass the ball well enough, but don’t let me shoot.

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(Photo courtesy of Elliott Chun)

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Following the game, we took a group photo with the Larry O’Brien trophy and were greeted by Hall of Famer and leader of the Detroit Piston Bad Boys Isiah Thomas. Thomas, as you’ll recall was the first Executive VP of the Raptors, picking Damon Stoudamire who (not surprisingly) outshone Grizzlies first rounder Bryant “Big Country” Reeves. We talked briefly about his love for Vancouver and a few other basketball tidbits:

  • His favourite teammate (Bill Laimbeer who he feels the Pistons would not have won their championships without.)
  • Who would win a championship series between the‘89 or ‘04 Pistons (‘89 because the ‘04 Pistons had nobody to contain Vinnie “The Microwave” Johnson, and Dennis Rodman and John Salley were better rebounders.)
  • Whether he plays video games (he tried getting into them, but was so bad that he hands the controller off now at the thought of it.)
  • Whether any opposing crowds got in his head (he said they were booed everywhere as it was, so it didn’t affect him.)

That was the game and fantasy camp portion of things. After stumbling back to my car in pain after realizing how out of shape I am running around the court for an hour, I rehydrated, took a shower and went back to watch the Toronto Raptors play the Sacramento Kings. I wasn’t really sure how the Vancouver crowd would react considering the Raptors were our sworn enemies back in the day, and fans here aren’t exactly the kindest to the other Toronto teams. To my surprise, the energy level was off the charts, and the sea of red jerseys proves that if Vancouver can embrace the Raptors, all of Canada surely can. The crowd at Rogers Arena in Vancouver surprised me with the sheer size and even the level of engagement amongst the fans.

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WavingTheFlag.jpgThe crowd out felt just like the old Grizzlies crowds, with numerous families coming out to Rogers Arena for some NBA basketball. You could tell how happy the fans were to see the NBA back (even for one night) and were really knowledgeable too, giving Canadian Nik Stauskas a big ovation for hitting a 3, even though he was playing for the opposition.

Just like any good rival though, Stauskas would eventually wear out his welcome, however, by putting too many points up on the board and was booed by the 3rd quarter! Canadian Gursimran Bhullar saw action in the closing seconds for the Kings, and was also given an ovation on his way in, and out.

The Raptors and Kings stayed pretty well neck and neck the entire game until the closing minutes when Toronto pulled away by as much as 11 points. Sacramento made a game of it in the end after the Raptors got into foul trouble, but the end score was 99-94 in Toronto’s favor, sending fans home happy.

I’m not sure if the NBA can work again in Vancouver long term, but if there was any indication that there is still a passionate fanbase for basketball in this city, this night was definitely that in a nutshell.

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Thanks to the Toronto Raptors, NBA Canada and especially Take-Two Interactive for a great day out with Canada’s team, and one of the best sports franchises out there!

Purchase NBA2K15 now at Best Buy or online at BestBuy.ca

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