Member of 1946 Toronto Huskies talks basketball
'Television has made a huge difference'
Ask the last surviving member of the 1946 Toronto Huskies basketball team how the game has changed, his answer is simple.
It's not about new strategies like the triangle offence. It's not skilled players like Michael Jordan, LeBron James or Stephen Curry. And it's not new equipment like sneakers or basketballs.
"Television has made a huge difference in all sports." 91-year-old Gino Sovran told CBC News. "I could never get to see anybody who was a lot better than me to copy."
Without TV, the only exposure kids had to professional athletes was through radio and the newspapers. They didn't have an opportunity to pick up on subtle parts of the game that can only be found through watching, Sovran said.
"In my day, good athletes changed sports with the season. Football in the fall, basketball in the winter, track-and-field in the spring, baseball and softball in the summer," Sovran said. "Basketball was a three-month part of the year and only in an official practice or game. I never had an opportunity to go to a basket with a ball and just practice shooting."
Sovran was born in Windsor, Ont., playing basketball at Kennedy Collegiate high school and Assumption College. He played basketball at the University of Detroit Mercy and joined the Toronto Huskies in the Basketball Association of America for the team's first season in 1946.
He now lives near Troy, Mich.
Two weeks before Sovran's first game, the Huskies played the New York Knicks in Toronto in a game that the NBA calls the first one in its history. The Huskies lost 66-68.
"The advertising before the game to try to draw basketball fans to Toronto for the first game — and this is hard to believe — called it the 'fastest game in the world.' You can't convince hockey people that is true," Sovran said.
About 7,000 people attended that first game at Maple Leaf Gardens, with attendance falling each night after that, Sovran said.
The Huskies finished 22-38 in 1946, good enough for sixth place. The team folded before the next season started.
Today things are a bit different. The 2016 NBA All-Star Game is being held in Toronto, the Toronto Raptors average almost 20,000 fans a night and are in second place in the NBA's Eastern Conference. The team is led by stars DeMar DeRozan and Kyle Lowry.