Canada's top 3x3 basketball player has his eyes set on the Olympics

Michael Linklater is Canada’s best 3x3 basketball player, but he wasn’t always at the top. In 2017, he ranked 13th player in the world, and for the second year in a row, he ranked the top player in Canada.
Michael Linklater is Canada's top 3x3 basketball player. He ranks 13th in the world. (FIBA)

Michael Linklater is Canada's top 3x3 basketball player, but he wasn't always at the best. In 2017, he was ranked the 13th in the world, and for the second year in a row, as the top player in Canada.

"Probably 11 or 12 is when I picked up a basketball for the first time, and that's when I fell in love with it," said Linklater.

"The first team I tried out for I was cut from. Some of my peers I looked up to who … made the team, it gave me something to work towards."

Linklater practiced really hard, but continued to face rejection until he made a team in university.

"Now basketball's taken me literally around the world a couple of times, so I'm very grateful for those opportunities," he said.

But as Linklater explained, not all Indigenous youth have the same opportunities he did.

"I make sure I make it out to a lot of communities and share some of the gifts and teachings I've been taught, otherwise these youth wouldn't have access to it," he said.

And usually when he arrives in communities, people are shocked to see what Linklater looks like in person

"A lot of people when I go to their community, they're expecting this tall basketball player to walk in through the door, and I'm just average height."

Family impacted by Sixties Scoop

In addition to sharing his skills on the court with the kids, Linklater shares the story of how his family was impacted by the legacy of residential schools and the Sixties Scoop.

His mother was a child of the Sixties Scoop, and as a result moved to the United States to stay with her siblings.

Linklater says that when his mother got pregnant with him, she was planning on putting him up for adoption, since she was dealing with addiction issues.

But it turns out his biological grandmother's sister, Maria Linklater, was looking for his mom. 

"She found my mom just in the nick of time, because my mother had not given birth yet," said Linklater.

"Maria told [my mom] to come back to Canada with her family, and Maria would take care of her child until she got back on her feet."

Linklater moved from Trenton, New Jersey to Thunder Bay, Ont. to live with Maria Linklater and her husband Walter.

"Both Maria and Walter were products of the residential school system, so they were re-finding their cultural identity, and that's something that I grew up understanding was my ceremonies and my culture," said Linklater.

What's next?

Linklater is currently training for the 3x3 World Tour, which starts April 2018.

And has his eyes set on the 2020 Tokyo Olympics, since 3x3 basketball was just introduced as a sport.