The rise of basketball in Canada: By the numbers

The NBA All-Star events take place in Toronto this weekend, the first time the spectacle moves beyond U.S. borders. Between the success of the Toronto Raptors and new Canadian stars cracking NBA rosters, Canadian basketball is booming.

Toronto Raptors' success and new Canadian stars in NBA create a buzz

Basketball fever is on its way to Toronto as the city hosts the first NBA All-Star events outside the U.S. this weekend. But the popularity of the sport has already been rising in Canada. (Aaron Harris/Getty Images)

In many respects, basketball has never been bigger in Canada, as Toronto prepares to play host Sunday to the first NBA All-Star Game outside the U.S.

Though basketball was invented in Canada, the sport has largely remained out of the spotlight in its hockey-mad birthplace.

But with the Toronto Raptors winning and more Canadian players making their mark on the NBA, the popularity of the sport in Canada has increased, with fans united under the "We the North" tagline. 

Here are some numbers detailing the rise of basketball in Canada:

Raptors' worth quadruples
The Toronto Raptors are poised to make the playoffs for the third season in a row. The success has translated to increased ticket sales, revenue and franchise valuation. (Frank Gunn/Canadian Press)

The Forbes valuation of Canada's sole NBA franchise has more than quadrupled in 14 years, from $217 million US in 2003 to $980 million in 2016 (all dollar figures in this story are U.S.).

The upward trend featured a notable $400 million jump between 2014 and 2015, fuelled by the Raptors' 2013-14 playoff run and increased ticket sales. This season, Raptors are well on their way to a third straight playoff appearance and also rank fourth in NBA average attendance. 

The Raptors' operating revenue has also nearly doubled, from $87 million in 2000-01 to $163 million in 2014-15.

In 2014-15, the Raptors also sold out on season tickets — the first time the franchise has done so since 2000-01, when Vince Carter led the team to the postseason and its only playoff series win.

The Raptors are far from the only NBA franchise to have rocketed in value. An increase in sponsorships and new television deals have nearly doubled the average value of an NBA franchise, from $634 million in 2014 to $1.25 billion in 2016.

The Raptors rank 14th on the Forbes list for NBA franchise values.

Ratings rise, but still well behind other sports
The Raptors' winning ways have drawn more followers courtside and on television. (Chris Young/Canadian Press)

Viewership of NBA games in Canada has doubled on average across all networks since 2012-13 — an average of 54 per cent per season, The Canadian Press reported.

The Raptors' own TV ratings have also more doubled over five years, from 108,000 in 2010-11 to 246,000 in 2014-15. Ratings have gone down to 217,000 in 2015-16, but end-of-season audiences should drive that number up, according to the Raptors' broadcast department. 

But these numbers still do not approach the Vince Carter era, when the team averaged 713,000 viewers on CTV in 2001.

Raptors games still trail well behind other sports in the ratings. During their competing regular seasons, the NFL, CFL and NHL still regularly pull in from two to 10 times as many viewers as the Raptors and the NBA usually can.

More Canadians than ever in the NBA

A record number of Canadians are playing in the NBA. Many of them, such as Andrew Wiggins, have participated for Canada in Olympic qualifying events. (Eduardo Verdugo/Associated Press)

In the 2014-15 season, Canada set a record with 13 NBA players on starting rosters — the most ever of any non-U.S. country. That number went down to 12 after Steve Nash retired at the end of last season.

The class of Canadians includes Anthony Bennet and Andrew Wiggins, the historic pair of No.1 picks from the 2013 and 2014 NBA drafts, respectively.

The other Canadians currently playing in the NBA are Joel Anthony, Samuel Dalembert, Tyler Ennis, Cory Joseph, Andrew Nicholson, Kelly Olynyk, Dwight Powell, Robert Sacre, Nik Stauskas and Tristan Thompson.

Only 26 Canadians have played in the NBA or its predecessor, the Basketball Association of America, since the league began in 1946.

Basketball embraced by young
Though basketball's TV ratings have increased, participation in the sport has shown more moderate gains. Basketball still trails well behind hockey and soccer among young Canadian players. (Jonathan Hayward/Canadian Press)

For players aged three to 17, basketball ranks as the third most popular team sport in Canada, behind soccer and hockey, with 354,000 participants, according  the 2014 Youth Sports Report. Basketball also leads hockey among immigrant youth, coming in second behind soccer.

Youth participation in basketball has also trended slightly upward. Of sports participants from ages five to 14, basketball went from a 13 per cent participation rate in 1998 to a 16 per cent in 2010, according to a sports participation report published by Canadian Heritage. 

For Canadians older than 15, basketball ranked sixth overall in 2010 and was played by seven per cent of sports participants, making it less popular than golf, hockey, soccer, baseball and volleyball.