The Toronto Raptors became Canada’s team even before winning the NBA Finals, but international news headlines on Friday suggested they are now celebrated as world champions.
The team — which became the first NBA franchise outside the U.S. to clinch the title — is made up of players hailing from several countries including the U.S., Canada, Cameroon, the Republic of Congo, and Spain.
News outlets took note of that diverse roster after the Toronto team’s victory over the Golden State Warriors on Thursday night.
“Globalization is the star of the NBA,” a headline on the Washington Post stated.
“A global NBA now has a truly global champion” the Associated Press declared.
Media outlets in some countries chose to highlight connections to homegrown heroes in their coverage.
Cameroon celebrated Pascal Siakam, who didn’t begin playing basketball until he was in his late teens. He has morphed into a rising star in the league despite his late start in the game.
“I didn’t think I could make it,” Siakam said after the game. “And I think a lot of kids don’t think that it’s possible. Just me being able to be here today and telling them that, ‘Hey, look at me, I was a little scrawny kid from Cameroon … but here I am, as a champion.”
The Journal Du Cameroun championed the champion with its headline that read, “Pascal Siakam, first Cameroonian to win NBA.”
In Spain, where Raptors big man Marc Gasol is from, the Catalan News blared the headline “Catalan brothers become first siblings to both win NBA crown,” a reference to Gasol and his brother Pau who won two championship titles with the Los Angeles Lakers. The pair were born in Barcelona.
Jeremy Lin, an Asian-American born in California whose parents are Taiwanese, was front and centre for one Asian outlet.
“Jeremy Lin becomes the first Asian-American to win an NBA championship as Raptors take game six,” blared the headline in the South China Morning Post.
Lin is also huge in Toronto, which has a thriving Chinese and Taiwanese community. Sing Tao, a Toronto news site, went big on Lin, splashing photographs of the depth-player celebrating the championship with his mother.
Meanwhile, team president Masai Ujiri, who was born in England and raised in Nigeria, was big news back home.
“Ex-Nigerian basketball player becomes 1st African general manager to win NBA title,” one Nigerian headline said.
Closer to Canada, Rockford, Ill., showed its pride in hometown hero Fred VanVleet by hosting its own version of the outdoor Jurassic Park fan zone that became wildly popular in Toronto. VanVleet returned the love.
“Rockford, Rockford it’s for you, baby!” declared the headline quoting the player in the Rockford Register Star.
Liam Casey, The Canadian Press